Next Step Therapy Blog: Showing Up

NST-bI’ve been a foster parent for over three years now. I’ve been in court rooms many, many times for many, many kids.

From my seat in the back, my view is usually this: a scattered line of county case workers, county attorney, child’s attorney, mother, mother’s attorney, father, and father’s attorney. I always capture the image of these people in my mind.

I am the foster parent, the one who is caring for the child that we are all in the courtroom to make decisions for. I am the one who is daily falling in love with the child, tucking them into bed and wiping their tears. But, I sit in the back of the courtroom because legally, I have no voice. So, I sit in my seat, stare at the back of these heads, and pray that this lineup of folks in the front makes good decisions for the child.

Today I sat in my seat and I saw all of the usual suspects. I looked down the line and checked off each player from the roster in my mind. Caseworker, check. Attorney, check. And on I went, down the line. And then my eyes reached the end of the line. And the space where the parents usually stand was empty. No check. Empty space. “A” for absent. A void in a place where there should never be a void. No one was there to fight for him. No parents. And, as much as I love this baby and want him to be my baby forever, part of me wanted to see someone standing in that void, fighting for him. Because that’s what he deserves and what every child deserves.

It took my breath away.

I watched the judge step out of his chambers, and I saw a look on his face that perfectly reflected what I felt in my heart. It was a slight shake of the head, mixed with disgust, disappointment, but mostly pure sadness. I could almost see the word “Damn” form on his lips. Like maybe he had a shred of hope that there would be someone standing there, with tears in their eyes, begging him to have their baby back. But, there was no one. For This Child No-one Showed Up.

And from the back, I wanted to stand up and shout, with tears in my eyes, “HERE I AM. I WILL FIGHT FOR HIM. I WILL BEG YOU WITH MY WHOLE HEART TO LET ME BE HIS MOMMA. I WILL STAND IN THAT VOID, I WILL BE HIS VOICE.”

But, they tell me that standing up and shouting at the judge could get you arrested. So, I channeled the still, small voice inside me, and I continued to watch and pray, as people, who have never seen his sweet face or heard his sweet laugh, made decisions for his future.

I don’t judge his parents actions or absence because I have not been there, and I don’t know. I can’t fathom leaving my child in the arms of a stranger and walking away. But, I’m sure if that were happening to me, it would be easier to keep on walking, and to never look back, rather than to ever show my face again. But, by not showing up, by not stepping up, and by not showing their faces and looking that judge in the eye as he walked out of his chambers, this baby has to be in parental limbo for another six months, maybe longer.

I believe that the best and bravest thing we can do, for any of our kids, is to Just. Show. Up. And, while most of us don’t have to show up in a court room, we need to show up for dinner, for homework, for bedtime stories and hugs and kisses, for conferences and meetings and doctor visits. We must make those daily, intentional choices to continue to be present for our child.

And, some days it’s so hard. And, you just want to hide in the bathroom, or even get in the car and drive away. But, as brave parents, we must continue to show our faces, we must continue to show up. Even if we have little or nothing to offer at that particular moment. We are our child’s voice, we are the ones that can stand up and shout for them (Unless you are in a courtroom. DON’T DO IT.)

Every child deserves someone to stand in that void and to fill that gap that often stands between him and the world.

In the eyes and in the life of a child, you might make all the difference, just in the showing up.

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