I realized I wrote this post several weeks ago and never published it. I hesitated to publish it now, as our little guy left us this week and we are grieving his loss. But the words are still true. “Thank you” still changes everything.
No one is ever short on things to say when it comes to foster care. Because foster care (and life in general) is hard, well-meaning people love to offer phrases like the ones below, which are supposed to make you feel better but really kind of don’t.
”I could never do that.” (Yes, you could.)
”That kid is so lucky to have you!” (It’s not lucky when a child is removed from his or her parents.)
”You must be a saint!” (Um, have you seen this chaos that we call our home?)
There have been some helpful things too, though.
”God sees you.”
”I’ve been where you are, and it does get easier!”
“I’m here to help if you need anything.”
If you’ve said any of those things, bless your soul! I have clung to your words more often than you know.
Do you want to know the words that have changed everything for me? They’re so simple.
“We will never forget what you have done for him.”
These words came from my foster son’s biological parents.
I know, I know. Foster care isn’t about me. I should be willing to make sacrifices and care for this human, expecting literally nothing in return.
But in addition to caring for a human, I am a human, which means that affirmation is life-giving.
Prior to Little Man, we had another K for several months. Her mom would tell us things like, “I’m glad she’s safe”, but she never said, “Thank you”. I don’t hold that against her; she didn’t owe us anything. But every single day from January through May while K was with us, I wondered if what I was doing mattered at all. We were only a brief stop along K’s path, and due to her young age and special needs, I feared then (and often continue to fear today) that my daily “dying to self” would be forgotten. Maybe it already has been. As much as that shouldn’t matter to me, it does.
I thought that Little Man’s parents would hate us, and I would understand if they did. I would struggle to love, like, or even accept whoever was taking care of my children if they were removed from my home. Perhaps they have struggled with those feelings, too, but they’ve never let them come across in our interactions. They’ve shown us nothing but kindness and gratitude, which makes showing kindness and gratitude to their son infinitely easier.
I’m tired. The days begin far too early and end way too late, and I consistently feel overwhelmed and unproductive at the end of them.
Those words, though ... when I wake up with them ringing in my head ... I can pursue this often thankless calling for another day. I’m reminded how much words matter and I’m challenged to be generous with mine. Because in foster care and in everything else, “thank you” can change everything.