She's 3. She's chatty and bossy and hilariously funny in the way that 3 year olds are when they are telling you how it is. Then, she drops a box of toys; it opens, undamaged, and the toys spill out onto the floor. She shrinks into herself, arms held tight against her chest, hands curled up tense. She looks up at you, wide-eyed, and begins chanting: "Sorry! Sorry!"
What is this child used to happening to her when she spills something?
She's 7. She just got back from a visit with her father, who gave her an expensive electronic device. Time for the nightly phone call with Mom. Of course, she's full of her new toy from Daddy. First words out of Mommy's mouth are, "So, Daddy's buying your love again, huh?"
As I tuck her in that night, she begins to cry, saying she just wishes her Mommy and Daddy were together. At a loss, I tell her I know she does and I'm sorry. I try to assure her that they both love her, no matter what. She says Mommy says Daddy doesn't love any of them anymore.
He's 6. You've just told him that he gets to go home and live with Daddy. With no joy in his eyes, he asks you, "And then will they come take me again?"
He's 3. When he wakes in the night, he wanders into other people's bedrooms and begins to play with their toys. He's surprised and confused that this isn't considered appropriate behavior. When he's told he must stay in his own room at night, he sobs "I want my mommy."
At any age. It's time to call Mommy (or Daddy). They are excited to talk to their parent, tell them about the exciting events of the day. We get voicemail. After 3 tries to both numbers, it's clear there will be no conversation tonight after all.
He's 3. Mom made a "surprise" appearance at a school event. The first thing he says to her is, "Are you here to take me home?"
She's 8. Mom comes to a routine medical appointment. With her daughter sitting next to her, she casually begins talking about how "her father" (with a gesture) broke her jaw and knocked out this tooth 3 years ago.
They're going to spend a few days in respite care (with another foster family to give us a break). I remind them that "Miss Y" will pick them up and take them to see Mommy on Saturday, just like every week. The 8 year old pouts -- she was hoping being at the respite family's house meant she got to skip the visit with Mom.
He's written a letter to his father, who lives out of state, but is being considered for a kinship placement. The letter opens: "I think I deserve to live with you and Mommy."
She's 8. She know what Facebook is, but does not know that Barnes & Noble is a bookstore.