Raising a child who isn’t yours isn’t an easy task. When that child has lived a life full of torment, abuse, neglect, and disappointment, the task becomes exponentially harder. Still, there are angels among us who face that challenge head-on, and we call them foster parents. One woman, only identified as “Jamie,” is one such Godsend, especially for one little girl.
Most of us couldn’t begin to imagine what it must be like to move five times in five months, living with different people each time. But, that’s exactly what a 2-year-old little girl had to endure when she was placed in foster care. When Jamie became the girl’s foster parent, her home was the girl’s 5th residence in just five months. Although she had no idea what to expect, Jamie wanted to make sure she gave the child the best experience she could.
So, the foster mother welcomed the toddler with open arms and expected her children to do the same. To her delight, the other kids in her home were the perfect welcoming committee. “She walks in confidently and with a smile. She knows the drill,” Jamie wrote about the experience in a post for Love What Matters, sharing the moment she met the toddler who at just 2 years old was already conditioned to the life of a foster child.
“I get down on my knees and say, ‘Hi, sweetie. My name is Jamie. I’m so glad you’ve come to stay with us. Do you want to go meet the kids?’” Jamie recalled. The mini-tour guides gave the new child a warm welcome, asking if she wanted to see her bed or if she wanted a doll or a snack. They even told the new foster child that they loved her as Jamie explained, “They’re the key to a new child feeling at home.”
Then, just minutes after being in her new home, the toddler would say something to Jamie that shocked her new foster parent but for reasons that most of us might not initially realize or consider. After wandering around the house with the other kids for what Jamie says was approximately 11 minutes, she runs into the room with a smile.
The little girl approaches her new foster parent, looks at Jamie, and says, “Look, mommy!” She exclaims the word “mommy,” addressing the woman she met only 11 minutes before, Jamie points out, before explaining why hearing that one word hit her so hard.
“To this little girl, ‘mommy’ meant the female adult of the house, the lady who reached something you couldn’t and refilled your juice. Having five ‘mommies’ in five months, she hadn’t yet had the chance to learn what mommy meant,” Jamie said before relaying what “mommy” means to most of us.
“Mommy meant falling asleep on shoulders, kissing skinned knees, teaching ABCs. Mommy meant helping homework, whispering about friends, sitting outside dressing rooms. Mommy meant taking pictures at graduation, hugging on (a) wedding day, cuddling grandchildren,” Jamie wrote.
“Mommy meant security. Mommy meant commitment. Mommy meant life-long love,” Jamie continued, detailing all of the many things that “mommy” means to most of us that this child didn’t yet understand. This little girl hadn’t had the experiences with a mother to teach her this life lesson. To her, mommy was just a name you called a woman who was bigger than you.
“She was only two years old, though, with a biological mom working hard to get her back and a foster mom willing to step in if she couldn’t,” Jamie continued before concluding with a bold vow for this little girl. “This little girl had the hope of learning that mommy isn’t just what you call a female who helps you,” she said, adding this child still had the chance to forget that mommy could ever be just a name. “This little girl would know what mommy meant. This little girl would have a mommy.”
While this little girl needed someone like Jamie to enter her life to teach her what mommy means, each of us who are lucky enough to be parents wake up with an opportunity to make sure we are instilling those lessons in our own children. Make sure mommy or daddy isn’t just someone who pays the bills, cleans the house, cooks dinner, and mows the lawn.
Teach them that mommy and daddy are also there to hold their hand when they need comfort. They are an open ear when you don’t know who else to talk to and the soft place to land when the world gets rough. Parents are lessons learned and laughter shared. They are not only firm discipline but kisses and kindness too. Like Jamie, let’s vow that the children entrusted to us will know what mommy — and daddy — really means.