Thursday, September 03, 2020

Tendrils: A Foster Care Transition

Some of the them work their way more deeply into your heart than others.

Which means that when they leave, it hurts that much more. It is an extraction. 

Tendrils have entangled and pulling them apart is work. In botany, a tendril is a specialized stem or leaf shaped like a long thread that a plant uses for support and attachment, generally by twining around suitable hosts. These hosts are found by touch.

In foster care, it is much the same. By twining around suitable hosts. Used for support and attachment. Very often found by touch.

And then they need to move on, to be transplanted in new soil, and the tendrils have to be removed from the hosts. Some of them release gently. But some of them don't. They're stubborn; they hang on. Some of them rip off and remain. Still connected to the host. Dangling.

Baby C, there are so many tendrils.

We met you in the hospital, where you had spent the first two months of your life. Such a little chubbers. Cheeks for days. Fluffy brown hair. Bright, happy eyes. Your nurses had long since fallen in love with you, and we very quickly followed suit.

We watched you grow through all the "year one" stages. From a bottle, to baby food, to solids. From random movements of your arms and legs, to rolling yourself over, to crawling, to toddling around like a pro. Your first smile. Your first belly laughs. The first time you started mimicking our voices. The words you were learning: "What?!" "Ball." "Gabe!"

You wanted to be so fierce, with that little growl. (You were not fierce.) Sometimes you would sit at the table and just ... yell. No reason. Just yell. You would often grab a single piece of food from your tray, throw it carelessly onto the floor, and then grab another piece and eat it. Again, why?

You were learning to throw the ball, but every time you tried to throw it, it ended up somewhere behind you, which really cracked us up. One of your best moves was your "double take" look, looking away and quickly turning back with a gleam in your eye and a little smile on your mouth.

Speaking of smiles, you smile with your entire face. It is the most amazing smile ever in the history of smiles. When people would see you smile, it just makes them happy, and we smile with you. Don't lose that, C. That quality will come in handy.

You cried when you were sleepy or when you needed changing. And that was pretty much it. I mean, you got a little crabby after dinner but we took care of that by stripping you down to you diaper, which tended to keep you happy until bedtime.

And when we would rock you to sleep, you had a habit of reaching up your little hand and touching our faces, your curious fingers exploring mouth, chin, cheeks.

Tendrils. Twining for support and attachment. 

Around whose heart though? Who is the trellis here?

And now, you are gone. We were careful with you; we tried to be gentle with your fragility during the process. Tried to protect the roots, the leaves, the tiny tendrils. We think the family you are with now (your family, after all) will be good soil in which you are going to take root and grow into ...

Into what? 

We might be lucky enough to see. To be a part of your life in a new way and watch you keep growing and learning and becoming. To see how you will blossom. Maybe. It's just that whether that happens or not is not really up to us. So maybe. 

All we know for sure is that we did our best. We loved you as best we knew how. We still do. And you are loved by so many people, C. So, so very many people. What a lucky kid you are, to have so many people who love you so much!

A foster family's job is to help a kid learn how to attach. And having learned that skill, they will then be able to attach more easily to the people in their forever family when they transition. 

In other words, once they've figured out how to grow tendrils, to touch another with tender dependence, to find a suitable host to twine around for support, taking root in new soil will be much easier for them. 

It's just that some of them work their way further into your heart than others do. And Baby C, you were in deep. 

I love you Lito. I think you are neat-o.

Oh, inconvenient heart. So quickly filled. So easily broken.