Dear fellow mom,
I was sitting on the floor, leaning against a bookshelf in the children's section at the library, watching my 19 month old play with blocks. A young girl plopped next to me, took Zeke into her lap, and started talking away to him, stroking her fingers against his arms and patting his head. I was a bit surprised that a stranger would come and so boldly do that, and I think Zeke was a bit surprised as well, but he just looked at her and didn't resist. I looked at her, too. I noticed her Asian heritage and her Down Syndrome features. She and I sat in conversation until we were joined by a younger girl, also Asian, also Special Needs, who demanded we face a different direction and watch her play with the large circular turning ball maze thing on the wall. We were joined by my 3 year old, who was quizzed by this younger girl on the colors of the balls, and I wanted to laugh every time she referred to each of us as "Sweetie Pie" since it made her sound so much older than even me.
I can understand your embarrassment when you found your daughter holding my toddler. I would probably make apologies as well if my children were found holding babies that were strangers. But it really didn't bother me. Both girls were so sweet and gentle and loving and I was right there with them. I made certain to try to assure you of all that. You were so apologetic.
My heart cheered for your older daughter when you told me how far she'd come in being gentle with young children and how she is finally able to be your teenage helper in your church nursery. You could just see this genuine and large love she has for small ones.
And then my heart broke. It broke when you shared how people at your church would see your daughter coming and they would pick up their babies and walk in the other direction. It hurt for you when you told me that you and your husband had gotten more than you bargained for when you got these girls. How you said that 99% of the time you're simply exhausted and weary.
By this time Zeke had gotten up to walk around and it looked like he was followed by ducklings with the way your girls walked after him, so attentive. And within the second it took me to look at you while you were speaking, your eldest tried to hug Zeke and he tripped, and fell backward, hitting his head on the floor. I saw the way you tried to hold it together to not speak more harshly to your daughter, while still scolding her with a "That's why you can't hold babies!" I understand, truly. He calmed so quickly, however, and truly - he falls all throughout the day and this was a pretty small one.
But you gathered your girls up and relented to letting them give Zeke hugs and "I'm sorry"s while I held him. Then you tried to usher them to the checkout desk and out the door. I could hear in your voice how very tired you were, how frustrated and ready to snap you seemed.
I felt a prompting to go hug you. Just to walk over to the desk, give you a hug, and tell you that you are a good mom. What you're doing is a hard thing, but a good thing. You welcomed into your home girls who were unwelcome in their world. You are weary, yes. You are faced with parenting challenges I cannot relate to, yes. But these girls are sweet, and it sounds like they have grown and continue to grow under your mothering.
And I ignored it. I watched you all walk away and felt an immediate guilt for not following the Spirit's prompting to encourage another mother, another tired, weary, worn out, doubt-filled sister. I apologize. I know how many times I just want someone to hug me and give a word of encouragement, remind me that the days are long but the years are short, and that it's ok to just have a good long cry sometimes. I should have done that for you.
I will let it be a reminder to me the importance of encouraging others.
"But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin."