The head on my chest is snuggled close. His hands are tucked in underneath him, and he’s babbling in a soft sing-song voice doing his best to accompany me.
“Twinkle Twinkle Little Star…”
“Bwah bwaa ahhhdd…”
I love this little child. But I’m ready for him to leave. As I rock, I wonder if it is even possible to put what I’m feeling into words, and I realize the only way to try is to start at the beginning.
When he was delivered to my door, he didn’t know how to show or accept affection. The first time I tried to rock him, he pushed away from me, screaming. He didn’t cry a “I protest!” kind of cry. It was closer to a “I’M BEING MURDERED AGAINST MY WILL” scream. It’s the only scream he had. The only cry he had. Murder Cry. He was a year old. No words. No sign language. Only Murder Cry.
“How I wonder what you are..”
“Taah baaah baah…”
All of my foster babies and toddlers learn the same routine. After dinner, it’s a bath, rock, sing, and then bed. The first week he Murder Cried in the bath. He Murder Cried for most of the night. He Murder Cried when he was hungry. Then, about three weeks after he arrived, I realized that he was doing a new cry. Kind of a, “Hey! Lady! This sucks!” cry.
I started working with him to learn the sign for “More”. After a month, he started clapping his hands together when I would say more. It was close enough! He’d learned a word! Soon after followed the sign for “Please”. Then, an actual spoken word, “Up!” Today, when I picked him up from daycare, he said “Bye-bye” clear as day. And he also has a variation of “shoes”.
Sometime, during the last few months, he has started to call me “Mama”. He has learned to sit on my lap, to ask to be comforted. He has learned to give hugs and kisses and snuggle up close when he’s being rocked. He’s taken his first steps. Said his first words. He has learned that bath time means it’s time to go to sleep. I wrap him in his towel and he becomes still and quiet and he smiles up at me.
“Up above the world so high..”
“Baaaa Daaa Daaa..”
I kiss the top of his head between verses. I rub his tiny back. My time with him is coming to an end. My heart hurts, but also rejoices. I think of the time I’ll get back. The mornings I’ll have to myself again. The evenings that will be relaxed and unscheduled. I wonder how I can be feeling this way. Shouldn’t I be more sad than excited? I don’t know. But, this is what is means to foster. I love them fiercely while I have them, but I know they are not mine, and I’m content. I am his temporary mom. I got to see his first steps. Hear his first words. I was the one who taught him that his world can be stable and reliable. I gave him over 90 baths. I sang to him every day. He won’t remember my face, but he’ll remember my heart. Because he will have a piece of it for the rest of his life.
“Like a diamond in the sky…”
I push myself out of the chair while cradling his head, and I walk to his crib and carefully lay him down. I pat his back and whisper, “Night, night.”
He starts crying. An “I protest. But not too much” cry.