An Ode to Foster Children

I mother you, and yet you are not my child.  You belong to another. 
You came to us, frightened and confused.  It pained my heart to see you so emotionally immature and bruised. 
I couldn't comfort you, nor you me. 
Thrust together, strangers, we became a small family.  Our close-knit home quickly became a sanctuary to keep us all away from harm, and within its walls I sought answers.
 
Who are you?  How can I help you?

I love you.  I want you to be kept safe forever, although that isn't a promise I can make you.  Someday soon you'll leave this place, leave our hearts always questioning. 
I tucked you in, night after night, and we read story after story together.  I wiped your tears, I swept your crumbs, I washed your sheets, I cared for your wounds.  I soaped your hair, I dried your warm pink skin - each time, with amazement in your ability to trust.

You have been angry with me at times, I know.  I've told you, "No." and disciplined you, but I want you to know it's because I care for you.  I want you to be the best you can be, the brightest you can be, the most adjusted you can be. 
My job has been to shelter you, to keep you from harm, and to do what the state decides is best.  In order to do that, I have to love you and hold you close to my soul... and then I have to let you go. 

You were never meant to be mine forever.

You've taught me many things, sweet children.  Each day I have been amazed at your bright spirits, laughing and loving each new day the dawn brings.  Each day I have reveled in your love for us, although we share no blood ties and no relation.  Today you grin and want to be held by us, want to be chased and tickled and tossed in the air by us.  Today is all that matters to you.  You don't know that with tomorrow comes a changing of the tide.  

I've watched your face grow older and change, and I see you now as the children you are rather than the babies who arrived on our doorstep. 

I've loved you every sunset.  I've loved you every morning. 

You are about to leave us, to head home for the last time from our threshold. 
My heart aches to see you go each time, but the last will undoubtedly be the hardest. 
It's my job, dear ones, to let you in and then to let you back out again.  I know and I acknowledge that means my heart will break into pieces, like tiny sparkling bits of glass within the sand.  Don't you worry - it'll heal.

It feels strangely appropriate, that our time together is bookended by my tears.  After you went to bed your first night in our home, floodgates opened behind my eyelids and the ocean surged forth because I was overwhelmed and petrified that I had bitten off more than I could chew.  The thought that you were more scared than I was only hardened my resolve to stick by you.  And now as you leave, I can barely remember what life was like before you graced it.  I will miss you, our little starfishes by the sea. 
 
But I do want you to know that you've made your mark.  And though you may not remember us or our home or the love that filled our lives, it was there.  It happened.  I hope that in some small way, the love we've been able to show you will stick with you in the depths of your souls. 

You are loved, for now and forever. 

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