The truth is...I don’t ever want to.
These past four years and several hellos and goodbyes have taught me that nothing ever prepares you. You must walk the hard journey of letting go, foster care refines in you the art of letting go. There is not magic word or potion that makes it easier, you must walk every step of the process and in a way every tear I cry and ache I feel seems to validate this whole journey. It’s as if the art of letting go is teaching me the art of love, to have and to lose.
Tuesday we woke up working about our normal routine, getting everyone to school. The babies and I came back home after drop off to do laundry, play and take naps. Moments into our morning together I received an email 3 sentences long.
The email in three sentences began the unravel of 10 months of life together. It was over and he was leaving, we had 4 days to untangle 10 months of life lived. Our home is changing rapidly, in the last month we said goodbye to our Bear Cub #17months, hello to our Sweet Girl #2months and NOW goodbye to my Little Man #3.
You are never prepared for these moments, goodbye is counter intuitive to a Mama heart. I wept, those three sentences changed the course of our day, our week and our life. I ugly cried over the inevitable goodbye. He was leaving, three hours away and this was it for us. If Mom is to relapse he would likely go into a different community’s system so this is where our story ends.
If you are one of our local friends, you will say you have never seen a transformation like his. His hollow eyes and heavy heart came to us burdened, barely able to speak or sleep. His eyes now sparkle when you talk, he speaks in sentences and processes aloud. He smiles, loves and spreads joy wherever he goes. His presence in our home has been life changing, he came in and changed us.
The ache of my heart knowing this secret seems too much to bear at times. The hard part of this journey is not my loss alone to carry, how do I tell them?
I think of My Beauty Kennedy who adores him, she creates make believe games for them to play. She waits for him each morning and cheers when he gets into the car after preschool. I think of Daniel, who sometimes finds him annoying but delights in finally having his bottom bunk filled. I think of Charlotte who lovingly cares for him helping him tie shoes and pour breakfast. I think of Little One who delights in him and spends the entire weekend with her best bud. I think of the babies who will forget him quickly but who benefit from his big brother heart. I hate this. I want to delete the email and pretend that this is not our story. I want to close my eyes to the reality of this world. I want to say, “no thank you.”
I sat them down and shared with them that I got an email. That It was time for him to go back to his mom, that she was making good choices and was ready for him. I told him we would never see him again because I needed him to understand that this isn’t a visit with Mom, this is forever. Our story was ending but we would all keep growing and loving the world around us. I showed them all the emotions as I choked over the words and cried into our embrace. My promise is that each child who enters our home would know love. That we would embrace the process and the grief of it all and that we would not shy away.
My Mama heart was heavy but his three year old heart was delighted to hear he would get to live with his Mom again. We celebrated that fact through our tears and I tried to make sure he knew what I was saying, that he understood.
In that moment around our table, I fell a little bit deeper in love with them all. They all began to process and grieve and it manifested in so many different ways. One channeled her grief into the design and creation of a cake. Another went to the art table to make cards and pictures and My Big Kind Hearted Boy found a bag and began packing presents, to remember us by. They love well and each day they teach me how to do it.
Him in his little three year old brain started to “run” from it all, one moment elation and joy followed by pure sadness. One moment saying, “I won’t miss you” and the next crumpling into a pile of tears on my lap, whispering “I don’t want to not see you.” We measured our time out in sleeps, 4 sleeps, 3 sleeps, 2 sleeps and talked through his farewell party and our plans to say goodbye to his friends at school. He has been planning for months his birthday party which is a month away so we are pulling it all together and throwing him one on Friday, he wants a big big big Paw Patrol cake so we are making that happen. Our community is coming over to celebrate him and love him well.
These past nights I have found him in my bed, sleeping softly beside me. I have been unaware of when he came in, much like he did in the first several months. When he needed the security of me and the desire to be loved.
His heart is heavy, I can see it in his eyes, the hollow dark is beginning to creep in. He feels all the feels and we are riding each one with him. The up and down of the roller coaster, the cycle of grief. Does he understand? Can he possibly? At three how do you process the ache of foster care, the process of hellos and goodbyes.
For those who say they can’t handle the goodbyes, we are adults with coping skills, so we can. If they can, then we can. The loss and grief I feel is nothing compared to the love and joy he has felt these last 10 months. To pretend that these goodbyes don’t hurt like hell, would be a lie. In all the goodbyes I have done it never gets easier. Loving him These last 300 days was worth every ache now. To love and be loved is what changes us, to lose love makes us aware of it and to seek love is what heals us.
So Friday we celebrate him hard, we cheer and love him with every ounce inside of us knowing that this all matters. This time, this place and this Love. And Saturday we pack him up and say our goodbyes and we cry.
Here is to my Sweet, Kind, Charming #3, all of the love, all of the wishes and all of the joy for you from here on out.