I’ve already cried over the goodbye multiple times. Actually, I cried over the goodbye within the first ten minutes of meeting the boys. As soon as that sweet little five-year-old boy looked at me as I held his crying baby brother in my arms and told me he wanted to take care of him, as soon as I laid the baby in his arms as he sat on the floor and kissed and cuddled his baby brother, a little baby that seemed so big in the arms of a little boy, I looked at my husband while blinking back tears and said, “I love him already.”
In that moment, I pictured our inevitable goodbye and I knew that it was going to hurt like crazy.
This was something that once terrified me. It terrified me to the point where I considered ruling out foster care all together. My husband and I have been fighting the grief and pain that comes with a diagnosis of infertility for almost two years while trying for a family for almost three, and when we first started looking into foster care, I automatically assumed that taking placements of children who weren’t up for adoption would be too painful for us to be able to handle after everything we’d already been through. I thought I wasn’t strong enough for the inevitable goodbye.
I was wrong.
What I never anticipated was the beauty that would come with that pain, a beauty unlike any other, one that can only come with having the privilege of loving on children that need it more desperately than I could ever imagine. Children that have had pieces of their childhood stripped away from them, who’ve lost the security of a familiar bed to sleep in, who’ve lost the certainty of arms to hold them, who’ve lost the stability of a family to keep them. Children who need to feel loved and wanted and safe, who need even just a few short days of fun and laughter and memories to have and to hold forever.
Even as we first welcomed these two beautiful boys into our home, I was afraid. I was afraid that I wasn’t strong enough. And as I rock the baby to sleep and breathe in the sweet scent of his baby soft skin and imagine being able to rock him to sleep forever, and as I hold the little boy in my arms and read him stories before bed and hug and kiss him goodnight and imagine raising him and watching him grow, I am afraid of what this goodbye will do to me. The pain is like nothing I’ve ever known—the heartache of this growing unconditional love for two little people that seem to fit so perfectly in our arms and hearts and family, two sweet children that we know we can’t keep forever while also longing desperately for it to be an option. It’s crazy how quickly we adapted to having them and caring for them. It was so natural to take them in, to care for them and meet their needs. We surprised ourselves at how easily we could do this, at how much we want this, at how naturally parenthood came. Like we were born for it.
But no matter how much this hurts, no matter how much grief I know that this goodbye will cause me, no matter how many tears I cry, I realize now that I am ready to welcome the pain that is to come. Because what is a little heartache and a little pain compared to the time we’ve been able to spend with them?
We’ve gotten to spend a perfect week with them, one filled with so many laughs and smiles, one where we heard the phrase “that was fun” so many times that we lost count. We’ve gotten to watch the look of profound joy on the face of a precious little boy as we took him to the beach for the very first time. We’ve gotten to watch him play with our nieces and marvel over how pure and easy the friendships between children can be. We’ve gotten to snuggle with him at night as we watched movies or read books. We’ve gotten to hear him say he loves us for the first time, a sound that I don’t think I could ever grow tired of hearing as long as I live. We’ve gotten to be a place of security and safety, a place of love and kindness, a place of joy and laughter for a little boy who has been through the deep sorrow of loss. We’ve gotten to leave him with the kind of exciting childhood memories that every child deserves.
Yes it’s painful. But our pain is worth it if it means that we were able to alleviate even a little of his.
I used to be afraid of foster care, but I’m not anymore. Because this process is not about us. It is about the children we get to love, and it is for the children that we get to love. Loving them is a privilege that God has entrusted us with, a privilege that we will never take lightly. We have the privilege of making them feel safe and secure, no matter how short the time is that we have them. We have the privilege to be able to show them that there are people who are still good in this world, people who are ready to give them all the love and attention and kindness they deserve. We have the privilege of helping them along on their journey to healing. We have the privilege of showing them light in a world of darkness, of showing them love, laughter, friendship, and family, of caring for them, of providing them a place of rest and comfort. And the moment we ceased that opportunity and saw it being played out in the lives of those two sweet boys, our world became a whole lot brighter.
This is what we’ve been missing.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.”
-1 John 4:18-19