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Day 170: Back-up Mom

mother_child_79“Children are one third of our population and all of our future.” ~Select Panel for the Promotion of Child Health, 1981

I grew up in an unfortunate family with parents who were unhappy and dissatisfied with themselves and each other. There was little left for the kids and no real relationships developed or were fostered in the house. Culminating in an ugly divorce, the distance between my friends who had families that functioned and my own experience felt like a universe apart. I know this has been perhaps the biggest driving force in my life, not only creating a family that works, but making my life work about the importance of relationships.

My children benefit from my devotion to family in ways they can’t imagine themselves. Not so for some of their friends. Each of my children have befriended kids whose home life resembled some of my own past experience or worse. Many parents, not out of lack of love, but just from being overwhelmed by their own experience are not emotionally available for their children. Some of the kids live with parents who are lost to drug addiction, alcoholism and depression. Some just don’t have enough of themselves to even witness the child in front of them.

One of my greatest privileges that fills my days and our house are the numerous children that count on me as back-up mom. I remember well how badly I needed someone at my back when there was no one there for me. I am honored to be that person for a tribe of kids who need someone. It gives me hope, this open door that our home represents to so many of my children’s friends. I am happy to offer them a home cooked meal and a ready ear. Often, it is me who does the talking, naming the elephant in the room and offering them a language to understand and communicate their experience.

I want them to know that their present is not a predictor of their future. I want them to know that their parents’ choices do not have to reflect their own. I want them to know that the world they live in, not of their own making is not the truth about who they are or what their relationships can be. I push them to express themselves and help them to identify what safety feels like, in themselves and in a home.

I believe it is true that, “children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.” And I am glad that I can be a second mom to so many kids. It may well be the most positive accomplishment I offer to this world. I know when I was lonely and lost, it was the people who became my family, if only briefly that inspired me to keep my heart open to life’s possibilities. The kids who need love are everyone’s kids. It is perhaps the most powerful reminder that we are all related to the same future.