One of the worries with a second child is that you are so busy juggling that you miss out on all the little things. The common complaint about the lack of photos, for one. Well, one of the silver linings in fostering is that I am so cognizant that this is fleeting, that I never know when our last week with Noodle will be, that I force myself to soak in the glory of his babyhood.
The little pink stork bite on the back of his neck. The way his warm, peachy head feels on my cheek. The way he bats the bottle like a kitten with a toy mouse. The frantic, ticked off screams he makes every time we wrestle him into a warm coat. The way he lights up for the Nugget. The way his chunky baby thighs rest against my arm in his footie pajamas. When I have tried to put him to bed 3, 4, 5 times, I stare at that little thigh and think, "It won't last," and that gives me the energy to keep going and savor each gentle bounce though my arms cramp.
"We are enjoying our time with him," is my frequent reply to everyone who asks how it's going. More like savoring it, eating it up, but that sounds too creepy to say out loud.
I bought Noodle a good suitcase today, another tip we learned in training. So many foster kids, they said, have to say goodbye to everything they know carrying all their worldly belongings in a ripped garbage bag. I carry that image in my head, and it haunts me. I know times are tough and foster families already give so much, but what message does that send even the tiniest child? Filling that suitcase brought the first tears to my eyes since he was placed with us, a mini preview of how hard it will be not to be able to watch him grow up. But it will be a tangible gift for him, something he can touch and feel and know that we cared enough for him to provide a cheerful rolling blue case to protect his clothes and his treasures. It helps me feel more like I am sending him off prepared for his next adventure.
I started a lifestory book for him on Shutterfly and hope I will have enough notice to finish and print it before he goes. I don't know if his family will pitch it, hoping to blot out the painful memory of his separation from them, but I hope they will keep it for him, let him know that there are others out there who love him. I feel like maybe this is a tiny peek into understanding the emotions a birthmom might go through, wanting a child to know their love was and is real and true, even if the time spent together was fleeting.
We have friends who tell us that they are keeping their fingers crossed that he'll get to stay forever. I cannot even go there right now. I have to repeat in my head that Noodle is going home, that we get to care for him for just awhile, but we can love him forever.
To all the parents who complain about the children growing too fast, who are struggling with a tough phase (myself included), remember that it is an honor and a privilege to witness it.