Michael saw things differently.
Each child that has come to us over the years has their own unique story. Each and everyone of them has broken my heart in some way. Michael was no exception.
Michael is the oldest in a family of siblings. His father lives in South America. He and his brothers and sisters were taken away from their mother. They all went to live with a relative. With so many children to care for, this relative asked DCF to take Michael, the oldest, so she could care for the others. His father is gone, his mother is gone, and then he was moved. What is your sense of family when by the age of nine you are shifted and moved and the one living elsewhere?
Michael has an eager sense of family.
He had been living with our friends for three weeks when they had a scheduled trip to the west, and he came to stay with us. We first met Michael with his foster father, a man we love and admire, and I was not all that surprised when Michael called him “Dad.” This man is the kind of guy we would all think of as a dad, strong, kind, funny, rooted.
But when Matthew arrived with us, at first I was shocked when he requested not to have to learn our names, “I’ll just call him ‘dad’ and you ‘mom’ cause that’s easier.”
I felt a desire inside to protest . . .
But then I realized, this is how Michael sees things, if it is easier for him, then it would be ok with us . . .
And it started.
“Dad!” He would yell from the shower when he forgot his towel.
“Mom!” He would yell across the store if he wanted me to see something.
The terms I had thought of as intimate, really were more utilitarian and useful to Michael. I could see where he was coming from.
And then there were times when he would slip into emotion, and I could hear the longing in his voice, “Where is Dad? I want to show him this?”
“I really want to hold Mom’s hand.”
And in those moments my heart ached. We were stand-ins. And the world is unjust.
Sometimes a kid just wants his mom or dad. Even with a two year old, I know that those are times parents cherish, the moments when we know that there is a special bonded-ness.
And I ached for Michael.
And I ached for his mom and his dad.
And I ached for a world where hands are not held and where kids go to sleep at night wishing for their Dad.