It's That Time of Year Again

This post is re-published with kind permission from Joanne at Forever Parents.

Tomorrow, June 5th, is my daughter’s 14th birthday, but we won’t be celebrating.

Let me explain….

When we adopted her, she was eight years old (We also adopted her two siblings at the same time). For the first couple of years, the week leading up to her birthday was always a time of turmoil for us. Moodiness, nastiness and sadness would fill her up and hurt anyone in her path, usually us, her family. Some years it was all I could go to even talk to her during that week….one year I threw her cake into the garbage out of total frustration and another year I cancelled her party a few days before.

Two years ago, a few weeks before her 12th birthday, I was going through some of the adoption paperwork, looking for something unrelated to her birthday, and I came across the court papers from when they were originally removed from their biological home. The date jumped out at me; June 3rd.

They were removed two days before her 4th birthday. As a matter of fact, her first full day in foster care, was on her 4th birthday.

It made sense now.

I shared my findings with my daughter and we had a long discussion about it. Although she doesn’t remember that week, we talked about how she must have felt….being almost 4 years old and excited about her birthday, only to be removed from her home, separated from her siblings (they were separated for their first year in foster care) and living with strangers. We gave a voice to the little four year old inside her and talked about powerless and angry she must have felt.

We also talked about how to proceed from there. Finding out “why” is one thing, but we had to find a way to stop the cycle.

I came up with an idea of celebrating her birthday on a different day. My thoughts were that even if she was moody the week of her birthday, it wouldn’t interfere with any plans that we had. She liked that idea and we started thinking about dates. She said she wanted to share the day with someone that she loved (yes, she’s a sweetheart) and she chose me. I was honored, but my birthday was in January and had passed five months before. Then she chose my husband, but his birthday had just passed two weeks earlier.

Then she lit up and said “How about Mom Mom?!”. She excitedly ran next door to ask my mother if she would mind sharing her birthday, which is eleven days after hers. Of course, my mother loved the idea and we set about our plans for a double birthday.

On June 16th, we had a cake that said “Happy Birthday To The Two Geminis” and both of our birthday girls opened their gifts. They talked about how they would celebrate “their birthday” next year. :)

Unfortunately, it was not to be. My mother passed away two weeks later.

But she gave my daughter the greatest gift one could give.

A new start. A new day, full of love and happiness…not bad memories and sadness.

The following year was bittersweet for us. We celebrated my daughters birthday on her new day but we were also were aware that my mother was not here with us (although my husband told me she was here - we just couldn’t see her)

Now it’s time for another birthday.

As time goes on, the sad memories are subsiding and happy memories are taking their place. The week leading up to her birthday this year wasn’t that bad because the pressure has been taken off of her. So tomorrow, I will give her a kiss and say happy birthday to my beautiful 14 year old daughter, but that’s where it will end. There will not be a cake, or gifts or decorations. Those things will wait until the 16th….a day that is full of love and special memories. We’ll also remember my mom, who passed on her own birthday to her granddaughter and gave her the best birthday gift ever. :)


This Spoke To Me

I've not had the pleasure of meeting Joanne in person but we've had some conversation online. She has a similar passion for fostadopt kids as we do in our family. When I read her recent post about her daughter and the challenges that anniversaries bring, I asked Joanne if she would like to have her post on this site. She kindly agreed.

This post epitomizes the challenge that Children of Trauma and their parents exerience. So many of the kids that come out of "The System" have experience trauma from before they can even speak. In these cases, the kids often can't even express why the are suddenly feeling sullen and angry around a birthday or Christmas or even just a change of season.

I want to thank Joanne for allowing the cross post.


I'm with Matt, this was a wonderful, honest post. Thanks so much, Joanne.

I totally understand the

I totally understand the moodiness and difficult behavior that you're talking about. Ours starts near the beginning of school and gets worse and worse until a couple of days after Christmas. There was so much upheaval and turmoil in our child's life during that period of time, it is almost like every year there is an attempt to replicate that complete chaos.

Man is it hard.