“Our children need us to be with them. Not just on Christmas day, but all through the year.”
Soon it will be Christmas Day.
For me, it is the only day I stop. The only day I do nothing.
For you see, Christmas is a day where there is so much noise, so much activity, so much going on in my home, that I truly do very little.
Now, in truth, as a parent of over 60 children the past 21 years, through adoption, foster care, and my own biological children, each day is pretty busy for my wife and I. Visitations for my children from foster care with upset birth parents, untold amounts of doctor visits with sick children, homework, bath time, laundry for up to 11 kids at one time, and of course 75,982 diapers changed in 21 years (my best estimate!) In all honesty, I go to work each morning to rest, because when I go home each night, it is time to truly get to work
Christmas day, though, is different.
To be sure, there have been those Christmas days when my wife and I have been “run ragged,” so to speak. There was one Christmas where we had four children in diapers, along with a very explosively angry child from foster care who suffered from Reactive Attachment Disorder. That was one very loud, and messy, Christmas day. Another December 25th saw my wife and I picking up the emotional pieces of a child from foster care, as she had to leave our home in the midst of her first real present unwrapping in order to visit a biological parent in a nearby city.
Of course, there was the loss of one of our children, just two days before the most Holy of days. Our foster daughter of over a year and a half, Sydney left our home and family and moved to a nearby state, as her aunt and uncle had adopted her. I had great reservations and concern regarding this, as she had only met the couple one time beforehand. Despite my many pleas to the caseworker to have the young child to stay with our family until after Christmas, Sydney instead went to live with the family she hardly knew, spending a Christmas with strangers instead of a family she had lived with and who had loved her for nearly twenty months. It was a time of much sadness and tears in our home, as we all grieved the loss of this special child in our homes.
Yet, at the same time, I am able to watch children experience their first Christmas while living with our family; an opportunity they may never have had while living with their birth family. The two sisters, two and four years old, jumping up and down on Christmas Eve in anticipation of Santa’s arrival, as peals of laughter rang through our home. The seven-year-old girl who opened her very first wrapped present in our home, and was unsure how to do it. The 10-year- old boy who asked if he could keep the toy he received. The 14-year-old boy who cried when he opened up a gift with his name on it and found a leather jacket to call his very own.
“Not just on Christmas day, but all through the year. Our children need us to be with them.”
This. This why. This is why I stop. This is why I do nothing.
Nothing, that is, except embrace the moment. Nothing except welcome the joy and the laughter, the love and the miracle into my home. Among all the noise and the activity, I take time to simply bask in the moment of time with the children, celebrating the season, and celebrating their presence in my life.
This is what our children need us to do. They need us to slow down, to embrace that moment. They need us to sit down with them and laugh, to listen to them, to talk with them. Quite simply, they need us to be with them.
Not just on Christmas day, but all through the year. Our children need us to be with them.
That is the greatest Christmas give I can give a child. Doing nothing except embracing them and sharing my love.
That is the greatest Christmas gift I can receive, simply being with them.
Truly I am blessed this Christmas time. Truly, I am blessed every day.
Dr. John DeGarmo is an international expert in parenting and foster care and is a TEDx Talk presenter. Dr. John is the founder and director of The Foster Care Institute. He has been a foster parent for 17 years, and he and his wife have had over 60 children come through their home. He is an international consultant to schools, legal firms, and foster care agencies, as well as an empowerment and transformational speaker and trainer for schools, child welfare, businesses, and non profit organizations. He is the author of several books, including Love and Mayhem: One Big Family’s Uplifting Story of Fostering and Adoption and writes for several publications. Dr. John has appeared on CNN HLN, Good Morning, America, FOX, ABC, CBS, NBC, and elsewhere, He and his wife have received many awards, including the Good Morning America Ultimate Hero Award. He can be contacted at drjohndegarmo@gmail, through his Facebook page, Dr. John DeGarmo, or at The Foster Care Institute.