Mom. Mother. Mama. Mommy. For most of us, these words evoke feelings of happiness, warm thoughts and good memories. When I think of my own mom, my heart is filled up. I love my precious mama with all that’s in me. When Jori runs out the door for school and yells “I love you mom, have a great day today”, I can’t keep the smile from my face. Yet these words, that for me are so full of good thoughts and happy feelings, have been giving me a lot of sadness lately.
A little boy I love so dearly was angry yesterday. I said “I think you need a hug” and we sat down together on the steps. He let me hold him for a bit then said “I can’t wait for my mommy to come”. This was not said with excitement and anticipation, but with desperation and sadness. This child was abandoned by his own mother and his heart is crying out to be loved. He is sad and angry and literally hurting at the thought of having to wait for a mommy to come and claim him. He has seen many of his friends return to their biological families or be adopted into new families. He has seen mommies come and hold their children, but is waiting for his own time to come. Imagine, a 4 year old saying “I can’t wait” in a voice that is full of both longing and a sense of hopelessness.
There is a little girl; actually not so little anymore, whose favorite word to say is “mama”. She is so eager for a mommy and a daddy to come a take her home, so eager in fact that it is the only thing she can talk about. I stop in the playroom and ask “How are you lovey?” and her reply is “mama”. Visitors stop in and when they come near her, she gently rubs their arms and says “mama” over and over again. The other day she was having a tantrum over sitting cross-legged. Oh the tears and the arms flailing and the anger pouring from this child. All of this over therapy? How is that possible. So I took her in my arms for a cuddle and talked to her quietly. I asked her if she was hurting somewhere and her little hand came up and she touched her heart. I said “Your heart is hurting” and she shook her head and looked at me with big brown eyes full of tears and said “mama”. This child, who often can’t even tell us which toy she wants to play with, was able to communicate her sadness, so great a sadness that her heart is hurting, for lack of a mama to call her own.
Then there are the ones who still have a mom in the picture. A mom who is facing her own struggles and may be trying her best to make things right, but these things are not easily explained to a child of 2 or even a child of 10. For them, social workers, court systems and parenting programs mean nothing. All they want to know is where is their mother. When is she coming again? Why doesn’t she come more often? I find myself asking these same questions about some of the mothers we come into contact with, but as an adult, I understand that being offered an extra day of work on Saturday is hard to pass up when you have almost no money to your name; even if that was the day you were planning to visit your children. I understand that the job comes first, or you might lose the job and without a job, you’ll never get your children back.
When a little boy with no mother calls “mama, mama, mama” when he is hurting or in pain. When a hurting child stands at a window wailing “Mom-meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee”. When a mother comes to visit and her child doesn’t seem to recognize her anymore. When a new mommy comes to visit one child and the rest are left wondering “When is it my turn” and display their sadness and frustration through tantrums, disobedience and anger. When the word “mama” is uttered in sadness, longing, frustration and pain, my heart breaks.