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And then I laugh, and he kind of does, too, as he heads out the door. I know he doesn’t know how to take me, sometimes, but that’s okay. I don’t either. This foster parent/kid thing? We kind of make it up as we go along.

It’s the most frustrating thing in the world (in my current small world, anyway) to feel like you’ve made so much progress and things are going great and there hasn’t been a temper tantrum in weeks and it all seems so sweet… to unpack his old ripped backpack while he’s outside playing before the school bus comes – because everything is about to fall out of it and it seems like a good idea to put it all into a grocery bag instead – and to find my husband’s expensive binoculars there at the bottom of the mess of papers and candy wrappers.

It’s the most heart-sinking, here-we-go-again feeling, as I pick them up and put them on the kitchen table and then he breezes in and he sees them there and he looks at me and I say, look what I found.

I can tell his mind is working hard, thinking how he’ll get out of this one, and he says, I just wanted to look at stuff.

We do the whole, are they yours? and, are you supposed to take things that aren’t yours? and honestly I’m so mad at him I could spit, and he knows it. We dance awkwardly around each other, me mad and he defensive, until the bus comes and I send him off with a reluctant hug and that have-a-good-day-don’t-steal-anything blessing. Ya, I know.

If fostering was a Facebook relationship, I’d check It’s Complicated.

Almost every day, lately, he says something like, it feels like you’re a real mom, or maybe I’ll stay in this family for a while. This is new for Transient Child. He’s used to using people up and moving on. So when he prays, thank you for letting the Ross family take care of me, it about rips my heart out.

I worry about him. I think, if you are stealing small stuff now, chances are good you’ll steal bigger stuff later. I talk about consequences and about what happens when big people steal stuff and he nods and says he won’t do it again, but I’ve heard that before, and we haven’t even hit puberty, yet.

Don’t borrow trouble, I tell myself. You can only do your best, I think.

But I’m his other mom, and I can’t help it. Every kid matters.

This morning, the day after the binocular incident, he says again how I am like a mom and this time I ask why?

Because I boss you around? I joke.

He laughs and says no.

Because I love you so much? And he says yes and gives me a hug and then the bus comes and he waves back at me as he walks out into the new day.

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