The other day Ana and I were playing at the park with friends. Her friend took a sip from his water bottle, then passed it Ana’s way. The dad chimed in, “We only share our drinks with family, son.”
The logic made sense to me. It also brought me back to those first few days when Ana came to live with us…
Ana moved in and it was just a day or two before she was reaching for my spoon, my water glass, and my ice cream cone. Her simple and unspoken requests were innocent enough. She was hungry. She was thirsty. She loves ice cream.
Her toddler hands reached.
My adult brain hesitated.
I was mid-gulp of water and caught off guard. The same thing our friend said out loud at the park manifested as a brief internal struggle for me. I too only like to share my glass and my spoon and my ice cream – especially my ice cream – with my family.
The appeals were small. The implications of my response were not. We had just met this child and didn’t know how long she would be with us. How were we going to define this relationship? Was she… “family?”
These are the things you don’t think about when you sign up to be a foster parent. These are the things they don’t train you for. We could not have guessed that something as insignificant as sharing a glass of water, could represent something as meaningful as sharing a life.
The hesitation was fleeting, though this wasn’t the last time I hesitated. Simple things “normal” families take for granted, like cleaning off a child’s bloody boo-boo, and taking family photographs, begged the question be answered again: “How would we define this relationship?”
I tipped the glass up and helped Ana’s little head swig back a mouthful of my water. I handed over the ice-cream cone and watched as a tiny tongue smeared saliva all over my treat. With these seemingly insignificant gestures, we were family.