Last year it was all so new-being parents, having a child in the house. I was home a lot with our son the first few months. When Christmas came it seemed like it was about us having a son. Friends came by to see him and brought us dinners. Relatives sent clothes, rattles, stuffed animals and a few loud beeping toys, but it was about helping the new parents take care of baby. My sister came down just before Thanksgiving to lend us support and spend time with the little guy. It was all so different from anything I had ever experienced. When it was time to open presents, the little man didn’t have a clue. He was pretty young, but he also was a little behind developmentally, so ripping paper or anything like that was just out of his reach. He enjoyed a lot of his toys but Christmas wasn’t that experiential for him.
Our son has since become a thriving little toddler and the Christmas experience has altogether changed. It is no longer about us-the new family getting used to the rhythm of life with each other. Christmas has become centered around our foster son. The tree, the decorations, the lights, and everything we do to celebrate the season-it is all about him. We strung lights together yesterday on the tree. Though he won’t really get the anticipation of Christmas morning and opening presents-I’ve got that covered. I cannot wait for him to scream “El-moooooooooo” when he opens the box with the stuffed Baby Elmo, or the “too-toooooooo” when he sees the motorized Thomas the Tank Engine circling the base of the tree. I am so excited this year. But with the experience of this Christmas comes the hope that we will all be together again at this time next year.
I didn’t anticipate writing something sad for this post. A few months ago I was able to shed my sadness and I was not at all feeling sad about the holidays-until now. Back in August when we believed that our son was definitely going back to his family, we were informed that the next court date would be in January. It seemed like a long time–August to December agony. It would mean that he would be with us through Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, the New Year and even his second birthday. That seemed both kind and cruel. We would get to have him during the best part of the year. But the cruel part is, it would allow us to spend even more time together as a family with the people around us that we love; it would enable the parent-child relationship to grow even stronger than it was just six months ago; and it would enable the three of us to mark the milestones of the year together and afterwards the holidays would probably never be the same.
So here we are approaching the court date that seemed so far into the future and counting Christmases. This will mark the second that we have celebrated together-the first two of his little life. We are pretty certain that if he is with us for a third that we will no longer call him our foster son but just son. I remember last year sometime writing about how much I wanted to spend just one more Christmas with him. Now that Christmas is here, I realize that that isn’t enough. I know that if I can count to three Christmases he will be a part of our family permanently. You see it will never be enough, there will always be longings for more time with him. The sadness comes in because we are living an unnatural life together. It is unnatural for parents to live with the possibility that the child they love and would die for might in the next week or month or year, leave them. It should be enough for me, that I get to experience this wonderful time of year with my son. It shouldn’t be that I am forgetting the moment to mourn the future, to be desperate for it to be December 25, 2009. No parent should ever have to count Christmases.