It is that time of the year, the time when some people get all jovial, extra generous and kind, and others get panicky, grumpy and fairly fed up. For others still it is a dichotomous time with some elements that are loved and some that are hated.
I think I fall firmly into that third category. I hate the consumerism of Christmas, I hate getting asked “What do you want for Christmas?”, my response being “I don’t know, I don’t really need anything”. I also hate asking that same question of people. I hate not having the mental energy at the moment to come out of my shell and actually think about other people enough to find them a gift that they would appreciate without having to ask them. For me, the gift-giving side of Christmas should be about showing your appreciation to the person, showing them you know them well enough to send a present without them telling you what they want. If it’s not about that, then why bother? Why doesn’t everyone just buy themselves the stuff that they’re asking for? If it’s not about that, then it’s just about materialism, and that is not what Christmas is about for me.
Maybe I’m a bit hypocritical, I have certainly asked that question this year, but I can honestly say I do not expect people to buy me presents for the sake of it. In fact I’d rather they didn’t.
For me Christmas is also not about Jesus. I am not religious. Yes I celebrate Christmas, but I have never been to Mass. Yes I know the story of the Nativity, but I also know that there was a celebration around the Winter Solstice long before Christianity existed. But I do not celebrate that either.
For me Christmas is about my family. Cramming as many people as I can fit in the house around my dining table and celebrate togetherness. Family doesn’t have to mean blood relations, for me family is those people around us who love each other unconditionally. This is the part I love. I would give up all the decorations, all the presents, all the carols, and all the Christmas films just to have that.
For my children however Christmas has a darker undertone. They have no reason to think of Christmas as a time of family, at least they didn’t.
Their past experience of Christmas is that of a time spent with strangers. A time of disruption and home moving. A time of loss. Their first Christmas spent in care was with a family that they moved to only a week before. Their second foster family after having been removed from their birth family only a few weeks before that. Shortly after that Christmas they were moved again to their third foster family. In the space of 3 months they had 4 sets of people they were meant to look to as their family – foster or otherwise.
I have said before (probably this time last year) that I have no idea of what kind of Christmas they had that year. I have seen no photographic evidence of it, nor did we receive any items that might have been their Christmas presents for that year. My Youngest son’s first ever Christmas was likely just like any other day, spent with strangers, but with a bit of tinsel around the light fittings.
The Christmas they had as part of our family was the complete antithesis and we were lucky that those bad feelings from the Christmas before didn’t come forth. For our children Christmas is now a happy time, the memories that they may have of this time don’t seem to surface at the moment.
The lead up to Christmas this year is filled with Nativity rehearsals for my Eldest, which even though we are not a religious family, makes me happy for him. He spends his time singing the songs he has been taught (he can actually hold a tune too!), and can recite not only his lines but also the lines of the girl who he has most of his scenes with. I am already proud of him and I haven’t even seen the end result yet!
My Youngest is all about his chocolate Advent calendar at the moment. Still just about accepting he can only have one per day (despite always trying it on for a second one) and we’re using it to teach him his numbers.
Neither boy seems to have any recollection of their first Christmas in care. It may surface at some point, but so far we’ve been lucky. We will acknowledge their loss of birth family when they need us to, we will have to, it can’t be the elephant in the room and I want them to feel as comfortable as possible with themselves and with us as a family.
This will be our 3rd Christmas together, and with the exception of the over-tiredness this time of year brings, which is Youngest’s biggest trigger for dysregulation, we look forward to the celebrations of our family.
Title image credit: Chad Madden