An antique heart

My friend Jill gave me an antique heart for my birthday this year and I can’t stop thinking about how accurately it symbolizes foster parenting.

Both beyond and within all the training and tears, the meetings and stress, the constant worry, the laughter, the learning and the love beats the heart.

And, thankfully, it’s not just one heart.

A whole symphony of heartbeats scores the lives of foster children, helps them heal and allows them to recognize their own song in this big, old, sometimes scary world.

I think a foster parent’s job is to help that child hear that gorgeous, generational swell of music within their own hearts.

Beyond anything they learn, they and all children need to know that they are loved, have been loved and will always be loved.

That’s the antique heart.

It’s the love of grandparents and great-grandparents, those who are actively involved in the child’s life, and those who, due to a wide variety of circumstances, can not be.

It’s the love of parents, many of whom work really hard to reclaim their family. Children need to understand that foster parents and birth parents work together on their behalf and that the love of one should complement not diminish the love of another. 

It’s the love of extended foster relatives – the aunts and uncles who build the Lego and the self esteem; the grandma who pays way too much for small jobs around the house; the great aunts and uncles who show up and support.

It’s the love of a community – the teachers who wrack their brains for ways to help a fidgety child learn, the crossing guards who never miss a day, the neighbors, swim instructors, school counselors, therapists, social workers, judges, CASA representatives and daycare saints.

It’s the love little people need to find within themselves, through the scars and self doubt, to believe they are worthy of every good thing. 

Heavy and precious with universal love, that antique heart will always be there for the children it represents.

It’s our job to make sure they know it’s there.

My friend Jill gave me the antique heart, and my mom gave one of our little charges this stuffed birthday bear. The heart symbolizes everything I want children to know about life (namely that they are loved, have always been loved and will always be loved). And the bear? Well the bear plays the Happy Birthday song over and over every time you squeeze it’s paw. Someone in our house loves that bear.
And I love this heart.

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