T is going to respite this weekend. That means he’s going to stay with another family overnight so I can have a break. Unfortunately, no one who knows him is available, which means he’s going to be staying with strangers. Can you even imagine? He’s 9 years old. And he just has to be okay going to live with strangers for two days. It’s terrifying and awful and completely insane. But that’s how desperate I am for a hot second to myself.
I chatted with the family on the phone tonight. They seem delightful, and I’m confident he’ll have a good time. But still: It’s insane. I can’t even begin to wrap my head around how scary it has to be for him.
So at bedtime tonight I had to tell him what was up. I let him know the names of the people he’d be staying with. I walked him through the weekend, let him know we’d be meeting the family this week before he went to stay with them, and then I asked if he had any questions. He did. He wanted to know if they liked Calvin and Hobbes. I said we could certainly ask. He also wanted to know if they had bunk beds. I wondered with him which bunk he’d chose if they did.
But then his questions took a drastic turn.
“Maybe they’ll like me so much they’ll adopt me, Amy. You never know. Maybe.”
This is the stuff I just can’t handle. T knows he’s up for adoption, but what am I supposed to say to that? How do I help keep his hope alive but not set him up for perpetual disappointment?
The reality? I. Have. No. Clue. What. I’m. Doing.
“Well, buddy. They’re like me. They’re foster parents. They help kids who are in the middle part. They help kids in the in-between.”
“But it’s possible, Amy. You say anything is possible.”
“Yup, you’re right, T. I do say that. But what else do I say?”
“Not everything is probable.”
“But, Amy, I just don’t understand. I love it here so much. I want to stay forever. Well, not forever, but until I’m an adult. Why can’t I stay with you until I’m an adult?”
The thing is, my response for a long time was that foster parents help kids who are waiting for their forever family. I would remind him that, if I adopted one kid, I wouldn’t be able to help any other foster kids who needed help in the middle part. He seemed to accept that. He’s sweet and empathetic, and he wouldn’t want to rob another foster kid of help.
But now he knows. He knows some foster parents do also adopt. And so it’s another layer of rejection for him. It’s another layer of hurt and pain and confusion.
So I did my best to look him in the eye and respond. “I’m just a foster parent, dude. I know that’s hard for you to hear. I’m sorry.”
“But, but. But Amy: some foster parents do adopt kids.”
“I know, buddy.”
“I just don’t get it.”
“I don’t get it, either. But I know I’ll always be your friend, okay? Can we agree to always be friends?”
It feels like a kick in the face, and I’m not sure if it stings more for him, or for me.