Posted on February 8, 2017
My wife Victoria and I are foster parents. Now this means many different things to many different people. However, for us it means that we have a child staying with us; a child who needs a safe, caring and loving place to be while it is decided where he will be forever.
Our current placement shares many things with the children who may be with us in the future: He is a wonderful child, who like all children, carries within him the light of love and the spark of hope for a new generation.
During the day, he is filled with energy and mischief. He has a full-throttle way of going through his day, which is amazing and often leaves us shaking our heads and thinking, “How did he get into/over/through that?” Or, “Why did he do that/go there?”
These are, of course, impossible questions to ask a child of his age but they do come into our minds as he climbs, pushes, pulls, hollers and – at times, talks – through his life. He is being a kid, and we are, just trying to keep up. We did this with the other children who have come to be with us forever, too.
But bedtime is different. At bedtime, he slows down, curls up and snuggles. At bedtime, he looks at Victoria or I as if to ask, “Now what?” and, “What will happen tomorrow?” And bedtime is when he gets the one-on-one attention you rarely get with so many others running around. At bedtime, it is his chance to be with the ones who are caring for him; the people whose house he came to, even if just for a short while, in the larger timeline of his life.
At bedtime, all our children get a story. For this little guy, who is too young to have words to tell us what story he would like, the story is always the same. His story goes something like this:
Once upon a time there was a little boy and he lived in a little house with a little mommy and a little daddy. And, for a little while he had to go live in another little house. And in that little house there was another little mama and a little dada, two little girls and a little boy. And he stayed in that little house while his mom and dad (who loved him very much) learned to be safe. In that little house, he was safe and cared for and loved, and he grew. He grew up and he grew in words. He grew in knowing that he was safe and cared for and loved (although he had always been loved.) And as he grew, he decided that when he was a grown up (or even before) he would be one of those people who helped others be safe and cared for and loved.
Eventually, the little boy went back home with his forever grown-ups to his forever house. As he grew up in a place of forever, where he was safe and cared for and loved, he became a grown-up. And when he was a grown-up he remembered how there had been a place where he was safe and cared for and love when he needed it the most. And he remembered his promise that he would be one of those grown-ups who helps other people feel safe and cared for and loved. And in doing so, he changed the world. Because, you see, when you are safe and cared for and loved you cannot help but help others to feel safe and cared for and loved. The end and a little bit the beginning.
Now we tell this story to our little guy at bedtime because we want him to know that he has always been loved, that he will always be cared for and that, we hope, he will always be safe. But we also want him to know the power in his story. The power in having faced challenge, in having been face to face with the imperfection that is our world, and surviving. We want him to see that out of his life can come his calling. He may look back on this time, and in the stories and memories his body carries, remember the pain of separation. But we want him to see that in that there is hope, in that there is a calling, and for him – amid it all – was love and power.
And Victoria and I want the parents of this child, of every child who should come to be with us, to know that their child will always be their child (whatever the long-term outcome) and that we know our job is to keep that connection while helping the children know that they are powerful, cared for and loved. It’s the special people with stories who can – and will – change the world.