Our family took our annual one-week vacation last week, going to the same coastal town, staying in the same apartment, hanging out with the same extended family members that we always do. M & K love this trip and ask about it all year. I enjoyed it this year more than I have since becoming a parent, probably because the kids, now 6 and 7 years old, are able to participate in activities I find interesting. We went to the beach and a water park, saw a fun movie, ate at good restaurants; we didn't have to stop for naps or make sure there was a children's menu or carry a kid tired from walking. These were happy differences from our three other summer family trips to this same place.
We did, unfortunately, encounter two sad differences.
First: M had tons of trouble preparing for the trip. This year for the first time I made a packing list with the kids and gave them each their own copy on a clipboard. (They love clipboards, perhaps because so many adults in charge carry them.) K could read and count well enough to do her packing with little help from me. M, however, could not pack even when I helped him with every step. He didn't even want to be in the same room with the list.
"What's the matter, M--?" I asked him finally. "Usually you're so good at following directions."
He wouldn't look at me and said he didn't know.
I closed the door to his room and invited him into my lap. I asked, "Are you feeling something that makes it hard? Maybe more than one feeling?"
He wouldn't speak, but he nodded.
"Do you know what it is?"
"Will you tell me?"
He said, "I'm afraid we're moving to another house."
I wasn't surprised. So I held him close and explained that we would be "visiting" the apartment we always stay in and that our entire family would be together. Later, I showed him photos of the place to help him remember, and over the next few meals I initiated discussion of memories of previous vacations--physical memories, like the height of the beds and the favorite foods. M behaved as though he were cheered by all this talk, but he didn't really seem happy until we arrived at the apartment and he saw it for himself. He enjoyed the vacation, but every day he asked me how long until we'd be going home.
Second: When our family travels, K usually cries the first night in the new bed. She says she misses our house; sometimes she says she misses Mama A. (her caregiver in the Russian orphanage). This past week, however, she did not cry. She and M had trouble settling down to sleep, but neither of them cried or even said they felt sad. Peter and I were surprised but wary. Turns out we were right to feel so: K held it together all through the vacation, but she fell apart our first night home. Wailing, she told us, "I miss my house in Russia! I miss my sisters!" (She means her foster sisters.) Apparently, coming home after a week of playing with her beloved cousins reminded her of coming to live with us. She was inconsolable, even by M, who can usually suss out a way to cheer her up. Finally, I got out a blank book she'd been drawing in and suggested she write or draw how she was feeling; after doing so, she said she felt much better.
Any adopted people or adoptive parents reading this: How do you or your kids react to vacation travel?