Archive - August 2018

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Say Mama, a reflection on the orphan crisis
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Let them be little… and have conflicts

Say Mama, a reflection on the orphan crisis

I woke up early this morning, which is typical. I’m a morning person through and through. My best hours are 5-7am accompanied by strong coffee that I constantly forget and reheat. After years of small kids I know no other way to drink coffee. I took out the dog and puttered in the kitchen and then I read, checked email and scrolled facebook for a minute or two, something that is part of work for me and always in my morning routine: a quick scroll, answering messages and posting on the One Orphan page. A sweet little video popped up and I watched for a moment. A darling, blonde toddler was watching the Good Dinosaur and crying a bit over the dinosaur’s accident. He had fallen and was separated. With tears in her eyes she called out to the screen, get up! She said this a few times and then changed her tone, he needs his mama, say mama, she said, say mama she called to the screen.

For a moment I envisioned a world in which all children knew that they could say mama and receive aid. But that’s not our reality. Instead we live in a sin-ravaged world that leaves millions of children without the safety net of family and thousands more within families that cannot care for them properly due to a plethora of situations.

This week, and weeks before, I sent teams to stand in as surrogates. To hold and feed and support for just a minute. They are trained, they know how to enter carefully and minimize their presence… to enter as a supporting role to the overworked and overwhelmed in-coutry staff. To purchase supplies locally, to hire out work locally and to not impress our American ways on another culture.  They know all the things.

That’s the hard part. We know now. We’ve known for a long time. Orphan care got really big in Christian circles in the past several years. But it was also highly criticized. There were even published comments by public officials stating that they would rather see children die in their birth country than be adopted.

I think the criticism was good in many ways. It helped us all examine our motives, our language and our practices. But it also slowed us down. Adoption is on the decline, the foster care needs are soaring and international orphanages are full and struggling.

There are so many children who do not know how to say mama. It’s not in their vocabulary. But friends, it was designed to be part of their vocabulary! I am mother to a child who did not know families existed until we showed up at a dim Chinese government office to take her home at the end of her 5th year. We had to teach her to say mama. And now, in her 10th year, I often find myself rolling my eyes because she knows how to do it a bit too well! It wasn’t easy. But they are all worth it.

It might not look like adoption or foster care for every child. The needs are complex and so are the children. But I’m worried that a little criticism has taken the wind out of our sails. That perhaps we arrived and found a mess we couldn’t fix and retreated rather than just sitting in the mess with them.

I don’t think we get to do that friends. And we don’t have to know all the answers. There are children who don’t know how to call for their mama and the amount is staggering, let’s keep going… adopting, supporting those who adopt, expanding our families when they feel big enough, caring for a child for two weeks through Safe Families or Jonah’s Journey, taking foster care classes, mentoring an at-risk teenager, serving in orphanages overseas, raising money for big needs. Let’s do it all with BIG love in Jesus name. Because when saying mama isn’t an option saying Jesus is even more powerful.

 

Let them be little… and have conflicts

Mom… the neighbor is coming to talk to you. Elliott yelled this in a hurry as he and a neighborhood buddy came bursting in the front door. What did you do? I asked. The conversation that followed included some details about a tomato from his friend’s garden, and how they were tossing it and then some older boys entered the scene and somehow this tomato ended up being tossed at/to one of these kids. So did it ruin his shirt, was he hurt somehow? My questions continued. Both boys answered that no, neither had taken place. I told them not to worry and to just go play, and to keep their tomatoes to themselves.

About twenty minutes later I went out to the driveway to retrieve something and I saw the parent  coming full speed toward me. This man had an intentional stride, body-builder arms and probably 150 pounds on me. And yet he came, bowed up, like he needed to make an impression on his 5 foot 3 inch neighbor in yoga pants.

Is that your son? He pointed to Elliott. I believe so, I said. He proceeded to tell me how the boys had been throwing rotten tomatoes at his boys. He wasn’t present for this bloodbath, he was simply retelling a story without either party present. And his boys? They are older than the boys I was currently representing. But what was particularly amusing is that this daddy proceeded to tell me he was trying to pay it forward, one parent to another because it seemed that my son could care less.

Well neighbor. I bet he doesn’t care. Because it’s summer. And boys throw things. And no one was hurt and their clothes aren’t stained. This certainly wasn’t a charge to your neighbor’s house event and I’m concerned about what will happen if we ever do have one of those!

Parents I’m worried that we’ve driven our helicopters a little too close. We are literally clipping the hairs on their heads with the propeller at this point! Bullying is all over the news, and certainly should be dealt with. But what will happen if our children grow up without these little summer break conflicts? If we handle ever scrape and mean word and tomato for them… man, good luck with your first job. Good luck navigating interpersonal relationships in college and the Comcast guy who comes to your door when you buy a house. We are cutting their legs out from under them.

At some point he headed back before I could say much, because really, I didn’t have much to say. I gathered the boys up and explained that while I expected them both to be respectful to the adults in our neighborhood I wasn’t upset with them. I suggested that perhaps they stay clear of the older boys for now, as it didn’t seem like a good fit and they agreed. And then I thought about it again, and shouted to them as they ran off with some random concoction that resembled a bunny trap… play with who you want, but think about what you do and be prepared to deal with the consequences! They exchanged a look that said she is such a weird mom, but yelled okay! and went on their way.

I’ll sleep easy tonight knowing that hopefully, someday, these kids of mine will make choices, reap consequences and handle conflict with grace. Besides, a little tomato never hurt anyone anyway.

All Content © Erica Ho, Goodbye Normal