Baby S returned to his mother today.
Starting today there is a car seat in our van without a passenger.
There is a crib that nobody will be sleeping in.
There are toys that will not go played with.
There is one particular car ramp that won't be seeing any races.
There is a spot at the table that will be empty.
There is a sink that will have far fewer dishes.
A special nighttime song will go unsung.
Mornings will start an hour later than they used to and bedtimes will be an hour shorter.
Family movie nights will be less frantic.
Going to the store will be less of an adventure.
There is baby shampoo that will sit unused.
And a bath towel.
And a hat.
And a raincoat.
His favorite possession? His toothbrush, oddly enough. That went with him. But now there are only three in the cup by the sink.
Over a year and a half in our home comes to an end.
There is a young boy without his younger brother to follow him around.
There is a dad without his youngest wrestling partner.
There is a mother without her baby.
There is a cat that is likely happy about it all. (We really can't tell either way)
We hear people say, "We couldn't do foster care because we'd love them too much to give them back."
But you would love them enough to give them a safe, consistent, caring home when they need it, wouldn't you?
If you think we do foster care because we are strong, then you should come see us in the days before each of the times our foster son was supposed to leave. You'll see a home where we've given up on cleaning, because sitting on the floor and playing is more important. You'll see a couple lying awake and talking because it's too hard to sleep. You'll see two people that simply can't hold it together. Certain toys are just catalysts for sobbing sessions. Still other toys are reminders of a broken world filled with ineffective systems (which leads to further sobbing).
If you think we do foster care because we have something in us that others don't have, then you haven't seen us answer at length the "Why do you do foster care?" question. You'll see a "tough guy" take long pauses and extra breaths trying to say, without tears and as succinctly as possible, why these kids need it. You'll see a mom, unable to hold onto the children she has called her own, find some reason why the pain is good despite her maternal instincts screaming otherwise.
We are far from capable. Very far from capable. We get frustrated too easily. We get annoyed too quickly. We are more cynical than ever. And we find no hope for the future in this world.
We are NOT foster parent material.
So why bother?
Simply put, there is a gap. A very large gap. Between what the world should be and what the world actually is.
These kids can come with all of their possessions in a trashbag. We keep extra duffle bags in our closet. They will leave our home with dignity.
These kids might already feel like an outsider. We keep full wardrobes for many different sizes. They will leave knowing they were one of our kids.
These kids have left what they know and been thrown into a stranger's home. We will tirelessly remind people that this is the same child as last time. They will leave knowing that our home was a constant in their lives.
These kids have likely experienced trauma that many of us will never face. We will sob at night and "get it out of our system" by morning. They will leave knowing they had someone to hold them and someone to cry on.
These kids might not have had even their basic needs met. We will always keep random canisters of baby formula in our cupboard and plenty of food in our fridge. They will leave knowing they always had what they needed.
So we will stand in that gap. We will do all that we can to build the bridge between what should be and what is.
We love them too much NOT to take them. Because they need the love more than I need to avoid the heartache of saying goodbye.
Their lives are messy. So we will choose to wade into the mess.
That's what Christ did for us.