All Our Children
“All My Children” is the name of a long-running soap opera loved by my two sisters back in the day. What does the title mean? Given the tangled romantic encounters and relationships in these shows, it may have been main character Erica Kane’s assertion about her various offspring from her various paramours: “The kids of Pine Valley Elementary? They’re all my children (from different fathers).”
But seriously, for a long time I believed my maternal limit was reached after the birth of our fifth child. Indeed, there were times I felt I might have over-reached, especially when trying to get out the door with one in a front carrier, one in a back carrier and one holding each hand. “Are those all yours?” folks would ask, and exhausted me would hope they wouldn’t then give me a pop quiz about their ages.
Over time, though, my “mom” instinct has only grown and expanded. I think of my children’s friends as “extra kids,” ditto my church families’ little ones. I rejoice when they get new teeth or learn to read or, later, finally get their driver’s licenses or open those college acceptance letters. Mind you, these young people have wonderful parents and don’t require any additional mothering; I just enjoy feeling like backup support, in the wings if ever needed.
There is, however, another category of child: those without caring adults in their lives, or who are dealing with the trauma of separation from their parents. These are the ones I cry over, because as tough as childhood is, I cannot imagine navigating it without a grownup who loves them utterly—or knowing that the grownup who does love them, cannot be with them.
I am filled with admiration for my friends who teach at-risk children, as well as the saints who foster in their homes. I wish I could join their number, but honestly don’t think I could do the good job these kiddos deserve.
Instead, I stuff teddy bears—and so do many of my church families. From a company that provides unstuffed toy bears, I order kaboodles each year, along with the fiberfill to plump them up. Working with police departments and children and family service agencies, these cute bears are then distributed. When a child, for example, must be removed from an abusive home, they are given a bear to hug and love during their time of transition. It is a tiny symbol of affection and stability—a toy that’s theirs alone, to whisper to at night and tote around by day.
Our current crop of stuffed animals is being readied for the Afghan refugee families about to be resettled in the Philadelphia area. Fleeing a horrible situation in their homeland, I pray these children will be comforted a bit by the teddy bears.
What if we ALL looked at EVERY child as our own? Love overflowing, love giving the next generation the security and affection they need…
What if that’s the secret to saving the world?