And, perhaps. the most shocking moment for me was yesterday morning when I learned this.
He's never seen Blue's Clues! Patrick has never seen Blue's Clues. It's one of the most popular kids' shows ever (probably) and he didn't recognize Steve when he saw a picture of him on my fridge. (Nevermind, why I have a picture of him on my fridge...)
At first, it seems like a little thing, especially compared to the bigger things that he missed out on. But then again, it's not. What it means is that while other kids his age were sitting with their parents, watching the show and helping Steve find the clues; he was sitting in filth (by all accounts) and wondering when his next meal would be. He wasn't being told that he was so smart and could do anything that he wants to be. He was being ignored and disregarded.
It's not ok. It's just not.
This week, many questions have floated through my head.
What's it like to grow up in and out of foster care? What was it like to sit with us at Wendy's and see the signs everywhere, all about kids needing forever families? Do his friends at school know that he's in foster care? Does he think about his reality or does he shove the thoughts to the back of his mind?
And, what's it like when you are reminded that you are different?
We were leaving the mall. I was teasing the kids and saying that they had to go to school the next day. They said that was impossible because Patrick was here and I said that he was just missing school.
Then Lizzie made a inexplicable connection and said "Patrick doesn't have a mom."
Thud, I didn't know what to say. So, I tried to shush her and hoped that he had the music loud in his brand new headphones.
Then, Antwan added. "He doesn't have a regular mom, I think."
(This is stemming from our attempts to explain foster care to Antwan and Lizzie.)
So, before it got more awkward, I stopped them and said "Ok, Patrick has a foster mother. She takes care of him, gives him love, and keeps him safe."
Hoping that clarified it, I turned back around so I could pull out of the parking space.
Lizzie added, happily "And, now we take care of him!"
I couldn't argue with that. I agreed that we were taking care of him and looked at Patrick for reaction. There wasn't one.
I asked him, "Are you hearing this?"
He simply said "yes."
And, that was it. We were off to our next activity.
Then I'm going to give him a good night hug like I do every night and he's going to pretend that he doesn't love it. And, then I'm going to sit in my recliner and continue to wonder how we got here; all the while, feeling very grateful that we did.