Cute Factor

Puppy ToniHadi

Photo: Toni Hadi

 

He was born without home

And no prospect of more

But his adorability-factor

Ensured

He’d capture good hearts

Galore!

 

 

For Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Cute factor

 

 

Mystery Mom

church pew AMDB7 on Flickr

Photo: AMDB7 on Flickr

 

She doesn’t know who her mom is. She was left as a newborn, wrapped in a piece of old bedsheet, under a pew in the church. Or so the story goes.

She spent her first year in the orphanage. Many mewling mouths and too few holding arms. She found a way to survive.

Halfway into her second year she got picked up, fussed over with odd sounds, carried out of the room that had been her world. It was confusing. It was good. It was a lot.

She has a family now. They love her. They are patient. Most of the time. They try.

She’s a big girl. Almost ten. She understands. Sometimes.

She still can’t help but wonder who she is. What made her undesirable. Why she was left, naked not only of clothes but of clues.

She still can’t help but wonder about the woman who’d had her, then left without a sound. The woman who isn’t even mist and fog of memory and yet she still is tethered to in heart and mind. Her Mystery Mom.

 

 

 

For The Daily Post

Empty

(Dedicated with love to the children who survived, and to those who couldn’t.)

Luchenza Orphanage by photocillin on Flickr

Orphanage by photocillin on Flickr

 

There were no toys. There were no hugs.

There were no hands to pat wet eyes.

There were no smiles. There were no songs.

There were no calming lullabies.

There were long nights. There were cold days.

There were no comforts when one cried.

There was just time.

Immense.

Indefinite.

There was just fear.

Impervious.

Infectious.

There were blank stares.

A deafening silence.

There were human metronomes

Rocking in desperate absence.

 

There were no words.

There still aren’t any.

Just threads of heart

To weave the splintered

Into many.

 

 

 

 

For The Daily Post

Tenacity

orphanage

 

He lay alone. A crib among a sea of cribs.

No one. No home.

Lifted, unwrapped, rewrapped, put down.

Indistinct sounds

Disembodied cries: His own? Others? Anyone?

His voice ignored.

Too many babies, too few staff.

He learned to rock himself to sleep.

His mind took him away from hunger, fear, despair, exhaustion.

Alone.

Alone.

Alone.

Contracted world. Folded unto its own.

 

Eternity.

 

Then in the numbing monotony

Different arms.

 

Lifted into chaos

Faces too close, movement too rapid, changes too many.

Sounds mouthed.

Rapid. Jumbled. Urgent.

Unknown.

Numbness threatened, overwhelm piled on.

Snail in. Check out. Burrow deep into alone.

 

Still something tugged. Come back.

Smiles. Cooing. Soft hands.

Gentle rocking that filtered into his own and

Enveloped

Awakened

Yearning. Sorrow. Despair. Hope. Panic. Need.

Too much. Too much. Too much.

He fled into his mind.

He peeked out. Fled back in.

Moments alternated:

Aware, away, awake, afraid, alarmed, asleep.

 

Days passed on

Eternity or weeks or months.

Soft words repeated gently

More faces

More holding arms

In rocking, humming, tenderness

Language.

Song.

New scaffold rose as

Meaning slowly dispersed fog

Into words.

A world.

Gentle hands.

Comfort.

Soothing voices at disembodied cries: his own?

His own.

His voice.

Calling.

For someone.

To come.

And they come.

 

 

 

For The Daily Post

A Forever Family

The little boy was beaming yesterday.

“You know what?” he said, having barely parked himself on the little chair in my office.

“What?” I pretended.

“I’m SO happy.”

“You are!” I exclaimed, smiling. Even a boulder would see that the little guy was delighted. Delighted and relieved, actually.

“Now my parents can be my REAL parents!” he gushed. He sobered then–this boy does not take family for granted. Abandoned at birth with visible deformities, trundled through foster care homes and more losses, and finally finding an adoptive home with parents who were dedicated to him and where he was cherished. “If something happens to Daddy …” he paused, “then Papa will still be my father.”

He reached for my hand, excited and a little scared at what he just stated, momentarily overwhelmed by the proximity of both loss and hope. It took a lot of love to get this boy trusting that his home was a ‘forever home’ and that he was really wanted; and sometimes worry still snuck in, triggered by the destabilizing challenges of very real uncertainty.

