Making Room in the Manger: A Christmas Fostering Story

Our little Christmas tree was finally set up just the day before Christmas Eve. It was not our usual tree, decked tall and pretty with the ornaments we have collected over the years from countries near and far. We had instead opted for a smaller version, given that the circumstances this year were very different, and that we had just come back from a 10-day road trip to Kuala Lumpur and Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. And, we also had two extra guests this year, toddler boys who had come to stay with us for the season. We decided that a small tree would suffice this year. And we would surprise the two foster kids who were returning from respite care on the same day. It would be an opportunity for them to experience a lovely Christmas with us.


Our dear little Christmas tree; a symbol of resilience in the midst of uncertainty.
Or at least that was what we had planned.

Christmas morning. We usually start the day with a Christmas Breakfast Hash, made up using leftovers from Sue's family's Christmas Eve dinner. And according to the plan, we would then enjoy a reading of the Christmas story, sing a few Christmas Carols, before letting the kids open their presents. It was a tried and tested tradition which we have upheld over the years.

Not this year.

Just as I was in the midst of finishing up with the cooking, I heard a loud crash from the living room. Rushing out, I discovered that one of our foster kids had attempted to reach for one of the Christmas ornaments, which had caused the entire tree to come tumbling down. The lights were in disarray, some of the tiny ornamental red balls had broken, the nutcrackers and golden balls were all over the place, the star was nowhere to be found, and the entire living room was in a huge mess. To make matters worse, the stand of our little tree had broken and the entire structure was in a precarious position.

I hastily switched off the fire, and we spent the next half hour clearing the broken fragments, repairing the tree stand, and re-decorating the tree all over again. By then the food had gone cold, and I had to warm it up. And we gave thanks and ate the food, suddenly realising that I had forgotten to prepare enough food - there's a huge difference between cooking for 4 and for 6, and in the commotion I had completely forgotten about the difference!


Some semblance of peace as we settle down for Christmas breakfast.
After breakfast we got back on track and read the Christmas story. But just before we got round to singing some Christmas Carols, one of the kids knocked against the tree and to our horror we saw the entire tree come crashing down right in front of us. At this point, Sue and I were almost in tears. More of the ornamental balls were broken, and we had to sweep away the pieces. And, there was the task of re-re-decorating the tree all over again.

By the time everything was back to order, we were all but spent, and was almost at the point of giving up and sending everyone to bed. But we did get around to singing some carols and finally opening up the presents.
Reading the Christmas story. Thankfully the kids were still in good spirits.
It has been just over a month since our two most recent foster kids came to stay. It was a regular day, and our family was out having dinner. As we were eating, we received a call to ask if we would be able to take in two toddlers immediately. We said yes, and were informed that they would be arriving in an hour's time. We took a deep breath, and made immediate preparations so that a space would be available for the kids to sleep that night.

Fostering is inconvenient. 

During the last month, our lives have been turned upside down. For starters, we have to wake up each morning and get the foster kids ready for childcare. And when they return home each evening, they have to be cared for, fed, changed and sent to bed. Food. These two toddlers eat a healthy amount of food; sometimes more than our boys. And so we have had to make more wholesale purchases and cook more food for everyone. Laundry. Our washing load has doubled overnight. Coupled with the time taken to wash dishes and do the housework, we find we are constantly doing one thing or another around the house. Then there's the matter of transport. We have had to re-configure the seating in the car so that all the kids are safe when they travel. 


Taking our foster kids for some outdoor time.
Fostering is inconvenient.

During the first week of our foster kids' arrival, Sue was concurrently on a week-long training course. In order to ensure that all our kids can be cared for, I had to forego a number of dinner engagements and other meetings with friends. This, although difficult, was a choice that I know I needed to make. Fostering is a whole-family affair and both Sue and I know that we are in this together. Moreover, we spoke to our kids about the inconvenience of having other kids in the house; and while they have acknowledged that it's not easy, but they have said that they will welcome anyone who needs a home. 


One of our first outings as a new foster family. Our kids are fabulous partners in this fostering journey.
Fostering is inconvenient.

To say that we had a difficult Christmas Day was an understatement. In addition to managing all the kids at all our various parties, we also have had to manage the family of origin issues that our foster kids go through. We have to recognise that they were parented differently from how we parent our kids; and it has not been easy getting them to adapt to life with our family. It is a delicate balance. On one hand we need to train our foster kids just as we train our other children. But on the other hand, our foster kids come from a difficult family background, and they need an additional dose of love and affection in order to feel secure and safe. So we have to walk the parenting tightrope and change our mindset towards parenting and managing our foster kids.


It's not easy to parent foster kids. How do you discipline children who have been brought up in a completely different manner from your other kids?

More than 2,000 years ago, a young couple was travelling to a town faraway from their own home. There was no room in the inn; but the innkeeper made room for them in the manger where the animals were housed. That night, the young woman gave birth to a child; and the boy was named Jesus. He was to become the Saviour of the world.

Yes fostering is inconvenient. But as we celebrate Christmas, we remember this young couple, who also had no room to stay. When we foster, we open up our manger; however small and however inconvenient it may be. And we open our hearts to Jesus, to allow Him to use our lives as a source of hope to whoever who comes our way.


At the end of the day, we foster not because it's convenient, but because we love.

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