As a therapeutic foster parents, we have been blessed to provide a sanctuary for the Little People, fragile kids who find themselves living away from their biological families. They don’t want to be here. I wouldn’t want to be here either if it weren’t already my home.
As time passes, they become members of our “family unit” which includes Pumpkin the cat and Phantom the fish. Their own unique personalities enhance our daily lives. (“Boy, you’re not a very good cook, are you?” Or “You are really going to make me match up thousands of socks?”) Then there’s the classic statement voiced by children through the ages: “You’re not the boss of me!”
As Christmas approaches, younger children begin anticipating happy times. They are thrilled with each sparkly Christmas decoration carefully lifted from tissue paper wrapping. They get lost in the glow of the Christmas tree’s beauty as lights twinkle like stars. They become both giddy and difficult for reasons they don’t understand. Behind the joy resides a deep sadness that they are not home for Christmas, even though their Christmas days may have been difficult at home.
Older children may have been through years of Christmas days that were full of fighting, shouting and substance abuse. Others have had stable families who made Christmas special, but the child’s difficult behavior made it necessary to remove him or her from the family for a period of time. These children often express that they “hate the holidays and can’t wait until it is all over.” Christmas can evoke past trauma or regret for them.
What an opportunity a foster parent has at Christmas time! Foster parents can give them the gift of happy Christmas memories which they will carry with them forever. Sometimes, a child will grasp the true meaning of Christmas for the first time as we make memories.
I frequently tell the kids, “You may not remember my name when you get older, and that is okay. What I want you to remember are our Christmas memories and that you have been loved unconditionally by ‘good-old-what’s her name’ in your old foster home.”
Over the years, as the children have left our home, it was difficult to see them go. Some went into apartments, living on their own for the first time. I pray that they learned enough to make wise choices (and not set their kitchens on fire). Others returned to their biological families where they were better equipped to work out relationship struggles. Others were adopted by loving families and had happy Christmas memories for many years to come.
Without exception, each of those children has contacted us to talk about how they are doing. We are delighted that they even remember us. Some stay in touch weekly. Often, a discussion of Christmas day comes up. They remember our celebrations and the purpose behind them, knowing, in this house, Christmas is a celebration of Jesus’ birthday. We end the conversation by saying, “I love you.”
On that happy note, we extend our prayers for a Merry Christmas to you and yours from the Little People and me.