Sorry to keep you all hanging.
Baby went home last Tuesday morning. Then Dane, toddler and I went on a bike ride on a gorgeous day, Dane went to work, we had lunch, naps, play time, dinner, bedtime… turns out the world didn’t end. It was sort of a surreal day, but the toddler’s inevitable questions came “Where beebee? Beebee bath? Beebee eat?” and I answered them, “Baby went bye bye, he went to live with a different Daddy. It’s okay,” and I didn’t fall down into a puddle of tears and wailing. One of my biggest fears re: sending him home was that we would take this confused, upset kid and confuse and upset him even more because all the grown-ups that he wasn’t super comfortable with anyway were all the sudden crying all the time.
The next day, we got up, we did stuff. I probably knew this if I would have thought it through, but the most remarkable thing about last week was how every single other element of our lives, apart from the baby, actually stayed the same. Our friends called or texted or came over. I talked to my mom and my sisters. We went for walks, played at parks, ate food, brushed teeth, went to bed, woke up.
I cleaned the high chair and moved it into the garage. I took his sippy cups and bottles out of the cupboard and put them in his closet. Dane moved his car seat bases out of the cars; switched the double stroller in the trunk for the single stroller. His toys and most of his clothes went with him. I have to do laundry tomorrow, which will (probably) be the last load of laundry that includes his clothes. Stuff like that feels weird, but not gut-wrenching like I thought it would.
Often I thought about the baby, and I figured he was probably eating, sleeping, and playing too. I would try to conjure up some deep pain related to the fact that I will likely never see him ever again, but it kind of didn’t work. In one sense I can’t really fathom that, not really, and in another sense I thought “Well, he’s with his dad, he’s probably safe, and I have no idea if that is for better or for worse, it just is. So I can’t exactly mourn it…”
Often I didn’t think about the baby at all for a time, and then I’d wonder if that was weird, that I was just doing stuff, going through periods of time where I didn’t actively miss him. I played with feeling guilty about that, and then decided that was pretty pointless.
To be honest, in some ways it seems like I am more inclined to stop and say “Man, I can’t believe we had a baby for 10 months. That was awesome,” than it is for me to stop and say “Man, I can’t believe we don’t have the baby any more.”
Maybe it has to do with it feeling fall-ish again, and this time last year, we didn’t have a baby then either. We didn’t have a toddler either, and enough is new and weird with that; life is just different enough in general, that it’s kind of just… what it is. I don’t know.
Also, the toddler turned a corner about last Sunday where I feel like the “real child” started peeking out. He has started being chill, and funny, and comfortable, and affectionate. He has started showing REAL personality and choosing the peaceful route when faced with an “obedience vs. consequence” type decision, rather than just panicking and losing it altogether every time. He sleeps through the night, mostly, and is genial in the morning. I can take him into the store or let him loose in church and not worry about a major meltdown. I have enjoyed the heck out of that kid for the past week. When he asks about “Beebee,” we sometimes stop and look at pictures of the baby on the phone together, and I feel like we miss him together, but then we both kind of go “ok,” and then do something else.
Is that weird? It probably is.
I have had some struggles just of impatience with not knowing who Our Kid is, yet. Knowing that it’s not the baby, who was PERFECT and I would have given anything to have him be our forever kid, and knowing that it’s probably not this toddler either. But that is what it is. We signed up for this, as people have kindly reminded us. 🙂 It will come, and as my friends have said, once it does we won’t be able to imagine our family in any other way.
Now I know that we can send placements back and not self-destruct. The sun comes up the next day, we put on clothes and we eat food and we talk to friends and family, and the world keeps turning. I also now know that we can strap in and deal with attachment/displacement/clinginess/fear/sleeplessness/whatever from a new placement for a time, and that that time also will pass, and we’ll eventually move on to normal family life enjoying each other.
I used to run a lot; I did a half-marathon in 2008. I had this dumb mind game I would do, like if it was my first time to attempt 9 miles, I’d be running and I’d say “Ok, this is the point where I haven’t ever run this far before. I can stop and be the person who has never run 9 miles, or I can keep going and become a Person Who Has Run Nine Miles. Once I am a person who has done that, it is a thing that I can do because I did it.” I can’t exactly explain it. But I would just say to myself: All I have to do is do it, and then I become a Person Who Has Done It, and I will be on the other side of that line.
Well, I kinda feel like I’m on the other side of that line. Not to say I think it will be super easy in the future or anything, but I know what it’s like at least in some sense to lose a foster kid, and also to go through a somewhat difficult time (I know it has still been easier than a lot of other people’s experiences) with new placement, where I hated every minute sometimes and wished I could just quit. But it’s just a season and it ends. I have now seen the back side of that season, if that makes sense. So I feel like next time I will have an even better sense of “This is just for now, on the other side of it life will go on.”
I also have a SUPER IMPORTANT OMG response to myself re: this post. I don’t have time right now but I wish I did. I will do it soon I promise. It actually hit me about one day after posting it in the first place, and I have been sitting on it while all of you languish in despair (which I’m sure you are). Stay tuned!