Monday, October 21, 2013

Broken Teeth and Broken Lives: If We Weren't "Just" Moms

We read the document line by line, our plea to the judge to make this brown-eyed girl our own.  Our lawyer had drawn it up for us, ensuring that while this would be a lengthy process, it really was not all that complicated.

“Richard Whittemore, married, pilot, resident at….”

So far so good.

“Ashley Whittemore, married, just a mom, resident at…”

I paused.

“Just?” I said. “Just a mom?”

It was clear that the irony of the situation was lost on our lawyer. But because my third language is not yet apt to communicate emotions appropriately, I chose to let it go.

But later I began to think through the implication of that one little word “just”, tossed in there, seemingly out of habit. After all, this is not normal legal lingo. He didn’t say that Richard is “just a pilot” or that we were “just married” or “just residents”.

He was, knowingly or otherwise, communicating a common perception that this whole thing about raising up little humans is “just” something to be done.

Something we take care of in our spare time.

I decided to flip the situation around so maybe we can get a better idea. Maybe we can see what happens when someone is not “just” a mom.

I can do this because I am living it.

Because our adopted daughter’s birth mom JUST didn’t brush her daughter’s teeth, my daughter now has an ongoing gum infection. Several of her adult teeth are now mere fragments and she will have to have crowns to replace them. We have to do a mouth treatment several times a day, just to try to keep the infection at bay.

Because she JUST didn’t watch out for her daughter, but left her in the streets as a vulnerable little girl, my daughter now has scars from experiences that no adult should endure, much less a child. These will affect her for years to come and we will constantly deal with the psychological effects.

Because she JUST didn’t feed her child, but left her to eat candy and Cheetos all day, my daughter looks like she has highlights in her hair, but it’s the effects of malnutrition. For the first two weeks she lived with us, she asked us every single day if she would get to eat.  She didn’t know the word for dinner. Before bed she would ask if she could eat again tomorrow.  We had to teach her to chew thoroughly, take reasonable sized bites, eat slowly, enjoy the food because she devoured every meal as if it were her last.

Because she JUST didn’t bathe her daughter, my daughter had a massive scalp infection that required two medications and a special shampoo for two weeks to heal the infection and kill the unbelievable amount of lice that had taken up residence in her hair.

Because she JUST didn’t care about the educational needs of her daughter, my daughter now struggles to learn, period. She is almost seven years old and doesn’t know her basic shapes, doesn’t know the difference between a number and a letter, has difficulty remembering anything, and struggles to understand basic concepts.

Because she JUST didn’t teach her daughter to speak her emotions and work through them in a healthy way, my daughter literally has the capability to shut off completely. Her blank stare will pierce right through you. It takes hours upon hours to break down the walls that she has built up.

Because she JUST never said “I love you” to her daughter, my daughter looked at me with surprise the first time I said it to her and said, “You love me?”

And the list goes on.

So if being “just a mom” means I brush my kids’ teeth, keep them away from people and situations that will physically and/or emotionally harm them, feed them nutritious meals, give them baths, teach them, guide them, love them—well, then that’s what I’ll be.

Because I’ve seen what happens when someone isn’t “just” a mom. I see it every single day in my oldest daughter. I see it on this street and in this town while twelve year old little girls walk around pregnant, young boys steal and lie. And worse.

And I can’t help but think that maybe, just maybe, if Mariclene’s mom had had someone that was “just” a mom to her, things could look a whole lot different.

This mom business is hard. It is exhausting and draining. There are nights that I collapse in bed and feel overwhelmed with the job that I have been entrusted with to raise these little people into adults that fear the Lord. It requires great sacrifice.

Whether you have one or twelve, this is a hefty load we “just moms” carry. So lets be gracious to one another.  Let’s carry on another’s burdens. Let's encourage and build up. Let’s teach our children to value this mom gig so that the next generation will have a greater understanding of the importance.

But most of all, let’s rely on the God’s grace and do this “just mom” job well.

It’s just so important.

{Side note: I wrote this from a mom’s perspective because I am one and the thought was sparked by the “just a mom” comment. I want to say that the father’s role is EQUALLY as important in a child’s life. God created the roles of both Father and Mother and while they vary in many ways in how they play out day to day, neither is more important than the other and this is a value that should be taught to our children. Much of society’s issues also stem from the lack of godly fathers and role models.}
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