Sometimes I wish life had a rewind button.
Sunday I was feeling somewhat human again, so I took Daniel to the bounce house down the road while Jimmy took more medicine and tamed the paperwork covering our dining room table. There were several other families there also trying to burn off their children’s excess energy on the rainy day, but it wasn’t too crowded. As I took a breather from the umpteenth trip with Daniel down the slide (I’m not sure who is more tired when we leave), I started chatting with the lady next to me. We exchanged our sons’ ages and swapped stories about how energetic our boys are. Her son was 3.5, and I started to think that maybe we should swap phone numbers for a play date. And then she told me that the little boy was her foster son. We talked a bit about his situation and how long he had been with her. I told her that I thought she was a special person for being able to do what she was doing. Daniel grabbed my hand and asked to go on the “purple slide” again, so our conversation ended. She and her son left while Daniel and I were deep in the climbing structure.
I didn’t get her number, and it was a calculated decision. I decided not to pursue a play date with them because I was worried about how long the little boy might be with his foster family and whether I wanted to pursue building a relationship with someone who might not be there much longer.
Later that night while we were giving Daniel a bath, I looked at his sweet, innocent face carefully putting bubbles all over his bath toys and then washing them off, and I thought of that other little boy, and I was so ashamed that I had dismissed him as a potential playmate. The topic of bruises had come up while we were talking about the boys’ energy. I told her that our pediatrician had said that she worried if she didn’t see bruises on a child, meaning they weren’t being active enough. She agreed and then commented that due to her foster son’s history, bruises take on an entirely different meaning for him. She hinted that he had been through entirely too much in his short life.
That little boy had had a wonderful time at the bounce house, his face all smiles. And it was clear that he had a wonderful bond with his foster mom. I would never have known about the scars and bruises — real or psychic — he carried if she hadn’t told me.
Two boys. My little boy, prayed for, longed for, loved and adored, with bruises from jumping and running and climbing. That little boy, on his second foster placement at 3.5, with bruises inflicted by unloving hands. Maybe they don’t need or want our friendship. Maybe he has plenty of playmates. All I know is that thinking of what that child has gone through at the hands of people who were supposed to put his health and welfare above their own infuriates me, and my impulse is to do anything that will keep him smiling, to help him feel like a normal little boy from a normal, loving home.
I wish I’d asked for her number. If I see her again, it will be the first thing I ask for.