In a post submitted to Love What Matters, Deborah Sweet of Boston, Massachusetts tells the story of the moment her 3-year-old foster son broke down to tell her what’s been burning in his heart. Her words:
“We were having a dance party while I was making dinner last night. Then we stopped.
In our home, the beat and tempo change quickly. We have welcomed children in need of a safe place to land into our family for over ten years, a lifetime actually. Our house is noisy and fun and chaotic and perfectly imperfect. We are foster parents.
We laughed, sang, and wiggled last night. We lost ourselves in the sound, the rhythm, and the smells, and we forgot to think and to worry. He kept pace with his own reflection on the oven door as his three-year-old body moved to the beat. The boy was happy. He was.
All of a sudden, he was sad. He missed calling my name. His joy still swept me up. When I felt the tug on my sleeve, I looked down to see him standing motionless. Although his mouth was moving, I couldn’t understand what he was saying. I was surprised by his quiet body in the noisy room. I bent down to listen to his voice.
‘I miss my other daddy.’
The music still filled the room, but his grief suddenly overshadowed it. The air became thin. He looked fragile. I couldn’t even imagine how exposed his heart was.
In my care for 186 days. That is how long it took for my foster son to find the courage to tell me what had undoubtedly been woven throughout his days and nights in our home. That was how long it took him to open up the wound of being separated from the only father he had ever known. How can we explain to him what has happened? What is the best way to teach him that sometimes goodbyes mean for now, and other times they mean forever? In the life of a three year old, 186 days is a long time, but when will he be able to forget the lessons that his abuse, neglect, and loss have taught him?
Being a parent makes us feel powerful because we can fix booboos and ouchies. Bumps and scrapes get cute names and are bandaged with colorful bandages as a ritual, but also as a distraction from the pain and discomfort of getting hurt. Our babies are cajoled into covering their wounds and forgetting they’re there. Watching our little ones suffer is almost unbearable, and so we do whatever we can to make it better. We hope it will get better.
Loss of a primary caregiver is a primal wound. There is no cure. No distraction. It is not a simple matter of applying a band-aid or moving on. There is no moving forward.
We sat with the pain. On the floor of the kitchen. And we felt it together. Sadness won. The air felt heavy. We ran late for dinner. Our guards were down. In grief, we meet our new connection to one another. Then, after an eternity of five or ten minutes, he looked up at me and said, “This is the love song.”
On a busy weeknight, right there on the kitchen floor during the dinner hour, we let the music play.”