‘Today was Mommy day and she didn’t come.’ His bright blue eyes filled with tears. ‘What can I do to help?,’ I asked, my heart aching. ‘A hug Mama, you make it better.’

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“We bustled into Target out of the cold, halfway through the store in the paper towel aisle I looked down and noticed. He was abnormally quiet for a trip to his favorite store. I said his name, and as he looked up I saw the tears streaming down his face. I crouched down to see what was the matter. Looking up, his bright blue eyes spilled over, tears rolling down his cheeks. ‘Today was Mommy day and she didn’t come.’ The last word pushed out by the momentum of his tears — 3 years old and the ache of foster care and reality of addiction were no stranger.

My Mama heart ached, hating this place. My vision was blurred as my own tears filled my eyes. These are the places I cannot kiss away the owies, I cannot fix it nor change it. I cannot take away the faulty wiring, the meth exposure, the scary memories or the bitter parts of this reality.

I pulled him in close and he began to weep, letting go of the weight of a million pounds he had carried that day all the way through his visit, the car ride home and through the first half of the store. That day the presents from family, the kid’s meal and the adventure was not what this little boy wanted. What he wanted was simple; for his family to not be broken anymore. At 3 years old, he and his three siblings carry the burden of their parent’s addiction.

‘At 27, I had become a single foster mom of three overnight, as if the instructions on my box of life read, ‘just add kids.’’

We sat for a moment in the aisle as the rest of the crew pulled in close, they all know that ache, they have been there before. They are not strangers to the ache of loss, disappointment and the sadness of letting go. We all held him there for a moment, standing in the gap where addiction has stolen, declaring for him the reality that he is loved.

I pulled back and looked him in the eyes where his outpouring of a heavy heart flowed unable to stop. Looking at him I told him I was so sad for him and that if I was him I would be so sad too. I asked him what I could do to help, how I could make him feel better. With the clarity and wisdom of a much older soul he said, ‘a hug Mama, you make it better.’

(Cue shattered heart and tears) There in the Target aisle at 8:25 p.m. we sat holding on and reminding each other that this road is hard and the price tag is great, but it is here in the depths of broken hearts we find hope. Hope to believe in love again. Hope for our parents. Hope for our healing. Hope to open our hearts. Hope to keep going, despising addiction, hurt and loss, knowing that in the midst of it all, we have found each other.

I have learned I can’t take it away, rewrite history or change a lot of things as a mom, but I can hold on tight making the ache a little less. I can stand in the gap where bio parents are unable to in their brokenness, reminding these little souls that they are desperately loved, known and seen. Reminding us all that there is hope and to never lose sight of that.”

Melissa Pennington Photography

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Julianna Klepfer, a 30 something, single, foster/adoptive mama. She lives with her crew of seven, ages 11, 9, 7, 4, 3, 18 months and 6 months, their two dogs and 6 chickens in the hills of Iowa. You can follow along with her ever changing family at My Joyful Broken Heart.

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