A Christmas Goodbye

I don’t know about you, but 2018 closed pretty intensely for me.

On December 17, we learned that our foster son of eight months was approved to live with his relatives in another state.

On December 18, we learned that the state had approved travel requests for his relatives to come get him.

On December 20, those relatives arrived in Seattle, where they stayed three nights with our family.

On December 21, we all accompanied our foster son for his last day at this school. His teacher, who was one of his favorite people in the world, welcomed his relatives into the classroom, allowing him to introduce them and share with the class that he would be moving away. After school, those relatives, our foster son, and I had one last meeting with his therapist, then we hosted an open house at our home for all of those who had come to know and love our foster son to come and give him “one last hug.” (There were over thirty-five people at the party!)

On December 22, we packed while the kids and my husband went for one last bike ride together. The Christmas gifts I had bought for him and wrapped went into his huge duffle bags to be opened Christmas morning in his new home. I sorted through eight months of photos and uploaded them to Walgreens for same-day pick up. (I filled a photo album with nearly 150 photos!) That evening, I read books and had one last bedtime cuddle with a sweet child who had become part of the fabric of our family. He was part of my nightly routine.

On December 23, I woke him up at 5:00 AM, gave him breakfast and got him dressed. He and my husband cuddled on the couch until it was time to load the van. When he saw my husband and his uncle begin to carry the heavier bags outside, this five-year-old boy picked up his backpack, went to the front door, turned back to me and said, “Goodbye, Mom.”

He loved us, he was happy in our home… and he was so ready to be with his forever family.

We had a lovely goodbye at the airport and off they went. It was equal parts sweet and surreal. (I shared a bit about my feelings immediately after I got home from dropping them at the airport — you can see that video here.)

Then, I immediately turned my energies to preparing for Christmas with our family and packing for our trip to Phoenix. We enjoyed our family Christmas on December 24, went to church that evening, and flew to Arizona on Christmas Day.

I am so grateful that our boy got to go “home” in time for Christmas. I am so grateful that his new parents want us to stay in his life — we have FaceTimed nearly every day since he left! For that matter, I am so grateful for the genuine love and friendship that has grown between this couple and our family. Over and over, we reiterated that “we didn’t lose a foster son–we gained new members of our family!” I am so grateful that this child, who had been in three different foster homes over the nearly-two-years he had spent in foster care, had been loved and cared for in each one — his former foster family came to his Goodbye Open House and we took pictures of him with three of his “moms.”

As foster care stories go, this was a very, very good one.

# # #

Our family will take a break from foster care for now.

We have a trip to Virginia planned next month and we want to allow our kids time to reestablish our dynamic as a “family of five.” We still mention his name when we are setting the table (“Oops! I forgot we only need five plates now!”) or when the younger kids play PJ Masks and Catboy is missing, or when I packed snack bags for the plane and my husband ended up with extra cheese sticks and fruit in his bag because we only have three, not four, kids now. It will be a while before I stop discovering his underwear in the laundry or the toys we somehow missed in the mad rush to get him packed.

A break is a good idea.

But I predict the break won’t last too long.

The lists keep coming. Every day I read about all of the children needing homes “today or in the near future.” Email subject lines contain words like “URGENT” and “PLEASE, CAN YOU HELP, EVEN FOR JUST ONE NIGHT?” and, my personal favorite, “SUPERHEROES NEEDED!”

Of course, just because we’re licensed doesn’t mean it’s always the right time for us to take a new child. There are a series of questions we consider every time we discuss bringing a new child into our home. But when we feel like the time is right, we’ll open our home again.

We are a foster family.

It’s just what we do.

And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

# # #

Whether you are involved with foster care or are just looking in, I wish you a blessed and beautiful 2019. May there be days that are easy and abundant grace for the days that are not. May the relationships that matter be strengthened and the relationships that don’t fade into your rear view mirror. May the hopes in your heart that have dimmed to a smoldering wick not be extinguished, but rather be fanned into flame once again. May you know that you are loved deeply by God, and out of that knowledge be equipped to love others deeply.

I wish you the very best new year!

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