Monday, September 30, 2019


Saw my first commercial for Christmas today (September 30th)

We're supposed to moan about over-early Christmas advertising, but deep down I love Christmas so it put a spring in my step.

Christmas, if you foster, is a mixed bag.

You probably won't be surprised to learn that more children are taken into care over Christmas than at any other time of the year. The experts say that the coming together of family tensions, alcohol and raw sentimentality tips many families over the edge. Plus the fact that families are crammed together for several days with nothing to do except "ruminate".

"Ruminating" is one of our worst habits. We all do it, but some do it worse than others. It's what you do when you think over and over about something that bugs you. The something is often almost less than minimal. It might be a one-off put-down that the woman on the supermarket checkout probably didn't mean but it annoyed you and as you walked away you started going over and over it in your mind, trying to re-write the moment so that you come out triumphant.

When adults ruminate we are always the heroes of the moment. Our enemies are overcome by our moral superiority and crushed by our wit and elan. It's a pleasant thought process that beats real life.

But it' can be a central cause of the conflicts and breakdowns that overshadow Christmas for many chaotic families.

So, this is what happened one Christmas in our house;

The phone rang. On Christmas Day. It was Blue Sky (fostering never sleeps nor has any knowledge of the concept of public holidays). The duty placement officer asked the time-honoured question;

"Would you be willing to take a child who…"

The child in question needed a bed because her family had 'broken down'. 

What had happened was this; the family consisted of a single mum with three children by three different fathers. None of the fathers supported their children in any way, not financially or emotionally. They were never on the scene except for one of the dads (Dad A) who showed up from time to time for a night in the sack. Then there was a different dad (B) who was after money or maybe some of the other goodies that the mum sometimes had or dealt with in order to supplement her benefit income. Dad C was person unknown.

My guess is that none of these 'dads' had any family of their own to go to for Christmas. I'm not going  to defend their treatment of the mum or their children, but it's probable that these poor men had been brought up in chaos. 

And when might they feel that the worst?

Flippin' Christmas.

What had happened was that they'd all showed up at the mum's flat. All three of them. Poor men, pining for the childhoods they'd never had, standing at the door with badly wrapped presents. Not all together, that would be sitcom time. One of the dads (B) showed up on Christmas Eve out of the blue, but was angered that one of the other dads (A) was already there. The dad who was already there had taken the trouble to phone and negotiate spending Christmas in the flat. He was the one who showed up for bed. There was a flare-up, obviously, but a peace was achieved. Dad B slept on the sofa, Dad A got the double bed and the mum. Unbelievably at 3.00am Dad B heard a knocking at the window, it was Dad C. 

Dad C had last been heard of doing tractor work in Herefordshire. His own father had been killed in a farm machine accident which is recorded on the information I received but details of which I won't pass on. I wish I didn't know it but I do.

Dad C slept on the armchair in the same room as Dad B. 

None of the dads slept much. In their befuddled alcohol-affected minds they drifted in and out of ruminations.  In their worlds each of them were the ones in the right. The other two men were robber-baron thieves and they themselves were the superhero. So in the morning...

…there was an altercation. Neighbours called the police (who, like Foster Carers, never sleep)…there were tears but no laughter.

Flippin' heck, it's Christmas Day remember? 

The most wonderful day of the year?

None of the three dads had done enough to be arrested, but all three could not be trusted not to return to the flat, they had nowhere else to go. So the children were deemed at significant risk. Hence my phone rang, and my family moved one chair each around in the living room and made another space on the sofa. I remember we watched "Home Alone" and the kid laughed and went soppy like the rest of us.

They are darn tough cookies these kids.

It's just that they don't need to be, so young.

They've got us though.

And we've got fostering.

We've got Christmas too, and hopefully enough self-awareness to stomp on ruminations when they pop into our heads.

That kind of placement is called emergency fostering by the way, it's a calling and I don't do it at the moment because I have some steady placements right now and sudden arrivals and departures can throw them. But if you're thinking about becoming a Foster Carer, emergency care and respite care is a good way in.

Talk to Blue Sky.


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