In the system since he was an infant, at 18 Walter was ready to go. While he had lived with this same foster mother most of his life, he was done with foster care and wanted to age out. He had been accepted into a prestigious out-of-state college and his bag was packed.
Then he went to say goodbye. His foster mother was in the hospital at the time and he looked at her, started his farewell speech and then changed his mind. In not going to that college, in rearranging his life, he found a connection that he hadn’t had before. He finally felt the love she had for him and, in his mind, was now able to “walk in the role of her son.”
This was his defining moment. The bridge that gave him the mother he felt he hadn’t had his whole life.
I shared a similar defining moment with my own foster daughter.
She had been suffering from what we thought might be appendicitis and we were sitting in the emergency room, waiting for them to see her. She put her head on my shoulder, and I put my arm around her, messing up her hair a little to make sure she looked tragic. I wanted them to take pity on us and get the doctor to see her as soon as possible.
As I sat there, I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. This, for us, was the moment in our relationship where that seed of trust started to bloom. She could be vulnerable with me and saw that everything would be OK. I was there for her.
If that mother-child connection doesn’t start at birth, when is it that these two people inhabiting the same space due to chance, forge a bond? For Walter and Laura, that sense of belonging happened around being needed and having that need met.
In honor of Mother’s Day, let’s think about what it means to be part of a family and to build a connection with a child. Whether a child is biological or bonus, unconditional love is a blessing and a gift.
Mira Zimet is an award-winning educational and documentary filmmaker. She launched The Storyboard Project in 2014 to give foster youth transitioning into adulthood the opportunity to tell their story using a visual medium. Follow her on twitter @SPBYourStory or Facebook at /thestoryboardprojectla