missing pieces

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Last Saturday, we went to an event with some other foster and adoptive families at a park. As we parked ourselves next to an older couple with four littles running around, we began to make some small talk. As she introduced herself to me, I recognized the name from the case file from my own children. My son spend his first and second stint in foster care in this family's home. I never expected that we would meet this woman, and beyond the written case details, we have no information or pictures from his time in care there. 

I had such mixed feelings while we talked to them about our son and what he was like in their home. When they talked about his older sister and their experiences with her, I just felt like they were discussing different children altogether. Not my son. Not his sister. These kids they were talking about were other children. Children I don't know.

Part of that is true. They are different now. They are unrecognizable as the kids who were in care during that time. Even their first parents comment on it. "well, he used to be such-and-such". Yeah, well. Some shit happened. (pardon my french) These are kids that went through unimaginable trauma and hardship, and they are different now. These are kids that have worked harder than anyone else I know to heal and learn to be part of a functioning family again, and they are different.

Conversely, though, they are the same kids. My son has bits of history that I still know nothing about. These people loved and cared for him when he was a baby. I will never have that experience. There are years of his life that I have no part of, and that's painful as a mama to hear them talk about how he was such a climber, that they'd never seen another kid climb like he did. It hurts my heart to think of the years that I couldn't care for him, the times when he might have felt alone and scared and I couldn't comfort him. It does my heart good to meet a woman who hopefully did comfort him and care for him. Who held him close and changed his diaper. I feel more connected to him and his story now.

We told him who this couple was, and he was fully present and fine. No visible reaction. He went over, gave her a hug, and ran off to play again. There was a time in the not-too-distant past when that wouldn't have happened. We wouldn't have been able to address the past in public, and he definitely wouldn't have been secure enough to give a stranger a hug.

We took a picture later. A memory both from the day, and a keepsake for our son to have forever. This is a piece of his story that is no longer completely lost to history. This couple, they are real flesh and blood people. They have names and now they have faces. Someday, I think he'll be appreciative we have this.

Foster care is just such a messed up system. It's hard and ugly, and kids get hurt both before they are taken into care and after as well. It is a hopeful pleasure to know that it's mostly filled with people who are really trying to do the best they can to help take care of children. My kids' stories are not over yet , but it is my very favorite thing to sometimes get those glimpses of victory. They might not be the people they're going to be, but they are definitely not the people they were.
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