Sunday, September 30, 2018


Egad, the shops are filling up with Christmas stuff and we're still barely into Autumn.

Barely Autumn and yet I've already made my first Christmas blooper.

It wasn't a howler, more like an oversight.

I wasn't concentrating at the time.

What happened was this;

Last Saturday I did an early-morning big shop at the supermarket. A long list. I ended up at the till with a full trolley and started loading the conveyor belt with a week's worth of staples. The belt ended up groaning with boring stuff, almost nothing to raise anyone's spirits.

The aisle next to where I was queueing had a sign hanging above it saying "Seasonal". Christmas stuff. Stacked on the very end of the aisle was the usual 'impulse buy' bits and pieces you don't need but often pick up because having spent fifty quid on dull basics, we shoppers are suckers for a pocket-money sized treat.

So I nipped over and picked up a handful of chocolate Father Christmases. One for each youngster.

What could possibly be goofy about that...? Read on.

I drove home with my head full of how to structure another Saturday. A recent bike ride had gone down well especially as we ended up at a Taco drive-though.

When I got home I unpacked and put everything away, a part of shopping I've come to find tedious, even with the kettle whistling and a cup of tea in sight. It's irritating having to find the right little home for all the over-priced and over-packaged supermarket stuff. I KNOW that cheese shouldn't go in the fridge, but I'm more concerned about bacteria than flavour. Ditto eggs. Does chorizo go in the meat compartment? Will botulism break out if I'm wrong? Decisions, mind was still elsewhere, not quite in the moment.

When I came to the chocolate Father Christmases I stood them in a line on the breakfast bar like a police identity parade where everyone could see them when they came downstairs.

Sure enough there were fake-indignant  cries of "For goodness sake!" and "What the heck...?". But the treats disappeared one by one.

About an hour after the last Father Christmas vanished there came a commotion from the tech spot. Our 'Tech Spot' is a small annexe-type room off the living room where there's a TV for PC games and a family laptop. People can use their phones in there.

A dispute had arisen, nothing special but it had our newest foster child at the centre of it and she was winding herself up. So I did my usual and tried distractions.

But Ryder didn't flich, she didn't care whether she got a bowl of vanilla or chocolate ice cream, didn't care whether we cycled to the park or to McDonalds. She was fighting back tears. So I ended up saying;

"Come on dear, everything's alright. Let's go up to your room and you can come down when you feel better."

She took a bit of persuading but went upstairs crying her poor little eyes out.

I kept my ears peeled downstairs and after ten minutes it was quiet in her room so I went upstairs, slowly and quietly. When I got to her door I asked if she was okay.

Turned out she wasn't. She started talking through the half-open door.

She wanted to know when she was going home. She wanted to go home. Why couldn't she go home? Nobody tells her anything. Is she going to be here for ever? 

Then my gaffe came to light. She said;

"Can I go home for Christmas?"

See what I'd done, dammit? My 'harmless' little serendipity gift for everyone had triggered her. 

Ryder had taken her chocolate Father Christmas and started thinking. Then fretting and ruminating about her situation. Her feelings turned into negative emotions then negative behaviour.

Christmas is a testing time for chaotic families. More children have to be taken into care during the period between Christmas Day and New Year than any other week of the year. 

Christmas for families who foster can be brilliant if you plan it out, talk to everyone and keep talking.

I hadn't got round to planning Christmas and preparing Christmas in the minds of my foster children, but I went and stuck it into their minds without proper preparation.

I took Ryder for a drive in the car and she recovered herself enough for me to talk her through Christmas; that I would help her buy presents for whoever she wanted to give gifts to, I would arrange for her to see whoever she could see in the days immediately before Christmas. I'd get her Christmas cards to send. I'd need her to help me decorate the tree. She could draw up her list of presents she'd like "Santa" to bring her for Christmas because she would (barring a miracle) be waking up in our house on Christmas morning. I would try to arrange for her to be able to have a phone call with anyone she wanted to on Christmas morning.

And looking beyond Christmas, she would be allowed to stay up on New Year's Eve until midnight so she'd be awake at the right time to make her resolution and make her secret three New Year Wishes.

Foster children probably make the self-same New Year Wishes the world over.  Sometimes they come true.

Me, I've got one more New Year resolution to add to my shortlist.

To concentrate...


  1. Oh no Christmas! That's going to be an interesting time. I hadn't thought that far ahead. My family do not celebrate it at all, but I'm aware its important for most families, no matter their situation. I have the three weeks off around Christmas this year so may well get placed with a kid short term over this period. I best get some emergency gifts sorted then, just in case I get a call. I may no do Christmas, but if its important to the kid, it's important to me. Thanks for the prompt!

  2. It's worth acknowledging that not all foster parents and not all foster children celebrate Christmas. Sounds as though you're on the ball with this one Dana.