Are We Willing to Make New Traditions?
It’s no secret our lives are full of traditions, big and small. If you ask just about anyone, she’ll most likely have at least one tradition to speak of.
While many of our traditions are centered on holidays, they’re no longer reserved only for the better-known days like Thanksgiving and July 4. Nowadays, there are designated days for everything, which gives us license to celebrate and happily make new traditions.
National Peach Cobbler Day? Yes, of course I honor it. Make it a la mode, please. World Gin Day? Whyever not? Thanks, barkeeper.
And tradition is good for us! One of the most transformative ways to connect and reconnect is through tradition. It bonds us to our past and to each other even though our journeys are different.
But for the children we work with at Stand Up Eight who were maltreated before adoption, traditions with their biological families either didn’t happen, weren’t appropriate, or were lost after adoption.
Fortunately, adoptive families tend to be an empathetic people who make new traditions to honor their child’s story.
The reason is because connecting our past - even the painful parts - to our present brings healing.
Dr. Bruce Perry said it best in his foreword to Life Story Therapy with Traumatized Children, by Richard Rose.
Without a life story, a child is adrift, disconnected, and vulnerable.
At the beginning of an evaluation of a ten-year-old boy in foster care at our Child Trauma Academy clinic, I asked him his name:
“Which name do you want to know?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I don’t know my name, I guess. My new mum calls me Thomas. My last mum called me Leon. And when I visit my grandmother she calls me Robbie.”
“What name do you tell your friends to call you?”
“I don’t have any friends at this new house.”
“Do you know what your biological mother named you?”
“I think she named me Baby.”
As I looked through the records I could see that he was born a few weeks early. He had been in the Pediatric ICU and had never been named by his mother. His discharge records stated: “Baby Boy Jones.” Ten placements and four “names” meant he was disconnected and adrift with no personal narrative.
But “fix him” if he acts out. He is inattentive, disrespectful, struggles in school, and won’t do as he’s told. Fix him. Find the right label. Give him the right drug.
Our current approach to these maltreated children has lost sight of the essential element of healing – and that is reconnection.
Connect to the present and increase the number and quality of relational opportunities but, as important, reconstruct your past connections, lay out your disconnects, and clarify your personal journey to the present.
We must connect the past to the present to bring healing. That’s a tradition worth making.
The opportunity to make new traditions together is endless. Here are some ideas to get you thinking (you can find a list of days here).
Celebrate the peacemaker of the family on National Middle Child Day.
Be do-gooders together on National Do a Grouch a Favor Day.
Create sock puppets and a show on National Lost Sock Memorial Day.