It's after office hours at the end of the visit, so Cricket's mom and the case aid come outside to the three waiting foster parents. An infant bucket seat is transferred. Cricket stands alone, and I take her hand. She asks me to pick her up.
A few instructions, comments, and questions are given to all three families. The kids wait quietly.
Cricket's mom gives a kiss goodbye to the older sister. I lean Cricket in for a kiss goodbye. But unfortunately, we walk off the same direction, so I can tell it hasn't sunk in for Cricket that she's going home with me, not her mom.
After several steps, we part ways, and she cries. She cries a cry I will never forget, one I have heard several times by now. She doesn't struggle to get free, but she reaches for her mommy as she walks her walk away. Of course Cricket's mom is looking back at her child, helpless. What can any of us say in that eye contact? How does she stop herself from running back for one more kiss? I am sure every nerve in her body wants to run to her daughter and take her out of my hands and run away.
Cricket is still crying in the car. Still crying on the way home. As I get out her dinner, she points to mandarin oranges and says she wants them. Not part of the dinner plan, but of course she can have them. She eats dinner while sitting in my lap. I assign B to the other two and take time just to stick by Cricket, promising myself I'll give the boys one-on-one time sometime this weekend.
I intend to wind her down with some books, but it's clear she's tired. My voice breaks a few times while reading a book of prayers for children, thinking about how her cares that are so much heavier than they should be for any child. I'm trying to establish a bedtime routine that involves me saying goodnight and walking away just for five minutes or less, though she protests. But I couldn't do it tonight. I needed to stay by her side. For her? For me? Many times I swear she's fallen asleep by the sound of her breathing, only to open my eyes to see hers looking back at me. But it doesn't take extremely long tonight.
Lots of little things went wrong today or chipped away at my patience. But that cry cut through my own issues, my own fears, my own blaming myself, and just told me to stop my thoughts and love this girl whose heart is breaking over and over.