You came to live with us in the summer of 2016 when you were 5. You had been in foster care for two years and the older woman who took care of you and your sister had a large home, but things in her life had changed and she needed the whole of it for her growing family. You spent many weekends with us before then and so you knew our home well, and you knew your baby brothers lived with us, and you knew we loved you all.
In this year of 2016, in the state we live in, there are many people and many houses but there are not many people with foster homes. When children are born to parents who cannot take care of them, the government looks for other people to help. Right now, there are not enough helpers for the number of kids who need safe and caring and loving grown ups and homes. There are not enough blended and brave families with kids who are born to their parents and kids who are adopted by their parents and kids who live with their foster parents until the right family is found for them. We know that the world is full of beautiful people who have yet to discover they they are the family I am talking about. We are hopeful that more grown ups think about and fall in love with children who need families but we know that right now this is not happening fast enough.
In the summer you came to live with us, you and your big sister moved in for a weekend, while the grown ups in charge searched for a home for the two of you to live and grow up big and strong in. They were looking for a family that wanted to adopt you and be your parents forever. We had a plan that weekend, which was for all of us to go on vacation for the 4th of July, and after the holiday, we would help the two of you move and then in the future you would come over for sleepovers on weekends and our family and your family would spend special holidays and create rituals together. Though your brothers lived with us and we were in the process of adopting them, we thought of ourselves as your aunties and that seemed to work for you, but it was also very confusing for you.
That long weekend came and went and there was no family and immediately we were having conversations with the grown-ups in charge about how long we could take care of you. We were very worried and this was the beginning of a very difficult period of time for your younger brothers and for [therapist mom] and me. At this time in my own life, you may remember, I was at work a lot. I left early in the morning and sometimes could sneak in a hug and a hello before sliding you back into bed. You had a lot of nightmares and sometimes slept good and sometimes slept bad and when you woke up early in the morning, it was very hard for you to be in charge of your little body. You may also remember [therapist mom] was home with you and your brothers and sister a lot. We called her a college teacher and she was on her summer break from teaching with lots of time to cook and play and bring you and your sister to and from camp and parks and museums. We wish we could have lived like this all the time, except with me home more often, but this was an adventure we could only embark on for a short period of time; this became clear very early on and we pushed through many things which felt impossible to hold you in our home for as long as we could while a family was found. They still have not found that family, and tomorrow we drop you off with your social worker, where you will begin a new chapter in your very young life.
That’s some of the logistical stuff. Now, let me tell you how I’m feeling. After your baby brothers and big sister were sleeping, we gave you a special goodbye book full of pictures from your summer adventures. You looked at it twice, deliberately and smiling so happy. You said, “this is so great.” And you meant it. (You are a genuinely kind and insightful kid-really advanced in this area for your age). There is a photo for everything we wish for you to remember from this summer. After our special time (you, me and [therapist mom]), I tucked your very small body into bed, sprayed your special keep-the-monsters-away spray and kissed you goodnight. I went into the bathroom and thought I would be sick from the pain of all this, and instead, cried and cried. In fact, all day today and for many weeks now, we have both snuck away to find quiet places to cry and release the sadness that we feel in our tummies before returning to the four of you and moving through this period.
I wonder how you will remember this summer. You grew so much. You tried and fell in love with lots of food like spinach and seaweed and hard-boiled eggs and hummus. You also loved your cheese pizza and pasta and ice cream, of course. You slept better over time and practiced so hard using new skills to share toys and tell people what you needed.
When you are a grown man you may understand that there are choices which grown ups have to make that are very hard and feel very unfair. We have to steal ourselves from spinning our wheels in the soft shoulder of all these big feelings and think about what is best for all of us. That is also what grown-ups do. They have to think about what is best for everyone. Your moving on tomorrow is an agonizing choice that we made together and I believe it is the right one for you. I believe it is the right one for your brothers and sister. And I know it is the right one for [therapist mom] and I. You deserve a family that can give you all that you need and by prolonging the process that sets that journey in motion, we are setting you up for failure and we are setting ourselves up for failure. And because your future is so uncertain and because we love you so very much, we are very, very sad. We are hopeful, but we are sad for many reasons. Some of which are deeply private and some of which are obviously human.
I’ll end with this. You will know us as you grow up and I keep thinking about that. I keep thinking about what its like to be in a position to rally for you and all that you deserve in this world and to do so from the sidelines, because I do believe some force will step in and you will call them mother and father or mother and mommy or dad and poppa or some loving variation thereof. And they will want to know what we learned about you while you were with us because they will be so invested in your little heart and your little mind and your healing body and we will always know how tall you are and what your favorite dance moves are and what things you are curious about. In this great season of change and uncertainty these are the things I’ll be thinking about. And though this is likely not a letter I’ll send and more a cathartic release for me during what will surely be an era to change me forever, I wish to thank you for making me a better mom. A fuller person. A stronger fighter.
-Foster mom (The Artist)