Someone Else's Child

I've always loved other people's children.  I was the preschooler who hauled her baby sister around long before I could make my own bowl of cereal. I loved my summer camp as a kid but found a home there as a counselor loving on my campers.  After a disastrous stint at McKinsey, I became a pediatric nurse because the only thing I love more than someone else's child is said child when they are sick.  Sick babies are my jam.  And on the days when Betsy is driving me nuts, I manage to delight in the antics of our friends' kids, if only because I know I get to give them back soon.

We've already established that I'm a worrier.  It probably doesn't come as a galloping shock to anyone that when I'm not worrying about Betsy, I'm worrying about someone else's child.  I worry that Azalea needs to sleep (and her sweet mama does, too).  I worry about Aidan, who fell and busted his lip last week.  I worry about Ellie becoming a big sister, even though she's the bravest little girl I know - and even as I know that my brother and sister are the greatest things my parents ever gave me.

What I didn't expect in becoming a mom is that I would start to worry about children I didn't know, too. 

And so these days I'm worrying about girls in Rwanda who don't have the systemic protection they need to keep them safe.  Not to keep them healthy -- not to get them to school on time -- to keep them safe.  Dear God.

I worry about kids down the street who don't have enough to eat at night, or a safe place to lay their heads.  We got word from our pastor that a local organization turned away twenty children on Thursday alone because they don't have enough foster homes. Twenty.  

And my heart is completely torn up by the children arriving in droves across the border in Texas and Arizona. I think about if that were me and Betsy - alone in a foreign country, with no home, no money, no phone-a-friends.  Even more chilling, I imagined if this were an improvement over our current living situation - if the place I'd called home for my entire life was so dangerous, so destitute that taking Betsy and leaving - or, worse, sending Betsy by herself - seemed like my only viable option.  

The words we use in this situation scare me.  That's not an alien crossing our border - it's someone else's child.  And we're mamas.  Motherhood sits at the core of our identity, the presence that exists once class and power and nationality are stripped away.  No matter where I go or what I do, I'm a mama first. If these were American children walking by themselves across a Target parking lot, we would already have called the police, found them some graham crackers and organized a community meeting. 

I don't know what to do, and my mama heart aches over it.  I'm wary of any quick fix, too familiar with a long history of jumping in, "solving things" and leaving a wake that's more painful than the initial problem.  But I'd be lying if I said I hadn't contemplated hopping on a plane to Texas and coming home with as many of these sweet babes as I could carry.  

More broadly, it makes me think hard about words like "plenty" and "enough."  On a morning when I woke up to a sink full of dishes, a pile of diapers to wash and a shower that's leaking into the apartment downstairs - I woe-is-me'd through my cheerios, my steamy shower, my snack of locally grown organic plums.  I'm blessed beyond measure and I don't even notice.