One boy turns to the other and says, “Just because you live here,
“I live here?” the second boy interrupts, a broad grin spreading across his face.
It’s not the first time I’ve witnessed that moment, that dawning of understanding that there is a difference between ‘staying’ somewhere and ‘living’ somewhere….especially in the life of a child who has experienced both.
I’ve seen it many times in my years as a foster parent. The child will nonchalantly say, “Next summer can we hang a swing from that tree?” Or, “Can I have that doll for Christmas?” It’s a way for them to say, “I want to be here. I want to be a part of a family…” without having to express those feelings that are so difficult to admit.
In the weeks the new boys have been here I’ve been asked repeatedly, in front of them, “Are they living with you? Are you adopting them?”
“They are staying with us for now,” I say, careful not to give a clear answer. The boys hear those cryptic words and absorb the meaning. They are staying here…for now…for now….the words sink in.
It’s nothing but a few words difference, yet their whole world revolves around those minor changes in syntax, the rearranging of a few key phrases I never realized they picked up on. But clearly, they do.
It’s that uncertainty that holds them back from healing. Whether they love us or hate us or somewhere in between, it’s the not knowing what’s happening tomorrow, or next week or even next year, that keeps them stagnant, unable to connect, to love, to let go. Why love this person, if she is going to be gone tomorrow? That will only hurt, they reason. And believe me…these kids can’t handle any more hurt.
So they ‘stay’ here, floundering around in limbo never really sinking into the fit of our family. Like a temporary guest. There is no permanency in ‘staying’ somewhere. It’s like a month to month lease, only it’s day to day. Minute to minute. There’s no commitment. No forever.
And that is not really living at all—it’s just staying—for now.