Father Christmas doesn't come to my house

Our foster daughter looked at her preschool teacher with what can only be described as a Paddington stare. Her teacher was enjoying talking to the children about Christmas. They had dressing up ready, Christmas biscuits to make and Christmas cards ready to paint for family members. She’d been watching all the build up, but her teacher just didn’t seem to understand. She’d told her several times: "Father Christmas doesn’t come to my house!"

She just wouldn’t believe that this year he would really come and that she was on the ‘nice’ list. As the build up began to reach fever pitch so did her behaviour. Her preschool friends were excited and all the preparations were huge fun but for this child, the preparations were a reminder that life was different for her. She was not going to ask for anything because she was not going to get it. Well-meaning adults asked her if she had been good and she was pretty certain that she hadn’t been. Anyway, Father Christmas was watching and she was showing him that she knew she didn’t deserve anything. 

I’d love to say that our first Christmas with her was all joy and tinsel, but I’d be lying. It was pretty tough. She found it all a bit much and the abundance of food was all too tempting. She went to bed exhausted and feeling sick and we went to bed vowing to make things simpler next year! 

Fostering at Christmas can be tricky. Never has the phrase “it’s all about the children” made more sense than to a foster carer at Christmas. Giving a child the Christmas they deserve can be tricky when there is a lot of balancing their needs with your excitement over spoiling them. 

If you ask a carer what they do at Christmas you will probably be faced with a plan that would put the military to shame. It’ll likely be the same every year to build predictability and tradition into the season. For instance, we always go to a local Christmas event. We wrap up warm and eat toffee apples. Every child buys a bauble for the tree every single year. It takes ages to choose, but it gives the child a sense of belonging and helps them to feel part of the celebrations. 

There are also lots of traditions that we don’t follow. We have to let Father Christmas know that the child doesn’t want him in her room. Strange men coming into your room in the middle of the night can be frightening for any child, but if the child has experienced abuse it’s terrifying. In the same way, it’s often more appropriate to open stockings in the lounge rather than the bedroom. 

All this doesn’t mean we don’t have fun! Christmas isn’t something that some children can take for granted so when Father Christmas does actually come and you get presents in big boxes wrapped in Christmas wrapping, the joy is infectious. I will never forget one child discovering that you can eat sausages wrapped in bacon. I honestly thought she was going to explode with the excitement of it all! Add in chocolate coins that you can eat before breakfast and you have one very happy child. 

Just in case you’re wondering, Father Christmas did come for her for the very first time. She got to open presents and eat Christmas lunch. She sat staring at the boxes, not wanting to open them in case it all disappeared. The following year she was ready! She had her list and there was no way Father Christmas was getting away with not turning up again.

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