Dear kiddo in care,
I can’t wait to hear you tell your story. To tell it in your own words, without fear or shame. No tears, no quavering voice, no trembling chin. I know your story, but I look forward eagerly to the day when you are the storyteller. I have a good friend who says, “It’s your story. Tell it how you like it.” I think that kind of artistic license could cleanse a soul, and I hope it soothes yours.
You see, I know where you’ve been. Maybe I haven’t been in that house. I haven’t smelled those places, those people. I haven’t heard the words or felt the bruises; but I know your secret journey. I read it in the case files. I heard it in training, when they told us horror stories to prepare us for the worst. I tearfully and reluctantly painted pictures in my mind, and yet even those weren’t foul enough to compete with your truth.
Sometimes you think that story defines you.
It. Does. Not.
What defines you is something very specific. Later in life you will look at others who you think have more – better looks, more talent, an easier time getting good grades. But in that moment, you’ll have it all wrong. You have something much more rare hiding behind those all-too-intelligent eyes. You are a survivor.
I know there have been full minutes in your life – be it 5 or 525,600 – when you have focused only on breathing in, breathing out, and just staying alive. I love you for living those moments so bravely. If I could send a piece of my soul to the past to comfort and protect you, I would. But you didn’t need me. You get that now, right? You didn’t need anybody to make it through those minutes. You made it. Well done, kiddo.
Every now and again, you’ll hear someone admired for being “a fighter”. People use the phrase to indicate that we shouldn’t worry about someone – “She’ll be OK. She’s a fighter.” Never let that confuse you into thinking you should have fought. If you hid, it’s OK. If you cried, you still did a good job. If the bigger, badder person took something precious from you and replaced it with grief, I see no need for someone to reduce your expected response to being “a fighter”. You survived, my child. That has more fight in it than most will ever imagine. But you aren’t content just to stay alive, are you?
You insist on thriving. And well you should, my dear.
Your capacity for joy is astounding. People like me will simply marvel that you can laugh at all, let alone that you can have such an appreciation for pure silliness. NEWS FLASH! You have only one job – be a kid. Play and learn. That’s your job description, in case somebody forgot to tell you that. Have fun, baby! You are allowed to laugh, to love your foster family (that doesn’t change how much you love your own birth family!), and to be utterly childish. Goof off like it’s your job.
You have a lot of hard work ahead of you. Depending on your case plan, maybe the judge is making you go to doctors and therapists you’d rather not bother with. Maybe you have to endure parental visits that start a fire in your belly – either because you don’t want to go or don’t want them to end. Maybe you can’t see or talk to anyone you’ve ever known. I know it’s so very hard.
Don’t panic, though. Case plans change all the time.
If you keep communicating clearly with your social worker and your guardian ad litem, they’ll have a better chance of getting you what you need. You are allowed to talk to the magistrate or judge, or write a letter if you aren’t at the hearings. There are like 10 adults whose actual job it is to make sure you are safe, respected and loved. They are making big decisions and working really hard to meet your needs. Help them out. Make it easy for them to figure out what those needs are, if you can.
You are doing a good job, little one. (Yeah, yeah, I know you’re big. But you’ll always be a “little one” to moms like me.) No matter how you are getting through each day, you’re doing great! I’m amazed by you. The whole world is waiting breathlessly for you to tell your story how you like it. But take your time. We’re not in a hurry, so you go have some fun first.
With all my love and and an abundance of laughter,
A foster mom