A beautiful sixteen-year-old walked into our lives and home on Monday night.
Like every other child who has been placed with us, she didn’t want to move.
But here she is. Here we all are. Trying to figure out life together as strangers under one roof.
As needed, we let friends and colleagues know we have a new foster child.
After hearing our update, a neighbor shot me a friendly “Congrats!” and looked to me for a response.
I. Couldn’t. Say. Anything.
I know she meant well, but I also know foster care and the pain and sadness that surround a child leaving everything she knows. While there is hope, the predominant emotion is heartbreak.
Whether sixteen weeks or years, a baby should be with her mama. Or her daddy. Or her grandmother. Or someone she knows who loves her.
I don’t know the right thing to say when someone welcomes a foster child. Heck, I don’t know the right thing to say half the time period.
But fresh with grief for this hurting child, I knew “congrats” was the wrong thing. I wish I had found the right words to respond. Words that stepped toward my neighbor with grace and kindness. Rather than leaving an awkward silence that divided more than welcomed.
As I’ve replayed that small interaction again and again, I’ve come to this.
When I don’t know what to say. And probably more importantly, when I do. I want to ask and to listen. To find out how someone is feeling with a new child in their home. Or to seek to understand why congratulations were given.
I hope to hear and learn what it looks like to come alongside others. And to do a better job inviting them to come alongside me.
Jumping and assuming less. No matter who is talking.