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He mostly manages on his own. He makes his bed and tidies his room when he’s asked and helps with the dishes after supper. He mostly fits in as best he can. As best a ten-year-old in a new house can figure out.

I’m making up his bed, trying to tidy his room a little while he’s away at school, because once in a while it needs a little help. So I’m making up his bed, and I pick up his pillow to straighten the case and I see the treasure he’s hidden there beneath it. The smooth, polished heart-shaped rock his mom had given him when he visited her last.

I have one, and I gave one to him, she’d told me as we chatted while her son gathered his things. And I’d offered a how nice and we’d smiled at each other and talked a bit more, and then I loaded up her boy and drove away.

I struggle to write words adequately representative of this thing called fostering. It’s a crazy, vulnerable, complicated thing and it is not effortlessly composed into paragraphs. Because it’s not about look how wonderful I am or look how broken she is. I’ve met her and I like her and she loves her son. And then there’s the whole there but for the grace of God thing, you know?

Practically, fostering is a job. It’s taking care of a child whose parents can’t. It’s arranging visits and managing school and correcting behaviours.

But then you add a heart or two, and it’s so much more.

This boy is in my heart already. He’s wriggled his way in there, in spite of the tantrums and the lying and the taking things that don’t belong to you. I’m already so proud of how far he’s come. I have hope for his future. I pray for him.

I love him.

Even though I know he’d take Real Mom over Foster Mom any day of the week. Even though I know the heart he treasures most he shares with her. Even though I might never hear I love you, back.

This morning, while I was making up his bed, I saw his heart, tucked safe under his pillow where he can touch it in the night. She’s with him, in the best way she can be, and that makes me both happy and sad.

Bless the children, today and always, whose mom’s hearts are treasures tucked under pillows.

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