Heart on a String and The Great Unknown

Em and Little Miss examining the wild violets

The Great Unknown

Today someone asked me, “So what happens next?”

I shrugged and smiled, “It’s not up to me. It’s up to a judge and damn, I would not want that job, not in a million years.”

“So it could go either way? When will you know for sure?”

I shrugged again, “The wheels of justice move excruciatingly slow. All I can do is wait.”

We were talking about my foster daughter, Little Miss, who has only been in our lives for three and a half weeks now. Three and a half weeks – that isn’t long, but in that short amount of time she has first discombobulated us, then walked with us into a new schedule, a new reality.

A Decent Schedule

Each weekday morning, Em wakes at 6:30 with her alarm. I read to her for half an hour and Little Miss usually wakes up in the middle of it, calling out from her crib. Em runs to go get her, sits her in between us, and I finish the chapter and we snuggle up, all of us, sipping coffee or tea, and talking to Little Miss.

A diaper change and clean clothes, a touch up of the hair and we are off and away to daycare and work.

The evenings are filled with dinner, regular trips to the park, and a little tv in the evening before reading a book and bed.

And yes, there are tantrums and tears, but there is also laughter and hugs. Toddlers are a mixed bag of fun and freakouts, and Little Miss is as normal as they come in this arena.

An Awesome Older Sister

Em is, by the way, an amazing older sister. She is firm, loving, and responsible. I so enjoy watching the two of them interact. Little Miss responds in kind, calling out “Em-yee” when she sees her each morning or evening.

Heart on a String

Here is the reality, the face of foster care for our little family. It’s a love story, of sorts, with an uncertain and unknowable ending. You take a tiny child into your home and I challenge you to NOT fall in love.

I jokingly say to my husband that children are cute because if they weren’t then we would eat them after the first tantrum or unexpected mess.

So, after the initial shock of “Holy hell, a strange woman just came by my house and left a small child on my doorstep!” I did what most sane, normal, loving people would do in my position. I fell in love.

You can’t help but love this little girl. Her tight, pencil-width curls. Her bright smile. The way she chugs chocolate milk like she’s at a frat party.

The reality of being a foster parent is that you will fall in love with a child that isn’t yours by birth. One that takes a piece of your heart forever and irredeemably placed on a string that may travel far away from you.

Love is simple and it is also rather complicated. It’s easy to love, and it’s not so easy to let go.

What Is a “Better Life?”

Within the first 24 hours of a placement, a foster parent is tasked with taking their new foster child to the doctor to get checked out. And here I was, still half in shock that after all those months of paperwork I actually had what I had been waiting so long for.

A nurse, helping me go from one destination to the other, said, “Well, you know she’s better off with you, anyway.”

And my heart twanged with that.

In the weeks since I have met Little Miss’s mom, and I know enough about her situation to know that, if things were weighed by opportunity and disposable income, then yes, Little Miss would indisputably be better off with us. There are thousands of children you could say the same about.

Being poor isn’t a crime, though, and the nurse’s words bothered me. They bothered me because she doesn’t know the circumstances of why Little Miss is with me. Hell, I barely know the circumstances.

Thankfully, as I said above, it’s not my job to decide where she goes, but I fear that we will measure our time together in months at most.

When That Day Comes

You can love a child to the ends of the earth and back and not have that love returned. Or you can love, and be loved in return, and still lose a child. I’ve experienced the first scenario, and honestly, I rather expect the second scenario.

That said, love does not have a price tag nor a boundary attached to it. I want to believe that I can face the day that Little Miss returns to her bio mom with grace and with love. For me, that’s what it means to be a foster parent.

I recently read an article about a couple who had fostered and adopted a child. The author wrote, “So often people say they love children too much to open their home and then see them leave, but I find it hard to use the argument of having ‘too much love’ that forces you to keep that door closed.”

I have been asked, multiple times, “Aren’t you afraid of getting your heart broken?”

The answer is yes, of course, I am afraid. I walked into this, eyes open, knowing what it meant. That I might find the perfect child, the one who felt so right in my arms, so much a part of me that biology aside, we were meant to be a family.

Little Miss’s middle name is my first name. She turned 2 1/2 on my 48th birthday. She is left-handed like me.

She fits so well within our family. So yes, I will be heartbroken.

The only cure for heartbreak is to open my heart again.

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