Yesterday I struggled with whether or not I could celebrate Mother’s Day for myself. I’ve never given birth, or woken up with a teething baby in the middle of the night. I’ve never stood in the rain during a tee-ball tournament, and I’ve never dished out $50 to an entitled teenager for gas money.
Moms are superheroes, and there’s a level of endurance they possess that I still can’t quite fathom. Maybe it’s the oxytocin pumping through her brain, maybe it’s survival-mode, or maybe it’s pure unconditional love.
But at the same time, I feel kind of like a mom sometimes here. My “mama bear instinct” comes out when I see some of my sweet impressionable teens hanging out with one of the “bad boys” at a school event. Something innate in me wants to grab that mouthy kid by the scruff of his leather jacket, and growl out “stay away from my kids, OR ELSE.” (What does “or else” entail? I don’t know. I couldn’t land a good punch to save my life… but it sounds menacing enough. It’s the thought that counts, right?)
There also days like this past weekend, where:
- I cleaned up a toddler who pooped her pants at church. I tried to keep my irritation from surfacing as I thought about how she knows to ask when she has to go to the bathroom, and the 50 times she asks me every day. I peeled back her stinky pants to reveal a nice solid one. And in that moment my irritation dissipated, and was replaced with relief and the thought, “Well that’s a strange color.” She gasped and giggled through her chillly shower, and danced around the room pant-less afterwards. It turned into a classic “bath-time-gigglefest” I’ll treasure for many years.
- I went toe-to-toe with a six-year-old who just simply wanted her way. She cried angry tears directed at me each time I corrected her behavior. She would obey while looking at me with such fierce and serious defiance, I had to look away to stifle my giggles. And then after about ten minutes she’d forget she was angry and ask me to play.
- I sat in a tiny chair next to Virginia and Yenifer at the kid’s table (which I can only fit one leg under). We sometimes have a hard time eating a sufficient amount of food, so we “race” to see who can finish first. This often looks like Virginia taking large mouthfuls, and tapping my arm with her greasy hand to show me her plate with a little less food in between each bite. And Yenfier, she starts off great and then tells me she doesn’t like something (usually the vegetables). So I strongly encouraged her to eat her vegetables at lunch (as in, “you’re not leaving this table until you eat at least three bites of that”).
- There were several moments today I asked a teenager to do (or not do) something, and their response wasn’t the ideal, “yes mam”. In these scenarios I usually make a quick mental pro/con list with questions like: How dramatic is the response going to be? Are they going to mouth back (which would take this “battle” into a different and much longer time bracket)? Were they going to just do it on their own anyway in like five minutes and I’m being impatient? I quickly analyze the data in my mind while staring at them with squinted eyes and a single arched brow. Sometimes during the analyzation, they raise their white flag unable to bear the power of the arched brow (one of my greatest weapons of intimidation). And sometimes, I see them making a pro/con list internally as well… which usually makes me think something else is going on here too, so I should put on my armor. Bring it on pal.
- I scoured Google for home remedies for bee stings. Yesterday Virginia learned not to tease the bees… and is suffering the natural consequences. Her tiny hand is mildly swollen with tiny sausage fingers, and so I started her on some medicine to help with the pain and swelling. Still there were several times that she looked up at me with eyes filled to the brim, a trembling lower lip, and pointed at her puffy hand saying, “Duele!” (It hurts!). And then I’d wrap her in my arms, kiss the angry red welp, and I’d go in search for some ice.
- I held one of my sweet tween girls as big alligator tears rolled down her cheeks and she said, “I miss my mom.” I asked her to tell me about her, and she spilled out a lot of memories. The stories of sadness and pain were mixed in with the good and fun ones. For many of our kids, this is not uncommon. The bond between mother and child goes deep, even if that woman has done horrific things to the child. She still loves her mother, and she’s confused. Confused as to why her mother started drinking, and why her mother left. Confused by her own love for her mother. All I could do was let her cry and affirm that all of it isn’t fair or just. I hated that a holiday meant to celebrate something beautiful, is such a painful reminder for our kids.
