It’s quiet in our house—it has been for a few days now.
It is simultaneously peaceful and heartbreaking. I’m enjoying truly listening to the birds and the breeze and the squirrels and the clunky regeneration of our water softener, but this quiet is also a reminder of what once was, but is no more.
It’s quiet because our foster son moved out.
The whole point of the foster care system is to reunite the kids with their parents, so on that front, we did succeed. We were told that up front—the purpose of foster care is reunification. We knew that. But after nine months of living with this kid, he began to feel like one of us, like he had always been part of our little family, making us laugh and cry and tear at our hair like all teenagers do. So this peace and quiet, this reminder of his absence, just feels like…
He came over on Saturday to pack up his belongings, and he ate lunch with us, and he offered up the most beautiful prayer over our tuna salad sandwiches, thanking God for the time we’d had together and praying that we would continue to see each other. My eyes were a mess by the time he was done.
After our lunch, when the pickup was loaded, he hugged us goodbye, and even though he was only moving five miles away, it felt like he was boarding a space shuttle to Jupiter. My heart was breaking. I did not want him to go.
It was especially hard because I didn’t feel like he was ready to leave. There were so many other things I wanted to do with him, to help him with, to teach him. It seemed like he was making decisions that he wasn’t ready to make, and I didn’t understand why he was making them. There had been a lot of contention in our home about some of these decisions, and I just wanted to protect him from the consequences I was sure he’d face.
I stayed behind, fighting the tears, while my husband pulled out of the driveway and took him to his new home.
I could not bear the silence, the quiet, that followed. It was suffocating.
So I filled it with the exact opposite of quiet: rock music.
And, of course, because my life is a story filled with metaphors and signs and subtext, the first song that I heard on the station was Shinedown’s “Second Chance.” When I heard the chorus, I started to sob:
Tell my mother, tell my father, I’ve done the best I can
To make them realize this is my life
I hope they understand
I’m not angry, I’m just saying
Sometimes goodbye is a second chance
And that’s exactly it. We aren’t his mother and father, true, but there were times when it felt like we were. And his life is his own, and that’s something we need to understand. He is free to make his own decisions. The best I can do is offer my guidance and support, regardless of those decisions.
My role as a foster mom is done with him. He won’t be coming home from school anymore to dump his shoes in a heap in front of the door, eat half a bag of Doritos, and watch Walker, Texas Ranger against my vehement protestations. He won’t be dancing in his socks in the kitchen or making us popcorn or insisting that Happy Chef is the best place to take a girl on a first date because it is “so expensive.” These will only be sweet memories of the time we had together.
I plan to keep in touch with him, to watch him continue to grow and change, to be proud of his tremendous progress and growth, to be part of his life, just in a different way. It may not be the way I wanted, but it’s his life, not mine. I need to understand that.
I hope this goodbye truly is a second chance for our relationship. I hope this goodbye gives us a chance to recognize him as an adult, as a peer even, and to help him and watch him achieve more than he ever thought possible.
Sometimes goodbye is a second chance.