I was running a little late yesterday picking my son up from school. Up to this point, we have had a fairly routine pick-up schedule. I arrive about ten minutes before school lets out, park in the same area, walk in to the main doors, and wait on a bench until I see his smiling face walking down the hall towards me. Yesterday though, I was about ten minutes late from my usual pick-up time.
As I approached the door, I could see him sitting on the bench waiting for me with a slight look of worry on his face. He was searching through the small crowd of parents that had gathered in the front entrance. When the door opened, and I entered the building, he swung his head around and with a gleeful sound, he said, “Mommy!” We hugged, he told me about his day, and we made our way to the car.
I’ve been thinking about the look on my son’s face when I saw him through the door looking slightly distressed over my absence, and then again, at his joyful expression when he saw me. The thoughts that have come from this brief and somewhat insignificant moment is this, “It matters that we keep our word to children. It matters that they can rely on us to be there for them, and that we do what we say we are going to do.”
I couldn’t help but think about the kids in foster care that I used to work with as a case manager. Many were promised things by their parents and others that never came to fruition. Parents did not get clean from drugs, work their treatment plans, or “get them back” like they told their children they would. Several of the children meandered their way through the system (and many still do) moving from home to home without anyone committing to caring for them long-term. They were continually let down by the unfulfilled promises of adults.
Many of the kids have been failed often by adults in their lives even prior to entering foster care. Too many of them have never had anyone stick around long enough to help them lay down roots to a firm foundation for their future. One of the keys to successfully working with children in the foster care system is to say what you mean, and mean what you say. It also is vitally important to do what you say you are going to do.
My son’s look of relief upon seeing me yesterday after being just a few minutes late to pick him up reminded me of what I really already knew. Our responsibilities as parents and as adults is to keep the well-being of children in the forefront. The way we treat them, keep our word to them, and be intentional in their lives will shape their future, and in many ways, will shape ours.