I cringed when the babysitter told me you played social worker instead of doctor and wondered if, despite my diligence, you picked up bits and pieces of overheard work phone conversations at the tender age of five.
I cringed when midway through a trial I remembered that I forgot to send you to school with money for the flower sale. My heart sunk, imagining your six-year-old self sitting off to the side while your classmates carefully chose and picked out their favorites.
I cringed when you called me because you forgot your lunch and I couldn’t bring it to you. It was fish stick day. What horrible timing.
I cringed every time the stress of my job created stress at home and you soaked it up much like your skin soaked up the sun the day your babysitter forgot to re-dose you with a hefty amount of sunscreen.
Most days I balanced your needs with needs of motherless children. I often worried all of you were short-changed. I did the best I could and tried to convince myself it was good enough.
I swelled with pride the day you boldly proclaimed I did not need to come with you as you took your little foster cousin outside to play. From the living room window I watched you spread out a quilt and sprinkle it with toys and books. You set her down and automatically bent her legs at the knee just like the physical therapist suggested. Her little hand reached out to you and you instinctively leaned in and kissed her on the forehead. Such tenderness coming from my boy astounded me. Maybe somewhere, somehow, seeds of compassion were sown into your heart when I wasn’t looking.
Relief washed over me when you bounced out of school with delicate hands full of tiny plants ready to grow. You were all smiles when you relayed how your teacher slipped you a five dollar bill. Somehow, your carefully chosen plants were made more special by the fact that someone other than your mom took care of a problem for you.
I laughed out loud when you told me your aunt brought you McDonald’s on fish stick day. What started out as a mini-crisis morphed into a treat. I laughed harder when you suggested perhaps you should forget your lunch more often.
Growing the three of you in this world reminds me that when I fail or forget or mess up, it will be OK. I’ve learned there are others who will right my wrongs, remember when I forget, be there when I can’t. Because of this, I know that despite the horrors, the suffering of so many, the anger and hatred spewed over politics and other contentious issues, the world will be OK. Really, it will be, as long as we help each other and the helpless.
As you have grown, your gifts to the world have grown as well. I remember this when another mom randomly stops me at the grocery store and thanks me for raising such a great kid. You’ve been extraordinarily kind to her daughter at school who’s been having a hard time. I want to save the facebook message I receive from a woman who echoes the same sentiments about your sister. I hang onto all the words I’ve heard in dozens of parent-teacher conferences for the three of you over the years. Compassionate. Kind. Driven. Problem-solver. Joy. Bright. Helper. Funny. Determined. Gift.
Gift indeed. What a gift each of you is and what gifts you bring to our hurting world.
Happy Mother’s Day to the stay-at-home moms who helped me in a pinch. Happy Mother’s Day to the working moms who covered for me when my own kids needed me more. Happy Mother’s Day to the teachers who cherished my children and went the extra mile for them. Happy Mother’s Day to their aunts and grandmas who do things like bring them McDonald’s, take them shopping, take them on vacation, and love them wholeheartedly.
Finally, Happy Mother’s Day to the mothers of the motherless who stand in the gap and lovingly care for their foster children with a fierce and loyal love that will stay with those kids forever.