It has been eight weeks since our most recent placement left our home and went to live with his dad. Some days it feels like just yesterday, other days it feels like forever ago. The clothes have been washed, put away or returned to friends, the bed has been changed, and the toys have been put away. Except for the one plastic Batman that still sits on my window ledge. I just can’t put that away yet.
Saying goodbye to foster children with gratitude instead of grief. We knew it was coming, and we have said goodbye to children in our home before, so we knew the feelings heading our way were challenging ones. In some ways this goodbye was easier than the very first one that we experienced.
I currently serve as a literacy coach in a suburban school district near Milwaukee. Driving to work each day takes me through neighborhoods where many of the foster children my family has helped currently live. My morning commute serves as a reminder of the time that we spent together. Whether it is a major intersection in Milwaukee or driving on the freeway and seeing a particular exit, I think about these children and wonder how they are doing.
Additional reminders creep in at home every now and then. That missing sock that got stuck in the laundry chute. A toy that was misplaced reappearing after being gone for months. The little stuffed lizard a child needed to sleep with every night. The Batman on my window ledge.
Seasons are now measured in our home by remembering children that we helped during that particular time of the year. Our house is now called the “Halloween House” in autumn after one child named it when he saw of our fall decorations.
Reflecting on all of my memories, I wonder at times if the children ever remember me. Do they remember the books that we read? The Lego homes that we built? Do they remember playing outside at my home, laughing, getting hugs and lots of love from my family? I cannot help but think that they do remember.
When we open our hearts and our homes to fostering, we open ourselves to forming relationships, to making an impression on another soul, to being vulnerable and to saying goodbye to someone we love.
In the days ahead I will have the same reminders. The streets, the toys, the socks. I will cherish each memory as a gift filled with gratitude instead of grief. I encourage you to do the same.