Later on today Ana will pull a suitcase from the closet. She’ll pick a big one, but only one, because everything that’s important has to fit into it and a second bag just isn’t in the budget. The rest will stay here and will get shipped later. She will fill the bottom with the most precious keepsakes. Then the things most needed. The last few things will be the necessities required when the long day of travel is done. She and I are heartbroken but we also know this is what has to happen. It’s for the best.
It all started on a cool evening this past March. We got a call the day before about two little girls. It was an emergency they said, the girls, aged one and two, had been removed from a very dangerous and abusive home and had no place in the world to go. They needed a foster home. We didn’t hesitate to say yes.
A day later we were pulling up to the airport terminal. At the curb waiting were two tired looking social workers with two tiny little souls standing there beside them. They had to be scared out of their minds. They had a small bag with them. Inside were the few things someone grabbed for them on the way to safety and into the unknown.
The handoff was quick. Cady and her little sister were loaded into their car seats and the tired workers rushed off to the warmth and comfort and safety of their homes, their memories, their things, and their loving families.
It was cold, and the girls were left alone, with strangers.
No child should ever have to feel that way, but they are foster kids. They were supposed to be happy that someone would want to take them in.
It took a good six months for Cady to get past the bulk of what she had been through and settle in to just living. Traumatized kids often mirror what’s been done to them with others less capable than them. Emma and Jesse and the dogs bore the brunt of her scars. She could be ruthless and unbelievaly mean at times and had to be supervised constantly. That’s what happens when you beat your children.
Food was another issue. She couldn’t get enough of it and would become hysterical every time a meal ended. That’s what happens when a child is starved for punishment and sent to bed.
Cady also lacked the ability to feel empathy for others. At two years of age, she was calculating and manipulative. That’s what happens when you don’t hold your kids, kiss them and talk to them, and rock them and connect deeply with them when they are very young. That empathy pathway simply doesn’t develop.
One-year-old Emma was very withdrawn. She could barely walk and said only one word for everything. Aiche. When she was abused by her sister she wouldn’t even cry out. She just sat there and took it. She was timid, never asked for anything, and rarely cried. She did everything her big sister told her to do.
We did a lot of things wrong. We got frustrated a lot because of what Cady would do to the dogs and other kids. We raised our voices. Each night we would talk about how we had failed and what we needed to do better. When one of us was at our limit the other would take over. Patterns started to develop and we realized that when other people were in our house or when routines changed Cady was at her worse. We tightened the circle and kept a schedule and she started to improve. Soft voices worked much better for her than loud ones and second chances were only an open door to push the limits further. Time-outs came fast and often but she started to learn right from wrong and actually appreciated boundaries. Her anger started to dissipate. We nurtured the good things and immediately dealt with the bad. Then one day Ana was watching a movie with her and she expressed her first feelings of empathy for someone else.
Today she is just a normal three year old. She is thoughtful of others, kind and mischevious and loves all the love and attention she can get. Emma is talking now and has no problem standing up to her sister and anyone else who goes sideways. She will defend herself, fight for what is right when others try to take advantage. She is sweet as sugar and loves to snuggle and be held and isn’t shy to ask for it. When she had her first two-year-old tantrum we almost cried. She is a normal little girl now. Emma loves shoes, hers and everyone else’s. She also likes any kind of wrenches and has the patience of Job turning bolts and nuts in the garage with “dad”.
Tomorrow morning a nice man will come and get them. He’s a very good man and he loves the girls. He and his wife used to be their foster parents before they were taken and sent to live with an abusive uncle. The one they were taken from when they came to live with us.
That nice, loving man and his wife, along with Ana and I, have spent the past seven months jumping through hoops and red tape and government apathy fighting to get their girls back. Tomorrow Cady and Emma will go on a big airplane to their forever home with him. Their forever mommy will be waiting for them along with their forever brothers and sisters that are much older. There will be so many loving arms and hearts waiting for them they will never be afraid or alone again.
Jesse will miss his sisters. Chances are he will never see them again.
Ana and I will never forget Cady and Emma and if anything were to ever happen they will always have a loving family waiting for them here.
Ana and I are proud that they are leaving here much better off than they were when they came. We are happy for the family that was devastated when the girls were sent to live a terrifying year with their uncle. They never thought they would see the girls again, but by the grace of God, they will be reunited and soon will adopt them.
Ana will miss bathing them and tucking them in at night, fixing their hair, dressing them up and doing girl stuff. Laughing with them, coloring with them, and snuggling up together with a bucket of popcorn in our bed to watch a movie together. I will miss seeing all that and going to their room in the middle of the night to hold Cady when she would wake up from one of her nightmares. She felt so tiny and helpless in my arms. I never wanted to let go.
But it’s time.