Over the last year, I’ve had a lot of “mom” moments like the ones above. I’ve taken shifts staying overnight at the hospital with a child who’s broken a bone after a skating incident. I’ve watched movie-marathons with a kid quarantined with chicken pox, and spoon fed her mashed potatoes and jello. I bought lots of diapers and wipes at the store on the corner in “emergencies”. I carried a sleeping toddler strapped to my back in the mountains. I bring a whole roll of toilet paper to church every Sunday because I know at least 4 children are going to need to use the bathroom. I’ve told stand-offish teenagers that I love them, only to be rejected with a grunt (but I also see that hint of a smile that vanishes so quickly.) I’ve wiped a lot tears, and kissed many boo boos.
Even still, I know I’m not a mom. I don’t live at the home with the kids 24 hours a day 7 days a week. I don’t have to cook for them. I don’t pay for soccer lessons or drive a minivan. I don’t claim any dependents on my tax forms.
And I feel like to claim the status, “Mom”, would be to diminish the crazy work that all the actual moms do out there. It would diminish the countless sleepless nights, hard decisions, potty-training, teen raising, house cleaning, meal prepping, and everything in between that all those real moms actually do. Not to mention creating a human being in your body and then pushing that watermelon-sized baby out.
And likely someday I’ll claim the status of “Mom”, but this week I’ll celebrate the mom moments I’ve had the privilege of experiencing. Where some other mothers have failed these little ones, we have a team of moms at Casa de mi Padre picking up the slack to let these kids know they are loved and valued. I’m thankful participate on that team, and do my part to fill the void.
This week I’ll celebrate the privilege of swiping away tears, getting creamed by Jimmy in checkers, and holding a sweaty toddler as she sleeps soundly in my arms at church. I’ll celebrate the frustrating battles that seemed to have no end, and the miraculous heart softening in the midst of those that can only be God. These are just a few of the moments and memories I’m celebrating. I’ll remember the silliness and the heartache both with fondness, because I know that it’s all part of raising these precious little humans that I love so dearly.
Happy (belated) Mother’s Day y’all. To those of you who are real mothers, and those of you with all the momma love and mom moments!
COURT UPDATE: There haven’t been any major changes since my last update, but there are a few big ones coming up soon. Lucrecia and Elda have one on May 29th, which I’m really bummed I can’t be present for. The court date was set after I had purchased the plane ticket, and so I’ll have to send them with an aresenal of paperwork for the judge. This case is a little nerve-wracking for us, because we aren’t necessarily in agreement with the court as to what’s best for these two girls. Please be praying that the Lord would give the judge wisdom and clarity in this case!
Brenda is getting to know her aunt and uncle well. Her mother is still scheming and manipulating in the background, so be praying that she doesn’t somehow decieve the judge. Brenda’s court case is on June 6.
FUNDS UPDATE: I was so encouraged by several folks reaching out to pledge their monthly support after the last post! My monthly support has doubled due to the generosity of these folks, and I feel like I can breathe quite a bit easier now. I am still $500 away from meeting my monthly giving goal!
On the car fundraising side, things have slowed down quite a bit, I’m thankful that I was able to pay off Spanish school, and that investment has been so valuable to my service here. I still need about $5,000.
If you are curious about what it would look like to get involved through monetary giving, please do not hesitate to give me a call!
I’M COMING BACK TO THE U.S. FOR THREE WEEKS: I will be in the U.S. from May 24 – June 9. I’m thrilled to see you all and share what the Lord has been doing in person. I’ve missed my American family and friends so dearly, and can’t wait to catch up in person! If you’d like meet one-on-one while I’m in town, send me an email or Facebook message.
One great way to kill two birds with one stone (seeing me AND helping raise $$ for the car fund) is to attend the fundraiser at Chiptole on June 3rd 5-9pm. All information is in the photo below:
I would also be more than happy to answer any questions in person for anyone considering joining my support team.