It felt like a kick in the stomach.
Everyone involved acknowledged that it was much more sudden than anticipated. I was expecting weeks of extended visits then overnight visits then weekend visits before packing up his remaining clothes and toys and kissing him goodbye. The four hours notice we received in advance of his coming seemed much longer than the four-day notice of his leaving.
The day of the initial call was pretty devastating. I managed to keep it (mostly) together in front of the kids, especially when telling them. We talked about the simultaneous feelings of joy (for him and his mother) and sadness because we would miss him terribly. It was a heavy day. I found myself looking at him in a totally different way. I vacillated between giving him extra attention and starting to gather his things. When I'm stressed, I clean. Evidently, when I'm about to send a foster child home I pack days in advance.
By the second day, as plans came together (when his overnight visit would take place, the actual time of his transfer, and plans to see him again), I began to feel peace. I knew I wouldn't feel like a true foster parent until I had the experience of watching a child move on. I was almost there. This was part of it all. I could do this.
The day I handed him back to his mother was emotionally charged but, oh, so positive. We met at the office and talked of his routines and most recent new skills. I was nervous and I'm fairly certain his mother was, too. Out in the parking lot, we exchanged tears and hugs. On the way home, I lost it and bawled like a baby.
It's been almost a week since he's gone home and I could not be happier. God is so good. Our family is blessed to be able to provide childcare for him several days a week. His mother and I are developing a voluntary relationship- one that is not forced, one in which we are equals. Having her in our home is even more wonderful than I had imagined.
I feel like I'm walking on a cloud. Sure, I miss him and wonder if he wonders where I am and when the kids will bound around the corner to play with him, but we get to see him and love on him every few days, often even a couple days in a row. I count his mother as my friend and look forward to having them in our lives for as long as they want us.
Well before we knew of his imminent departure, I was anxious about what we would do when he left. How long would be the right amount of time to wait until we accepted another placement? Would we all feel ready at the same time? Would I feel like someone was missing again? Would I be perpetually sad?
Being able to help with his childcare has been the answer to so many of these questions and prayers. I consider this phase an extension of his placement. There's no reason to think of my next step. This is my next step. Instead of breaking down in tears of loss, I weep tears of joy. My heart and life are full. This- the reunification of a family and the ability to remain in relationship with them- is why I wanted to do foster care and I feel bowled over and incredibly lucky to have experienced it on the first try.
My heart breaks for those who have had to send a foster child home to a birth family that doesn't seem to have it together. My heart breaks for those who have had to send a foster child along when they wish they could call them their own. My heart breaks knowing that it's possible that one day, no matter what our intentions, we could be some of "those" folks. For now, I am incredibly thankful. And I am so very grateful to each of you who have prayed for us and reached out to us via email as fellow foster parents. We have felt your prayers and your love.
While I do find myself with more time these days, this blog will likely stay fairly quiet until spring. We are all still adjusting to our new normal. We are reestablishing old routines, sleeping longer (my alarm clock went home) and feeling out our new roles. We talk often of new projects for the warmer seasons and look forward to sharing them with you in a couple months. Until then, may you feel God's supernatural love and bask in His peace. God is so good.
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