Such as when he needed surgery and only one of his adoptive parents was allowed to escort him to the operating room, because only ‘legal guardians’ could, and the law did not allow both his parents to adopt him, only one. Daddy was recognized as his parent. Papa was not. It scared him that people could say that Papa was somehow not his real father, that other people could — again — decide about his life.

Or when his legal parent was away on business and the new school guard gave the boy’s papa trouble picking him up because there was no official note on file indicating that he was among the ‘approved caregivers.’ It took a tense while to locate the classroom teacher to confirm that this man that the boy called “Papa” was indeed one of his parents and had collected the boy from school before. For several days later this little boy refused to go to school. He insisted on waiting for Daddy to return. He was scared that school people won’t let Papa take him home.

Now in my office, this little boy fiddled with my bracelet, as children often do when they are feeling a little tender but need to be the ones establishing how much connection to allow. “Sometimes at nighttime I have bad dreams … about having to go back to foster care.” He looked up at me, dark eyes like deer in headlights, hair framing his little face in a frizzy halo.

I squeezed his hand gently. He looked at his papa, who was sitting quietly with us, his own eyes bright, and allowing his son–son in all ways but legally until now that the Supreme Court declared the constitutional right for equality in marriage and family–the space for these complicated feelings.

The boy reached out for his father and received a hug. “It is  going to be more safer now, right?” the boy asked, face buried in his father’s shirt.

“Sure is,” the father planted a kiss on his son’s head, who at not yet six years old was already a veteran of too many worries. “Your home is with me and Daddy. We are a family, you and Daddy and I.”

“And Priscilla!” the boy added in reassured indignation. “You forgot Priscilla!”

His father chuckled. There was no forgetting Priscilla the ever-into-something dog. “Of course, Priscilla is part of our family, too!”

The boy snuggled into his father’s hug another moment. Sighed contentedly. Peeked at me and smiled. “The judges said that my Papa can also be my father now. Like my Daddy. Forever and ever and ever and ever.”

family

Making Friends

schoolmates

“I have a best friend!” he announced.

The little boy was a tad breathless from climbing up the stairs, but also from the excitement of the news he had to share and what it meant to him.

“You do!” I grinned. This was the first time I saw him since the summer break, and evidently this was the highlight of the boy’s current experience.

“Yes! His name is Andy and he is in my class and he has a sister and he is my best friend … my BEST-friend!” Breath, breath, grin, “we’re even the same tallness!” (delighted sigh)

“You are best friends and you are the same height?” I smiled. His joy was absolutely infectious. “This is super cool!”

I am yet to meet a child who is not delighted in friendship though it is harder to come by for some than for others. This little one had it the more challenging way. Always the smallest in his class in stature, always a tad behind in understanding, two seconds slower to get to an answer, a bit clumsy, a little late to catch a joke or ball … Remnants of the difficult beginning of his life and the deprivation that his brain endured to oxygen and possibly nutrition even before he was born; remainders of the excess of chemicals that no developing neurology should have to be exposed to. Alcohol. Narcotics. Who knows what more.

A heart the size of the Pacific, and a soul to light the universe and yet … friends did not come easy to this boy. Somehow groups formed to his exclusion. Somehow best-friends paired up without him. Most children were not unkind, just egocentric, and he was just odd enough, slow enough, different enough, to fail first-choice.

“Andy’s a total doll,” the boy’s adoptive mother confirmed. “They have been inseparable all summer. They are exactly the same height, by the way … They met at summer camp,” she paused, letting me understand. The summer day camp my little client went to was geared especially to include those who had some challenges: children whose difficulties may be invisible to most and yet no less compelling; children with sensory integration issues, with language and attention and learning and a-little-slower-on-the-uptake issues; children who often found it a little harder to keep up … or to make and keep friends.

“Yea!” the little boy jumped in, “and then he came to my class and he was new but I already know him so we are each other best-friends!”

How perfect. For once this boy–so often the follower and tag-along–was let to lead … even if he was to be a shepherd for one (for now …). For once he knew more about something or someone than others or was at the very least aware enough of it. For once he did not have to compete because the connection was already made during the summer and seamlessly continued from day-campers to schoolmates.

“Other kids can be his friends,” he noted sagely, “I have other friends, too, and some of them want to be his friends also. That’s okay. But Andy and me … we are best-friends anyway.”

