A little boy has come into our life. We call him Baby Z for short.
He is sweet.
He is cute.
He is a horrible sleeper.
He is loved.
He is small for his age.
He is the cutest little laugher.
He is happy (now).
He is a champion eater.
He is soft, squishy and lovable.
But there is one thing he is not.
It’s the thing I hear often from friends. It usually goes along with “I could never do what you do.” It’s always said with the best of intentions and the most supportive of hearts. It’s not new . . . I heard it with Leyla all of the time. It sounds nice at first, and reaches out to stroke my ego. In fact, it seems so nice to say that I struggle to call it for what it is.
And yet every time I hear it, I cringe.
There are many things my foster child is. But there is one thing he is not.
My foster child is not lucky to have us.
My child (and I use that term loosely, because he is in fact, not mine) is not lucky to have me.
The reason I am in his life at all is because he has endured abuse or neglect. He has lost his mom, dad, brothers or sisters before we ever came into the picture. This precious, helpless baby, in his first few months of life, has endured some things that I cannot even imagine going through as a capable adult.
His story breaks my heart. It is not a lucky story.
He is not lucky because when he wakes up at night, I wonder if it is from hunger or from trauma. It could be either. It could be both. And he wakes up . . . a lot.
As I snuggle his precious little squishy body, I wonder if he remembers his time before. The way he cries sometimes makes me think that he does remember. He is not lucky to have a “before.”
He has a certain cry that comes out sometimes that is absolutely desperate sounding. He is not lucky to have had a reason to cry this way.
As I fill in doctors, and state workers, and early intervention specialists on his progress, I am reminded of why he needs state workers and specialists. Why he needs to make progress.
This baby has been inserted into our family, perfect strangers who now call themselves mom and dad. While we may be loving, that does not change the fact that we are indeed strangers. Imagine going to the grocery store, picking out a random family, handing your young baby to them and then walking off as you hear the mom say to your baby: “Hi! I’m your mommy now!” This random family may be the best parents in the world — but would that child be feeling lucky in that moment?
While foster care is not so random from our perspective, who is to say that this is not how a child experiences it?
Let me tell you who is lucky . . .
The child was born into a home and family that is safe and nurturing.
The child who was never pulled out of the only home she knew, getting separated from her brothers, sisters, pets and playthings.
The child who will not be moved from family to family at the whim of the government.
The child who did not start out life addicted to drugs or alcohol.
The child whose parents intimately know him, and make wise, informed choices on his behalf . . . Rather than be at the whim of a judge who only knows the child’s face from a 5×7 snapshot in his file.
More than likely, you know this child.
If you are a safe, responsible, nurturing bio mom or dad — Your child is the lucky child.
Your child’s life may not be perfect. Maybe they struggle with health issues, or had an absentee parent, or have endured some tragedy in their own right.
I’m not saying that their life, or your life, is perfect and free from pain.
But I am saying, they are lucky to have you, a loving mom and dad, in their corner from birth. You nurtured them, loved them, kept them as safe as you could, and gave them the best possible start to their life.
So I know what you mean when you say my kid is lucky. I really do.
I know you mean that you are thankful they are in a loving home, where they are finally receiving the care they deserve. I know you want to support us foster parents by letting us know we matter. I’m not trying to split p’s and q’s and make you feel like you are saying the wrong thing.
It’s just that knowing his history . . . knowing that he didn’t get to choose his life or his family . . . knowing how completely out of control he is of his own life . . . I can’t help but feel that he is in fact one of the few unlucky ones.
My hope and prayer is that no matter how unlucky he is to have needed us . . . God will more than make up for his humble beginnings.
And if I could be so honest — I feel pretty lucky to be the one to love on him.