Last Tuesday was a day that we had been dreading for awhile. It was the day that Little Buddy, who had been with us almost 6 months, moved away to reunite with his brother to be cared for by a relative.
Reunification is always the initial goal of foster care. Children thrive when they are able to maintain strong bonds with their siblings and relatives.
Leading up to his moving day, I had been busy moving into a new house, packing his things away, and even preparing for an unexpected new placement. In all the busy-ness, I had no time to fully process that Little Buddy was leaving me, for real for real. I saw my husband take moments to pause and reflect, but I had no time for that.
Like any “normal day,” I picked Little Buddy up from daycare with a graham cracker snack in hand, played Baby Shark in the car on the way to meet up with my husband at home so that we could load his things in the car.
We did those things and welcomed Princess T, our new placement, before the drop off. [Side note: I was super grateful that we got the opportunity to drop him off, see his new home, and say good-bye as opposed to the usual caseworker pick up and rushed farewell.] We dropped him off at his relative’s home who was very warm and welcoming. Little Buddy’s eyes lit up when he saw his four-year-old older brother and they began to laugh and play together, seemingly making up for lost time. It was hard and beautiful to watch as I whispered to myself “This is what’s best for him, AB. He needs to be with his family.”
In the days following, I would think about him, but push back the tears so that I could be fully present for Princess T. She helped me to rearrange his room into a pink and sparkly place for her and I even started to embrace our new life. I caught myself jumping up several times after sleeping-in only to remember that there was no longer a baby to wake me up just after dawn. I would laugh to myself thinking about all the graham cracker crumbs that I would be laying on top of in the mornings because I was too lazy to fully get up. I would put him in my bed with snacks and toys so that I could get just FIVE MORE MINUTES of sleep. See, I was fine. The fun memories helped me to be alright. Little Buddy was fine, so I was too.
Then today happened. Many church members realized Little Buddy was gone. They wanted to talk about it and I would feel my eyes fill with water that I would dab at the corners with my thumbs. I attempted to change the conversation to talk about Princess T or work or anything else. I felt a little heavy leaving church and thinking about the many times I would have to take Little Buddy upstairs to kid church so that could worship peacefully.
About an hour later, I headed to meet my sister for a joint grocery run. I was soaring down the highway when the song “Risen”came on the radio, which was Little Buddy and I’s jam. I looked back at his car seat as if I was going to smile at him and wave my hands as I always did, but he wasn’t there and his car seat was empty. For the first time since his departure, I lost it and tears rolled down my cheeks. I was not fine. I thought about all the times that we danced to that song, all things I had taught him, and all the fears that I have about me not there guiding him through his milestones.
I started to ruminate all things Little Buddy related:
What if he can’t sleep at night because his bedtime routine changed?
Is she remembering to give him Zyrtec every morning for his allergies?
Is he still counting to 5 on his own?
I wonder if he’s saying “pweze” and “tank you.“
WHAT IF HE FORGETS ME?!
My weeping became stronger as I fully embraced the reality that he is gone. This is not like when he goes to daycare daily or to visit Grandma for a week. “He’s gone gone,” I said aloud as the intensity of my crying magnified. This loss has been the most difficult of all of the children that I’ve fostered. While I know loss is a part of fostering, there was something inside of me that truly believed he’d stay with us forever.
The grief that accompanies foster care is relative to that of the passing of a loved one. The hole I feel resembles the same pain I felt when I lost my grandfather and my great grandmother. It doesn’t go away.
So to those who said to me today or at some other time “Girl, I don’t know how you do this!” My response is “I don’t either.” It is not natural to want to do something that causes to you feel pain or loss over and over, but it is part of the call to foster. I heard it doesn’t get easier, so pray for us, but more so, pray for Little Buddy and all of the children that also feel loss over and over again.