Dear foster daughter,

Thank you.

Thank you for allowing me to see how you feel, even when it’s hard.

For two long months, you showed me only one side of you.

What a good baby, they all told me. Something’s wrong, I thought.

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Still, I allowed myself to think I was a good mom, too. Because you ran to me when you were hurt at the playground. You buried your face in my collarbone when I carried you to bed.

I am your rock, I whispered while I rocked you.

I am amazing, I told myself.

I had no idea.

Today you threw a jam jar off the table. It shattered. For the last two weeks, you’ve hit me when I try to hold you. You want to be held by anyone but me. 

You collapse on the floor when you don’t get your way, which is often.

In other words, you are real, really, finally.

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When you broke the glass I yelled. WHY. Why, why.

You burst into tears, face red, squishing your eyes to escape this world.

Ignoring your fear, I yanked you from your booster seat and set you unceremoniously on the floor where you cried even harder. My own fear blocked me from caring for you.

I ran barefoot to the cupboard for a broom. I wiped up glass shards and milk from the floor, steaming.

Later, you hid on the other side of the kitchen with your head down and your lips in a frown, blue eyes glaring.

Do you wish to never see me again? 

I see you.

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I sit on the kitchen floor with a mop between us and take a deep breath.

I love you. Nothing will make me stop loving you.

Thank you for showing me how you feel. This is a safe space. I’m sorry for getting mad.

Can I hug you?

One of your new words, my beautiful, smart daughter.

I use your blue-flowered sweatshirt to wipe a tear from under your nose and take you in my arms. 

We have a long road, but I’m staying.

I love you, baby girl. All of you.

Genny Rietze

Genny Rietze lives on the beach in Alaska with her husband, two busy kids, and twenty chickens.  You can find her on Instagram @gennyrietze