“Don’t give it a second thought,” she said. “They will start disappearing next year and by fifth grade the school will be begging you to be room mother.” She was absolutely right. I was the class room mom for the next several years and noticed a huge drop off in parental involvement. Now that my child is a teenager, she knows girls who basically only see their parents a few minutes before bed and maybe a minute or two in the morning.
As a somewhat older mom, I have friends whose children are long grown. We have all noticed a dramatic increase in children and even way too many adults who have a tremendous desire and need to be mothered. We can see the gaping hole where their mother’s love and nurturing should have been. You can almost feel the pain and longing in their tone of voice without having to even hear their stories.
Each person has their own story and I am sure there are as many reasons for the lack of proper nurturing and parental love in the lives of these people as there are people. The reality is that I can’t change their past. As my own child began to make relationships outside of our house with other children and now teens, I have tried to fill any part of any “mother void” I see in the children and even moms that I meet. Sometimes it is hard to know if anything you do can even make a difference.
We don’t go into it every time we meet someone, but we actually have two daughters. About ten years ago, an orphanage started in Mexico. We chose to help sponsor one of the first children who came to live there. She is about our daughter’s age and they think of each other as sisters.
At times, it gets frustrating for me as a parent. I know if we could have adopted her and brought her to live with us, there is so much more I could have done to help “parent her like Hannah” as we have our own daughter. That wasn’t our reality. My influence is reduced to letters, Christmas and birthday presents and infrequent week long visits where we can spend lots of time with her.
I was talking last summer with a friend of mine who had recently adopted an older child. We talked about the joys and struggles of working with children who had not only not received everything they needed from their parents, but had actually been harmed by the people who gave birth to them. Some of the pain we had seen was so deep, we could not even imagine what it would feel like.
We knew we were depending on God so much when trying to help these children. We also knew we had to be realistic. Despite our high hopes and our best efforts, we may not be able to help them enough. As educators and parents, that felt so hopeless. Then we remembered two things. One is that God can fill any gaps we were unable to fill. The other was that God only expected us to do what we could with what we had.
In the Bible story about the talents, the master only expected his servants to use the talents he had given them and increase those to the best of their ability. There is nothing mentioned about them also going and taking other things and increasing those too. They may have done that to increase the talents, but their charge was to use what they had and do the best they could with it.
I think as moms who are focused on loving our children and dedicating them to God, we can increase our reach for God a little. There are so many children and so many of our fellow parents who need a little positive “mothering”. What if we just took every opportunity God gave us to just do one thing to help that person feel more loved and valued? Could we make a positive difference in more lives? Could we model God’s love and value for them through our “mother’s” love of them so that they turn to God?
I have found I don’t even have to go very far or really try very hard to start trying to help “mother” other people’s children. One of the privileges parents of elementary children have is to have lunch with them in the school cafeteria. Even with my degree in education, I was shocked at how much most children are starving for positive attention. The kids at my daughter’s lunch table talked my ears off. There was so much they were excited or worried about. They grabbed at the chance to be really heard by an adult.
My daughter often gets tickled because I end up mothering the children of even total strangers. Trips to the zoo, aquarium or other child gathering places usually involve at least one conversation a strange child strikes up with me. I try to listen as if they are a fellow adult and what they are telling me is just as important to me at that moment as it is to them. Frankly, most of the time it is. Kids are great. They have such an interesting perspective on everything and I find my talks with them refreshing.
When I was growing up, my family would jokingly “adopt” other children. Their parents may have worked long hours or they lived at a children’s home or a boarding school near us. We would pick them up on the way to events to make sure they got there. We would often pull to the side of the road to let a child jump in for a ride home instead of walking the four or five miles ahead of them. We took children to cultural events with us and rarely was there a night without extra people at the table.
We have tried to do that in our own family. When we are in Mexico, we try to take several other of the children from the orphanage with us on at least some outings. If a child’s mother here regularly forgets to send food to activities overlapping meal times, I will send extra food with my child for her friend. I have had several kids over the years call me their adopted mom and I often tease our most frequent visitors that they are my “other daughter from another mother”. Frankly, even kids with great moms can always use a little more love and support in this harsh world.
Sometimes I will ask children that I am exposed to in life what is the most exciting or the most concerning thing in their life right now. I especially try to at least touch base with the kids who look depressed, hurting or angry. No matter how great their mothers are, I may be the only mother around at that moment. They need any loving, caring mom they can find to nurture them and give them great advice. I have no problem offering to fill even a temporary void.
Should I have the privilege of having a child in my Bible class, I get really excited. Here is my chance to really throw a little “Hannah parenting” at them! Some of my old Bible class students are long grown with kids of their own now. It is always amazing to me how much they still remember from the things we did in class. I especially love it when I hear one of them say, “You couldn’t get out of her class without having learned that!”
Can I point to any child and say that child is a Christian and has a wonderful, perfect life now because of my temporary mothering? No, and I doubt seriously my own child will have a perfect life with no “faith bumps” in it. I do know that I hope every child I meet knows they are valued and loved not only by me but by God. I try to think of it as planting as many seeds as I can for God. Only God can give the increase, but maybe if I am intentional about it, I can be the Johnny Appleseed of planting the seeds of God’s love with every child I meet.
I hope as you try to dedicate your own child’s life to God, you will join me in sharing your mother’s love with the other children in the world. Only God knows what those seeds of love and nurturing you try to plant may do in the life of the children you meet. All I know for sure is that I will do everything I can to help more children eventually make it to heaven. I plan to take it one conversation, one outing and one hug at a time. I pray you will join me!