Tuesday, August 28, 2018

A moment of wavering

Little Man has never really enjoyed riding in the car. Even as a baby, he would fight his car seat. Now, as a toddler, he still whimpers when we buckle him in and then proceeds to fight sleep the whole time, even if we're driving for hours.

So there we were, about four hours into our six hour drive. Little Man had thrown every toy we'd offered onto the floor. He'd eaten every snack we could reasonably allow. He'd shouted incoherently at the top of his amazingly-powerful-for-his-age voice for at least half of the drive time so far and had grabbed at every thing and everyone within his reach until nothing remained within his grasp. I was about over it, to say the least. But he was starting to fade.

From the front passenger seat, I turned around and sent a telepathic signal to the other kids with my eyes: Don't make a peep. He's almost asleep. They nodded solemnly. Not a one of us would dare mess with Little Man's one chance at a nap.

I turned back around, turned the radio down, and fought the urge to check on Little Man until I was sure he was out, because heaven forbid I look back at the wrong moment and accidentally catch his eye and cause him to rally. When I hadn't heard him move for a while, I dared a glance back to make sure the magic had happened.

It's hard to explain what happened at that moment. There he was, slumped in his car seat, finally spent. Head leaning contentedly to one side. A half-smile on his little face. My heart should've melted at his precious sleeping sweetness, but all I could think was: What have I done?

It struck me with such clarity at that moment. I had willfully, intentionally taught a child to love and trust me unconditionally, knowing--KNOWING--I would have to betray him. Knowing it wouldn't last. Knowing...

Oh, God. What had I done?

I stared out the window at farms and houses and mountains streaming past, and I wavered. We should've never become foster parents...Should've never taken Little Man back the second time...Should've never let him love us so darn much, I thought. How could I live with hurting him? How could I live with the sound of his voice in my head, screaming my name long after he's gone?

Yes, I wavered. Have you ever done that? Ever suddenly doubted something you were so sure of only moments before?

Maybe it's just me.

I snuck another peek at his sweet little face. He loved me completely, as only a child can. And I loved him like a son. I had made my choice to step into his broken life and be what he needed. I didn't want to answer the questions What have I done? or Was it worth it? or Would you do it again? or anything else. I only wanted to remember that face, remember that moment when he slept peacefully without a care in the world, utterly trusting me and my family. Utterly secure.

I will waver again. I'm just being honest. But I will remember that moment. Life is hard. This is life.

This is love.