Heart the size of the Pacific. Soul that lights the Universe. Eyes that twinkle to the Gods.

This little Andy, he got lucky. He got himself the best best-friend there was.

Mamma’s mistake

bubble happy

A six-year-old adopted child:

“My first Mamma said I was a mistake, but you see, she made a mistake. I’m not a mistake. Her mistake was that she didn’t know how to love me. I feel sad that she wasn’t very good with love.”

 

I am humbled.

be kind to unkind people

 

Love Mothers

mother

To all the mothers

And all who mother:

Happy Mother’s Day.

To all who listen, hold, support, 

Who remember the small things that matter

Who kiss the hurts 

Hug the sorrows,

Who shine with pride and

Cheer the loudest as they 

Clap delight:

Happy Mother’s Day.

To those who raise from babies 

or late childhood 

or adulthood.

To those who foster safety

Where none was before.

To those who make a home

For hours, days, a week, a life time

And write upon the slate of heart to let one know

That to be mothered, is to be loved:

Happy Mother’s Day.

To all the mothers

Biological, adoptive, temporary or forever

To all who open hearts to others

Just because they know

That love can mother

And that mothering

Can heal

And so they do:

Happy Mother’s Day.

And may you be loved

And mothered,

Too.

love mothers

Heartbeat of love

heartbeat

The little boy had a difficult beginning. Born unwelcome, left at an orphanage in a rural area overseas, raised in a crib in a room full of other babies in cribs–bereft of stimulation or affection or even much in the way of nourishment, when funds at the orphanage were low.

He was among the fortunate ones who survived infancy, and was adopted at age two, to parents who showered all the love they had on him and then found that they had even more to give when that threatened to run out. He was not easy to care for, you see. Unresponsive, non-communicative, alternately rubbing himself against their legs like a kitten, squirming to get off, or slumping like a lump of potatoes in their arms. He either cried inconsolably or stared stoically. He would eat things that should not be eaten and hide foods that should. He could not fall asleep unless he was in an empty bed, never a quiet room, and only after a long while of rhythmic head banging. He barely spoke. Only sometimes responded to his name. It was not looking good.

Fortunately, these parents had excellent instincts, stout souls, and good guidance. They sought help to know how to best assist a child so traumatized that he had learned to take himself away to cope. How to support a child who did not know others could be relied on. How to guide into love a child who did not recognize affection as markers for attachment or caring. They did not believe those who said that their son was autistic. “Maybe he is,” they argued, “but how could we know if he’s autistic, if he never had a chance to truly communicate?”

They sought other opinions and took him to speech language therapy and sensory therapy. They went to counseling themselves–there was much heartbreak to deal with in finally having a child and finding him unwelcoming of love. They looked for help with someone who understood developmental trauma and the adjoining dissociation that often follows–they wanted to know more how to best support him. They knew just loving him more was not enough: they had to find a way to help him process what he’d lived before he could find hope to live differently. Together with professionals, they worked to help give voice to what had none, they walked with him along the story of his lost beginning and his suffering and his strength and masterful coping and his current safety. He needed to know it in all of his being before he could trust it. Gently, they helped him heal.

Persistent gentle kindness integrated with knowledgeable attention and direction helped. The child bloomed. He is no longer checked out from his world, or words, or feelings. He’s in first grade now. Still closing gaps in language and communication, and he may always carry scars from his early years and a plausible exposure to substances before birth that make it difficult for him to regulate his body’s reactions and excitement. However, a more affectionate little boy you would be pressed hard to find. He’s happy. He knows he’s loved.

Not too long ago we were busy with a task where we listed things one does in the morning, or after school, or on weekends, or in a mall, or a park, or before going to sleep at night. To the last he said: “take a bath, brush my teeth, read a book, put my head on mama or papa’s chest.”

I smiled at that–the mom told me that they had a nightly routine where they’d cuddle, making up for the many lonely nights of empty cribs and no arms to rock him. They would snuggle together for a while, let him use them as a pillow, then kiss him goodnight. The parents had held him most the night when he was younger, once he let them.

The boy nodded at me, maybe taking my quiet smile as a sign that he needed to convince me of the veracity of what he was saying, or its importance. “Mama is softer, …” he continued, “and papa’s chest boo-booms louder. I like it. It makes me feel nice inside and it helps me not feel like I have to bang my head.”

Enough said.