Friday, January 15, 2021

It’s often said there is magic in new beginnings. From changing careers to learning a new hobby, the process of doing something for the first time comes with hard lessons learned, new territory conquered, and ideas that make life a little brighter. The Barker Adoption Foundation knows life is full of “first” moments, and how the support of a loving family makes navigating the unknown that much easier. In 2020, Barker’s Older Child Adoption Program, Project Wait No Longer, placed four children with loving and permanent families, and an additional 16 finalized their adoptions. For many, 2020 was just the beginning of holiday memories that will last a lifetime. 

“We are hoping to give Joey* a magical and memorable first Christmas with his forever family,” said the Smith* parents, prior to celebrating the holidays with their son. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, the family enjoyed spending time together, developing new holiday traditions, and spreading holiday cheer. “We got an Advent Calendar for Joey to color each day so he could keep track of how many days there were until Christmas,” Smith recalled. “We also made a big deal of decorating the tree, putting on holiday music, and making hot chocolate while we all added ornaments. We also enjoyed building a gingerbread house as well as baking and decorating cut-out cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve.”

Picture1.png Picture2.pngBeyond the firsts that come with being a new adoptive family, 2020 gave many a new and different holiday experience considering the novel coronavirus outbreak. “Because of COVID-related limitations on travel and gatherings, this [was] a very quiet first holiday with my son,” said Mr. Hall*. He added, “My hopes [for the new year] are that we will continue to thrive as a family, staying physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy while persisting through the pandemic – and for my son to have a strong finish to middle school!”

The Dawson* family agreed, “This holiday season is a unique one because of the pandemic. So, we stayed in and introduced each other to our favorite Christmas movies, while binging the ones we all loved, a tradition that we will likely keep going in years to come.”

The Dawson’s finalized their adoption in 2019, welcoming ten-year-old Sarah* into their family and spending their second Christmas together in 2020. They reflected on last year’s celebration, noting, “[Our first holiday celebration] was hectic yet awesome. Christmas is a big deal to all three of us, so we got to blend our traditions together as a new family. We spent December 25th celebrating together with family and the day after was spent with Sarah’s siblings. It felt like a whirlwind but the best part, by far, was seeing her eyes light up as she got to open her presents.” Words of wisdom to other adoptive parents, Dawson advised, “Go with the flow and don’t try to build things up too much in your mind. Get to know your child’s holiday traditions and weave those traditions in with your own. If your kid always decorates a gingerbread house, make doing that together as a family a top priority. And while you are at it, look to make new traditions together as a family.”

While “first” times can be both exciting and memorable, they are not without challenges. The Kendall family brought home their sibling group, ages 6, 11, and 12, in June Picture3.png2019 and celebrated their first Christmas together last year. Robert and Paula Kendall reflected, “Firsts are hard for adoptive kids. With a history of uncertainty and trauma, change doesn’t always come easy, and experiencing new things, even in the context of a loving family, can be scary.” They described the reality of their first holiday celebration, articulating, “Our first Christmas with them was wonderful and awkward and… hard. Great anticipation and excitement over cookies, gifts, special church services, and meeting relatives was accompanied at times by outbreaks of tears, anger, fear, melancholy, and confusion. You want that first time with them to be perfect and to be memorable for all the right reasons. Sometimes it just isn’t.”

Yet, the challenge of a new experience is what makes the journey most worthwhile. The Kendall’s continued, “It was with much more confidence and peace that we began this Christmas season. Having put in the hard work of parenting, schooling, counseling, disciplining, and overall loving on each of them, it was with great joy that we looked forward to our Christmas.”

While the excitement of holidays will come and go, the warmth and love of a family lasts forever. Which also serves as Barker’s core mission, building forever families. The Kendall family added, “This is now leading us to look beyond the firsts and seconds, not only with Christmas, but with every other experience with our children, and to look forward to the third time, and the fourth, and fifth, knowing that as each year passes it will solidify with our adoptive kids in concrete ways that they belong with us and that first times are only a beginning.”


Kendall kids on Christmas morning 2020


Shannon Shevlin