This weeks’ #WASO theme is ‘Gifts’ and I can’t think of a lovelier theme to end the #WASO year on.
I could go in many directions with this theme. I could be writing about how the boys OCD (obsessive Christmas disorder) has kicked into overdrive this year and their wish lists were not just longer and more thoughtful (they add items to their list that they think various family members may also like to receive from them), but this year they have colour coded it and grouped their suggestions into price brackets so that I would know the order of preference and be able to quickly go to the list and look for a suitable ideas for a gift from someone else to fit their budget – not much control going on there, is there?
Alternatively I could have written about visiting the boys on Christmas day at their foster carers’ and the light bulb moment when I realised that although the boys really did love Christmas, their reaction to the pile of gifts that were spread all over the FC’s conservatory floor showed that our vision of how Christmas morning would play out was miles away from the reality that was laid out in front of me at that time – I am not saying that the boys were anxious or distressed by the volume of presents or overwhelmed by the giddiness of the adults around them. No, if anything they were over compliant and almost indifferent to the all the parcels and gifts, and were more interested in the wonderful Christmas breakfast their foster carer had laid out for them. Being the amazing and experienced foster carer that she was, she quickly picked up on their hesitation and ‘got the ball rolling’ encouraging them to ‘pick a parcel’ from each other’s pile and hand it to them – Beeswax some months later admitted that he didn’t think any of the gifts were for him or Buzzbee because they were not in Christmas sacks like the ones members of their extended birth family, used to do for them. We had a similar experience, but with their stockings, our first Christmas as a family – they had been put on their beds ready to be opened in the morning (Bumble put them in after ‘Santa’ had dropped them off in the lounge because he didn’t enter their room because he would have had to knock first and that would have woken them up, of course), but when we went to wake them in the morning they were already awake and sat at the bottom of their beds staring at their unopened stockings. Again they didn’t believe the gifts had been left for them.
Despite these couple of misinterpretations, the boys’ experience of Christmas time from before they were taken into care, from what we understand and have learnt over the years through talking with different people and going through the boys’ family photo albums with Buzzbee, was not too dissimilar from how we imagined the build up to Christmas should be. Many of the family traditions that we had hoped to use within our family were already there, it just needed fine tuning. The boys were used to their presents being in sacks and not just spread under the Christmas tree so now we have a compromise – big under tree, little in sacks. Sharing gifts with family members and spreading out the volume of gifts they open in a day, well actually that is exactly the same – the boys wait to open their presents until we visit the friend or family member or they come to visit us. Not only does it “make Christmas, even longer”, as Buzzbee says, but the boys don’t become overwhelmed by the volume of gifts (I am still working on our loved ones when it comes to going over the top with gifts for the boys).
While Bumble and I are, on a daily basis, picking up the pieces from the effects of the chronic neglect the boys experienced from their birth parents, it has always been very apparent to us that, while they may have been only papering over the cracks, both maternal and paternal grandparents tried very hard to make up for it and while the boys were visiting, give them as normal a childhood experience as they possibly could. They may not have been in a position to be able to physically take on the care of both boys full-time, but they had worked hard to normalise and make Christmas day and the build up to it as much of a positive experience as they possibly could for them both, and the positive feedback that the boys received from this has meant that now, while the boys really struggle with birthdays, Mothers’ Days, etc. Christmas time the boys really cherish and ALMOST allow themselves to relax and just go with the flow.
Although each year they are not able to physically give the boys gifts anymore, they have given the boys a gift which is priceless – they have given the boys the ‘Gift of Christmas’!