The last few Christmas’s have been difficult and were plagued by last minute change of plans, harboured grudges between birth family members and children who have been let down and left deflated. Any plans we made had to be demolished, so this year we organised nothing and planned for the worst. The build up to Christmas was the same as any other busy household; hyperactive kids, over stretched parents, last minute panic food shopping and a slow recovery from a very nasty virus.
I knew I couldn’t do much to protect M as at 15, she is aware of her family dynamics and, due to the constant texting between them, every little slight or comment is magnified and picked at like a sore scab that won’t heal. There was no major drama this year with M’s family, sadly just the usual let downs, change of plans and name calling, and M handled it by distancing herself emotionally and rolling with each turn of events. On Christmas Day, there were 6 change of plans and each one potentially involved us driving and picking M up at one destination then dropping off at another destination until Hubby had enough and laid down a time and place. The last minute falling outs had already impacted on M earlier in the holiday, and New Year’s Eve turned out to be just as complicated. However, through all the hurtful texts and Snapchat messages, M seemed less stressed and managed the emotional ups and downs better than I expected.
The same couldn’t be said for J, and my heart hurt for him day after day of cancelled contact or forgotten presents. J seemed to forget that last year had been the same and he talked excitedly about who was buying what gift for him and how he couldn’t wait to see his brothers. I couldn’t save him from disappointment, and it’s hardly surprising that his behaviour deteriorated during the Christmas break. Luckily, the activities we had planned with various school friends gave him a focal point and his new Christmas skateboard helped a lot.
Baby S’s first Christmas was uneventful; she slept through most of it and delighted us with her new charming smile. J found Baby S a useful distraction, especially on his worst day when family failed to show up to the Contact Centre with the promised gift. I had become increasingly concerned by Baby S’s wheezing, and taking no chances with her little lungs I had an out of hours doctor check her over. J came with me to the hospital and sat with me in the waiting room, playing an inspired game of I Spy. He had been withdrawn and quiet since the sad wait at the Contact Centre, but as we took turns guessing gruesome illnesses, which he was surprisingly good at, he gradually found a way to accept the situation.
By New Year’s Eve we were honestly burnt out by kids, dramas, the fight over which channel to watch, and bizarrely who’s turn it was to let the dog out; yes, this has become a regular fight in our house and bickering reached epic levels on New Year’s Day with the dog being let out into the garden approximately 20 times during the evening. Why this of all things they chose to fight over is beyond me, but the winner is definitely the dog. The good thing is that the dramas we were now dealing with were the usual seasonal ones rather than Looked After Children traumas.
Looking back over Christmas, I realise that J is less distressed by this year’s failure to show than he was last year and the sad fact is, as he gets older, his family will wound him less as he’ll come to expect it of them. He is fiercely loyal and won’t hear a bad word about them; screaming at M for suggesting they were anything less than perfect, but I know he’s bewildered by their rejection.
Is there life after Christmas? Yes… It’s called going back to school, and like millions of mums and dads around the country I am willing the day to come. In the meantime, the dog is now standing waiting by the back door. It will be me that lets him out, as we told them that if he does his business out there, then whoever lets him out has to clear it up. Miraculously, the back door war has now been resolved.