Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Ho Ho Ho (Not)

 Christmas is increasingly a difficult time for the British and not only for the UK's dwindling band of Christians. The Christmas period affects everyone somehow. And very few people are as affected as children in care.

One 16 year-old girl who came to us was allowed to go home for Christmas Day. The plan was for us to drive her home on Christmas Eve. We bought her a bunch of gifts, wrapped them, put them in a gift bag, and gave them to her as she was going out the door, heading for our car. The drive to her home was an hour, and it was starting to get dark. We had expected her to put the bag alongside her overnight bag, take them to her home, and open her presents on Christmas morning.


She turned around and marched the bag into the kitchen and started opening them. A bottle of Badedas, a Terry's Chocolate Orange. A pair of headphones. A top-up card for her phone. An HMV voucher.

She opened each and every one with great care, smoothing out the wrappings, making the right "Ooooo!" noises each time.

Then she thanked us profusely, got up and took her gifts up to her room, where she left them. And set off for home.

We never asked her why. Her business.

Maybe she couldn't wait (unlikely). Maybe she didn't want to have more and better presents than her sisters who were also going to be at home on Christmas morning (possible). Maybe she wanted to reward us by showing her gratitude with her delight at her gifts (we like this explanation best).

Personally, I've not yet had a child over Christmas who wasn't up for a traditional Western Christmas. It nearly happened once when I agreed to take 3 orphan children refugees from Afghanistan, but they were found a Muslim foster home, for the best.

Every other child I've had started getting anxious-excited on the 1st December.

No matter what their chaos at home, children whose families tried to make any kind of a go of a 'traditional' Christmas will have slightly false memories of good times. Of presents, games, extended family. Some sort of magic.

They'll like as not blank out the disappointments, the tensions and the arguments. Not to mention the drink and whatever else.

More children are taken into care over the Christmas period than at any other time of the year, due largely to the family being cooped up together so that the  simmering angers and petty hostilities boil over.

At the last Blue Sky Christmas lunch I sat next to a young Muslim couple who were in their first year of fostering. They told me they'd respect and engage in all and any festive needs any foster child brought along. They didn't voice any crityicisms about the masses of people who get Western Christmas so badly wrong that it brings about the break-up of families en masse. I suspect none of Islam's significant calendar dates trigger family anguish. 

In fostering we try to do what's right for all the chidren in the house, but it's a balancing act that would go to the top of the bill if there were still such a thing as the circus.

See, speak of 'circus' and I'm right back into remembering the Christmas of my childhood. My mind (just like everyone else whose family did Christmas) fills with stuiff sich as Santa, the tree, the decorations, a chicken in the oven (a chook was a once-a-year treat in our house). Grandad showing up in his best suit, gran wearing her 'pearls'. Piles of presents, Christmas crackers on the table. And on the telly? Billy Smart's Circus.

Of course, if I had a Tardis and went back in person I'd watch myself and realise that the thing I really loved most was that we were all together. No work for dad, no shopping for mum, no school for us kids. No shops open, no cars on the roads.

Christmas can dish up the saddest blow to children in care. Namely; their family is not all together.

We work with our Blue Sky Social Worker to get the gift thing right. But there's so much other stuff.

You do your best, enjoy whatever joy they experience , and look forward to New Year's Eve, because that's easy to get right; they're allowed to stay up until midnight and, y'know what?, that beats most that Christmas has to offer them.


Post a Comment