Blue Pancakes

City Sayler

© Copyright 2024 by City Sayler

Image by webdesignprof0 from Pixabay
Image by webdesignprof0 from Pixabay

Recently, I was asked where my love for working with kids came from. At that moment, I had two options; I could give a generic answer about how I was a camp counselor for my first job, or how I’m the oldest of three siblings, but instead, I decided to share the story of my foster brother. 

For his safety, I won’t be using his real name. In this story, we’ll call him “Andy,” and his sister “Jazz.” 

On St. Patrick's day, 2017, I came home from school to see a stack of blue pancakes on the counter. 

They were supposed to be green, I’m not sure where I went wrong” my mom said, giving me a side hug before I shrugged my backpack off and hung it on the hook by the back door. “Could you go grab your sister for me? I have something I want to share with you all.” 

I made some smart remark about the pancakes before reading her face and realizing it was something serious she needed to share. My stomach dropped as my brain automatically started flipping through every worst case scenario. 

My parents, my brother, my sister, and I all sat around the dining room table. The blue pancakes followed us, now the centerpiece of the conversation. My eyes were glued to them, awaiting my mom’s serious news. 

I know we said we’re done fostering, but there are two kids who need an emergency placement. Their mom dropped them off at the DHS office saying she needed a ‘break,’ and they don’t have anywhere to go. They’ve been at the office for hours while case workers try to find a home for them, and they had our number saved and asked us if we’d be willing to take them for the weekend. Their names are Andy and Jazz, they’re both under two years old. I wanted to check with everyone before I-” 

Yes!” I couldn’t even let my mom finish her sentence. I’d get to help take care of two babies for the weekend? This was a dream come true! While my mom and dad continued to talk about the logistics of it all, I daydreamt about a houseful of baby giggles. 

A few hours of baby-proofing later, Andy and Jazz were on our doorstep with nothing but a garbage bag full of baby gear. It didn’t take long for Andy to warm up. Within a few minutes, he was resting on my sister’s hip playing with her headband which had shamrocks held up by springs. As the shamrocks wiggled back and forth, he laughed, and laughed, and laughed. Jazz was peacefully sleeping in her baby carseat. I sat on the floor impatiently waiting for her to wake up so I could hold her. We all watched Andy waddle-run around the house from room to room, exploring everything he could. I followed close behind and watched. I wanted to share every moment with him. 

The weekend came and left. I held back tears as they strapped baby Jazz in her carseat, and Andy enthusiastically waved “Bye!” completely unaware of what was happening, or why he came to visit us in the first place. I ran upstairs before the door even closed. I know they weren’t ours to keep, but I had so much love in my heart for them, it was so hard to let them go. 

The following week, my dad got a call from his best friend, the chief of police in our city. There was a domestic dispute, and he recognized the name, immediately prompting the call to my dad. My parents re-baby proofed the house before even getting the call from DHS. 

My mom scolded me for being excited. She told me this wasn’t something to be excited about. She told me we shouldn’t celebrate the fact that two babies are big ripped away from their mother. This left me with a lot of big emotions that I wasn’t sure how to unpack. I wouldn't revisit these feelings until years later, as the whole subject of discussing the kids' biological parents felt taboo in our house. 

I loved Andy. My daily routine revolved around him. I woke up to him, I’d help with him until I had to go to school, my projects and reports revolved around foster care. Anytime I hung out with friends, I had them over at my house so I could spend more time with him. It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but I didn’t care. I researched how to help babies with night terrors, not because his screaming was affecting my sleep, but because I didn’t want his baby brain to be filled with so much horror. He was struggling to communicate, so I helped teach him basic American Sign Language so we could better understand his wants and needs. I went on daily walks with him, so my parents could give some much needed attention to his sister. I watched in awe as he learned to navigate the world around him. I watched as his fingers flinched before relaxing in the cool mud he found in the backyard. I watched as he started recognizing his favorite cartoon character’s face in public spaces. I watched as he learned how to stack blocks, and figured out what happens when you pull the one on the bottom of the stack. I was learning life through him all over again. I was 15, and some people said I was taking on too much, that I was too invested in this child’s life. But I had a connection with him that I haven’t felt with any child since then. 

The end goal of foster care is to reunite the child with their family. After six months, it became apparent that their parents weren’t able or willing to put the work in to get them back. Soon, the reality hit my parents that they would have to make a huge decision; adopt these two kids under two years old, or find a better suited living situation for them. To me, the answer was obvious, no questions asked. Of course we would adopt them, they were a part of our family now. 

My cousin was getting married in Chicago. So much had happened in the last six months, and I was finally getting a little bit of me time. My grandma was taking only me to the wedding! I felt special. I felt even more like a grownup. 

My mom sat me down the night before the trip and told me that Andy and Jazz weren't going to be there when I got home.

 I was absolutely crushed. 

My parents had a long list of reasons why it wasn’t feasible for them to adopt these two babies. Long story short, they hadn’t planned on fostering again, and really only agreed to watch them for a weekend. That weekend turned into six months, and they weren’t ready for six months to turn into 18 years. 

Mom told me I should be the one to put Andy to bed, so I could have some alone time with him one last time. I couldn’t help the tears from falling. I didn’t want him to go. I didn’t want him to go! I was back to feeling like a little kid again, with no choice in the matter. But I pulled myself together and went to see him.

I wanted our last time together to be a happy one, and I felt like I was ruining it. I was smiling but my nose and eyes were red. I sat him on my lap in the rocking chair, pulled out our favorite book, and tried to start reading. My voice cracked on the first word. He looked up at me with his beautiful, curious eyes. With his limited vocabulary, all he kept saying was “Hi! Hi! Hi!” But this wasn’t hi, this was goodbye, but he didn’t know that. Tears steadily streamed down my face while I just looked at him. He took his tiny hands and wiped the tears off both my cheeks, which only made the tears flow harder. He stuck out his tongue, shook his head back and forth, and made funny sounds to try to make me stop crying. It made me giggle, but I knew those tears would be there for a long time. I held him and rocked him until he got tired. Seeing his eyes close while I held him for the last time made me choke. I laid him down, and quickly left the room before I started sobbing. 

He’s eight years old now. Every once in a while, I’ll get a picture or an update about him, but for his safety, I don’t get much. This story isn’t meant to discourage anyone from fostering. Yes, it’s incredibly difficult, but it shaped my life and ideals in a way nothing else could. 

So why do I love working with kids? Andy filled my heart with so much love, and I want to share that love with every kid I come in contact with. He taught me what it’s like for children to be experiencing life for the first time, which in turn taught me patience and compassion. He’ll never have any recollection of who I am, or the time we spent together, but he touched my life in a way no one else ever will. And every year on St. Patrick's day, I’ll have blue pancakes and think of him. 

City Sayler is a queer writer who studied Creative Writing at Southern Oregon University. They are currently hoping to start a career as a freelance writer in Orlando, Florida. If you are interested in hearing more of their work, they can be reached at

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