Published on July 21st, 2014 | by Mutha Magazine6
Anonymous on A RECENT YOUNG VISITOR
I’m trying to figure out what to say about our first foster placement, a three year old girl who stayed with us for three days before moving suddenly, for reasons beyond anyone’s control.
I could talk about the foster care tropes– her stuffed animals in a garbage bag in the placement worker’s trunk. Taking a child I’d known for three days to the doctor and knowing almost nothing about her. The first night, we didn’t know how to put her to sleep. “I guess we should read some stories?” we said to one another. We sat on the twin bed with her and when she got sniffly I rocked her until she was asleep.
Although I loved her almost immediately, even when she was screaming, which she did often, my love did not keep her safe or calm or stable or even in one place for very long.
We went to Walmart to get all the things she didn’t come with. We bought Pull-Ups and Garanimals and Hello Kitty underpants and lotion and tiny blue sneakers. Things I’ve never bought before. We got a pink stool so she could reach the bathroom sink. One of her braids got stuck in my partner’s earring in the checkout line. She started crying. “Help,” my partner said, looking panicked. “We’re stuck.”
I could talk about my brief first experience of transracial parenting. The knowing smiles we got at our lefty church, where there are a number of white families with adopted children of color. An older black man on a moped stopped me as I was walking home from the park the carrying her. (Yes, I’d been that mom carrying a screaming child from the park. Yes, I was also that mom carrying a big kid who can definitely walk.)
“Is that your baby?”
I tried a vague, “for now,” with a smile, which only invited more questions.
I could say that I felt really, really visibly gay, more gay than I’ve ever felt, that carrying around a black baby made me and my white partner seem more gay. Like a certain kind of lesbians. I’m still trying to figure that out.
I could say that I learned that love doesn’t always affect outcomes, that love isn’t always enough. That acting impeccably isn’t always enough.
I could say that I spent two days as a stay-at-home mom, draining my PTO so I could take her to the doctor and sort out the daycare. Those two days were the most exhausting of my life. It took me an hour to drink a cup of coffee, all day to write two emails. Putting on her shoes was a 20 minute affair. I’ve taken red-eye flights and driven 20 hours straight. I used to work graveyard shifts. I thought I knew what tired was, but I was wrong.
I could say that it was lovely. It was lovely when she woke up and held out her arms for a hug. It was lovely when she would say “Good job!” to me the way I would when she did something sweet or polite, or when she peed in the toilet. It was lovely when my partner came home with a flower for her, when she warmed up to the dog, when she learned my name.
One of the mantras of foster care is that foster care is for kids who need families, not families who want children. Does it matter that I loved her? In the end we gave her a few days where we tried to be good to her, a few days that had some joy but were surely confusing– and a bunch of shit from Walmart.
I could tell you that I feel irrational, grieving a child who was never really mine, who was only in my home three days. That in three days I bonded, changed completely, and mourned a loss.
The last afternoon, when I knew she would have to move, I packed up all the things that came with her, the clothes we’d bought her, the toys and dresses my mom sent, the doll and tiny stroller my friends gave her, and handed her to someone else, in the parking lot of a grocery store. She screamed and screamed and clung to us, people she’d known for almost exactly 72 hours. We gave her hugs and kisses and got back into my car, where we my partner and I broke down. “That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” I said.