If there was one thing I was not prepared for in fostering an older child, it was the reaction to celebrating the holiday season.
One week into December, we decided to finally get around to decorating our house for Christmas. We went out and selected a tree, brought it home and started to set it up. Of course, it was mass chaos in our home, but our normally elated and happy Heavenly resembled Eeyore more than her usual Tigger.
She grumbled and complained about the Christmas tree we selected, she faked having an allergy attack so we would get rid of the tree, she questioned why we were decorating so early, and told us in a few choice words that was all very weird and strange.
In being the awesome (sarcastic) parent I am, I decided to call her out on her attitude and told her she could help out or she could go to her room. It was so frustrating for me to try and celebrate Christmas and have some family fun on one of Theo’s only day off, but she was personally out to sabotage it. Theo, ever the peacemaker stepped in and decided to turn on a movie for the kids while he and I finished decorating. I stepped out of the room for a moment and tried to put my own feelings to the side. As I thought about it, I realized that she was being perfectly reasonable. I stepped out of the kitchen and decided to start over again.
I asked her what her family usually does to celebrate Christmas. It should come as no surprise to anyone that it was much different than what we usually do, and what I had been “forcing” her to do. I listened as she told me about Christmas in her family and then listened as she apologized to me for having a bad attitude. She is only 11 years old and sometimes she drives me crazy, but when I really step back and think about it, she is one of the most mature 11 year olds I know. She explained that she wasn’t trying to ruin Christmas for us, she just didn’t like Christmas at all when she didn’t get to celebrate with her Mom.
If your heart is shattered into a million pieces right now, you can imagine just a small part of how I was feeling that night. Of course Christmas will be a hard season. It’s all unfamiliar and new and she doesn’t get to be with the people she would choose to be with. It’s grief and loss and trauma and big emotions and so many unfamiliar things happening.
You guys. It makes perfect sense, but so often we don’t remember that the holidays are so hard for kids in foster care. So many of us as adults struggle with the big emotions of the holidays, especially if we are missing special people or in new, unfamiliar places. Now imagine those emotions in the mind and hearts of a child.
In talking to other foster parents, this is not a situation that is unique to our family at all. We deal with a unique load during the holidays- we are trying to give children a celebration that they will remember forever, while also remembering that they are in the midst of their own struggle with grief. We are trying to uphold our own family traditions while making sure that they don’t step on the toes of the foster child or her family traditions. We are trying to incorporate new traditions from their family into our own and it’s all a little bit of a struggle, if I’m perfectly honest.
If you think of it, please pray for these precious children as we go through the holiday season. Pray for them that they would find comfort and peace in the real reason for the season. Pray that they would be in homes that are safe enough to let them show their emotions and grief. Pray for their foster parents as they hold their precious hearts in their hands and wrestle with celebrating the holidays when someone in their home is just hurting so badly. And please, please also remember to pray for the biological parents of our foster kids who are without their own children this holiday season.
Oh, my heart.