- Jackie, do you know how babies are made?
- God makes them (duh!)
- Yes, that’s true, but do you want to know the technical details?
- Yeeees? she leans in fully focused, wide eyed, intrigued.
- Evelyn is your biological sister because the same woman gave birth to you both.
- Wow! That’s so exciting! …Wait, you mean my foster mom didn’t give birth to me? (We’ve had many conversations about this topic… and yet, she remembers only what she wants).
Conrad’s advice to me on our 3rd visit:
- Come sit on this couch so you can be in Ivy’s line of sight!
- When she calls Mami, you should answer!
- Sit next to her at breakfast to help her if she needs help.
- I’ll talk to the foster mom while you have your chance to sit on the floor and play with ivy.
Conrad’s superpower is to connect instantly with kids. My superpower is to connect slowly but surely.
As Evelyn asks for help with taking a sweater off, I jump on the opportunity:
- “Let mami help you!” I say. As she looks at me with inquisitive eyes, she lets me help her.
We took for granted the guidance, help and knowledge of Jackie’s foster parents who opened doors and made things easy, pushing us towards each other, setting the stage, enabling connection. We are now relied upon to lead the way. May we be wise and brave.
Evelyn needed to go to the bathroom and calls for help setting the potty. I jump up, seizing the opportunity right before the foster mom stood up out of habit to go help her. Jackie jumps in (she really speaks her mind without a filter!) and says:
“Let my mom help her! She is Evelyn’s mom after all!”
In the bathroom, she lets me help her. As she sits on the potty she looked at me intently with a frown. I ask her if she’s pooping as well. “Nope!” she says. (Probably just wondering why I’m there, helping her).
She pierces me with her deep beautiful dark eyes. She frowns at me inquisitively. She studies me intently. And I smile. And I ask her questions or I affirm what she tells me. She snuggled with me on the bed, but said nothing. She draped her little legs over mine.
She doesn’t like people taking pictures. (Jackie used to stop and pose briefly at her age). We’ve overdone it on the first day, to document such a special moment: meeting her, the sisters meeting…
Jackie is like an extension of our heart, gently welcoming her, guiding her, pulling back if she feels Ivy needs space. It’s like she knows.
I asked Jackie how she felt when her foster mom told her to call us mami and daddy. She said it was ok.
I asked her how she felt when we visited her. She said she felt happy.
Jackie remembers exact details of those visits. (So I can’t help but wonder what goes through Ivy’s mind these days). One thing Jackie said that made me aware of how well loved she felt in her foster family (including the extended family of the foster mom) she wanted us all to live in one place. She wanted all the people she loved in one place.
Ivy said after we visited her the next day: “I love everybody! And I’m so happy!” Her nights are restless and she feels the emotional charge of this transition, though she can’t quite figure out why.
When the foster mom says to Ivy that I’m her Mami, she says no. When she says that Conrad is her Tati, she says “I have a Tati.” But if the foster mom asks if she wants Conrad to be her Tati, she responds yes, and goes away skipping.
Yesterday we went on an hour walk through the village. Skipping and laughing and making the villagers laugh with us. our glee is contagious. Everyone said hello, and we enjoyed the most magical walk of our lives, though the village was grey and dreary on a cold February day.
Evelyn sat on Conrad’s shoulders and rubbed his head, with the cutest little hands… or drummed on it, and giggled her way to contagious joy.
The girls walked hand in hand, and we soaked it all in.
We are taking reverent, small steps into Evelyn’s life. And she is reserved, brilliant and delightful. She is hard to get and that makes her even more special.
We court her heart, and God prepares the way. We are earnest, and true, patient and smitten.
It is obvious that the foster family loved her well, beyond expectations.
Their commitment and dedication are a specific answer to our prayers.
The hard part is yet to come – the pain of saying goodbye. Letting go of each other. We will witness Evelyn’s pain, no matter what, and we’ll hurt alongside her. I pray the foster family will have the wisdom to filter their emotions and not project on the heart of a little person, their pain. Letting someone fly away with an encouraging smile, with confidence, faith and hope for the future, that is a true testament of love.
Friends and family ask us when we bring her home. It’s a journey. If the first time it was a useful learning curve for us, as we took on the role of parents, right now it is apparent this slow transition is for the child’s heart and mind, and for the foster family to prepare to say goodbye as well.
When we took Jackie away for good, she hugged her foster dad (with whom she had a special connection) and said: goodbye MY “dia”. It broke our heart. We left them teary eyed but smiling with courage, as much for them as for the little girl who was going home for good.
These are the people we still visit every few months. They are part of Jackie’s life still. And I pray that we can give Evelyn a similar gift. The foster mom is definitely able and willing. Her family has a harder time accepting Ivy’s impending departure. But it’s not up to them at this point. I pray for their heart and wisdom in this transition.