Last night was a hard night for Ashley and the children. For the first time, in the nearly five months since they have been home from foster care, Ashley had to work an evening shift. This meant that it would be the first night that she was not able to tuck in her children since the year that she sat next to their empty beds every night making certain that everything was in place for their return and cried at the thought that the day may never come.
When children return from foster care, they also suffer from the uncertainty of “forever.” It was important to them, as well as us, that we normalize their routine as quickly as possible. Of course, the first few nights were spent blowing bubbles and simply holding them close, but then we gradually began to implement a bedtime routine.
Every night, Clarabelle has me to read her “own stories” which means she grabs a bunch of stuffed animals and we make up a story about each one. Then mommy reads her a story from which ever book she selects. Elliott, not being as vocal as she enjoys the stories but does not join in on the selection process. I sit with him while mommy reads and then we switch back as Clarabelle insists that I sing her “own song.” Elliott now sings along until he drifts off to sleep and Clarabelle stares off into the night until her eyes finally close. I often wonder what she is thinking about but I figure sometimes there are things we just need to work out in our own thoughts.
But last night, she told me what her little mind was processing. “I don’t want mommy to work,” she whispered as I was singing. “Mommies work when it is shining (her word for daytime) not when the sun is sleeping.”
I explained that Mommy only had to work this night and that everything would be normal again tomorrow but then I considered the word “normal.” Which normal would she fall asleep anticipating in the morning. For a year, her normal was seeing Mommy three times a week. For more than half of his life, Elliott’s normal had been falling asleep in the arms of his foster parents. For a year, our normal had been fear and heartache.
I quickly adjusted my statement and said, “tomorrow, Mommy will tuck you in like she did last night.”
“Okay, Gigi. I love you.” And she drifted off to sleep.
There are so many “firsts” that we had to miss while they were gone and now there are so many “firsts” that we will face because of this. Like the first time that he asks about his father or the first time that he asks about how he was as a baby. We may not be able to prepare for all of this but we can make sure that their “normal,” is love and security with their family.
You can only move forward so do so with a purpose.