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He said dada: how a childs first words can melt a parents heart

February 23, 2012

Two days in at this point, and we had a handle on everything. Or so we thought. It’s Saturday morning, there is a visit planned at safe place with a relative. Let me tell you I was not looking forward to this. We loved him already, and we started to think of him as our own child. This is a great thing, because it helps the bonding process. But nothing helps it like just spending time with a child who needs love.

The visit wasn’t supposed to start until 1130 am. Ian got us up at 630 am. By 800, when I was used to getting on a Saturday I was wide awake. Ian was still trying to get to know his surroundings. The one thing we have learned is patience with this process. Foster children will need time to adjust to their new environment regardless of age. Although  Ian seemed to start to  become comfortable from Day 1. We were very much in a honeymoon period as foster parents, and parents. What did we know. We were at this for 36 hours at this point. Being he was 11 months old we knew he should be getting ready to speak if he had not already. We knew for sure he was not walking. Unfortunately for Ian,  it was a case of neglect, where he was not interacted with much before he came into our care. This is an unfortunate truth often times with children who come into foster care.

At the time the easiest way to get to bond with him was to play with him and talk to him. There was an empty cardboard box on the floor from a package that came the night before.  It is amazing how children will make anything into a toy. This box which I had by the door to go  out for recycling later that day became the only toy in the world that this boy wanted. This was an opportunity to play with him on his level, and try to work on his speaking.

While playing with the box on the floor like it was a drum. I kept practicing the word(s) Daddy and Dada. I felt like i said it a hundred times, and probably did to be honest.  But you can see in a child’s eyes that they are processing what you are saying. He had this look. Out of nowhere he looked up at me and said DADA. I thought maybe I was hearing things, but he said it again. Ryan and I both heard it this time. My heart melted. He had this look of being so proud of himself in that moment. We may have had something to do with that being that we made such a big deal about it. Who wouldn’t? ! It’s the first time I heard my child call me Dad. You never forget that moment. It stays with me to this day. Most dads try to describe that moment, but it is indescribable.

As wonderful as that day was, between posting it on Facebook, and calling everyone I knew to brag.  The day had a sense of reality as a foster parent which quickly set in. Ian had a visit with his family at 11:30 am. A reminder a child who we were already in love with was not our forever child.

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© 2012 David Z. Pfeffer

* the names of our foster children have been changed to help protect their confidentiality.

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One Comment
  1. Kristina permalink

    Great job expressing the very raw feelings we have with our placements. We understand the joy and the pain. Great job!!!!!

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