I know... what a downer. We're all decking the stalls, and fa la la-ing and Rebecca has to come out with the sad truth.
One Christmas I worked hard to make the Holidays special for a child on my case load. He had had a rough year, and his mom definitely wasn't going to be out of jail for a visit during Christmas. I worked with his foster family to decorate the house with him, and gathered some funding for him to enjoy special holiday events. I collaborated with the community to bring an array of toys for this child to discover on Christmas morning. The family planned a big meal with all his favorites, and I was just so warm inside knowing how amazing this boy must feel, realizing all we had put together for him.
On the next business day after the Holiday break, I had a voicemail from the foster parents. He had had a terrible meltdown on Christmas, destroyed all his gifts, threw food at everyone during Christmas dinner and they had to call the police. He had barricaded himself in his room and only sounds of destruction could be heard on the other side of the door.
The foster parents went on to tell me that it took a long time to figure out what was going on, but the boy finally yelled from behind the door..."I don't want any of this stuff; not the food or the toys or this house or this family! I WANT MCDONALDS."
It wasn't until later that he expressed, through tears, that his mom used to bring him to get a special McDonalds meal every Christmas.
"Everybody can just stop trying to be better than my mom, we were fine. I just want my mom and a 10 piece nugget with a strawberry shake and for everyone else to leave us alone."
It is a common misconception that foster children desire the things their biological parents couldn't provide them or an environment that is different from where they were removed from.
The truth is, they often desire their home of origin. They want to see their parents again, and the holidays are a harsh reminder of what is missing.
It may not have been perfect but it was theirs. Their norm, their stuff, their traditions.
It is so natural for us to be excited this time of year. Especially if we are interacting with children in need. We wish to bring them holiday cheer and it makes us feel good knowing we have given something special to a child that may not otherwise have their Christmas wishes fulfilled. It is just important that we remember, that even if we give a child a bike, a stocking, a puppy or even a home, for them the holidays still may not be happy, and that is OK.
Rather than imposing what we think makes the Holiday's great, take time, if you can, to understand that this time of year can be tough, and allow the opportunity for children to express feelings about something that might be missing. Allowing an ornament on the tree, or some other representation of the family they may be missing is a good first step. By no means is this post meant to deter anyone from spreading cheer this holiday season, but to provide perspective for a heart that may not be feeling Christmas spirit, and for good reason.