“Mommy! We need to buy more cereal,” he says, and his eyes are wide and serious behind his glasses. There are four or five new boxes, unopened, on the high shelf at which he is staring, besides the five allotted open ones in their neat line on the pantry floor. But we are getting low. He can tell.
I respond by buying more, on my next shopping day. I buy ten big boxes, a worthy stash, and I line them up on the high shelf. I do not tell him, but he notices immediately the next time he gets cereal.
“Mommy! You bought more cereal!”
His noticing is thanks enough, though he does not say Thank you. He does not say, Now I feel cared for. Now I know I will have enough easy-open food for the weeks ahead in case I am left to my own devices.
Instead he says, “Mommy. Next time, I want you to buy Fruity Pebbles.”
I perform my own automatically protective response: I lower expectations. Aaaannd that’s not likely to happen, darlin.
But it probably will, someday soon.
Fruity Pebbles is his favorite cereal, the one that says LOVE to him in capital letters. Fruity Pebbles tastes like a rainbow of additives got into a fight with a bag of kitty litter, and both sides lost. Fruity Pebbles matters so much to him that occasionally, I buy him a box. I love him that much.
It has been many years since I fostered children with this kind of hunger, the kind that famines in the time of feast. (Never three at once.) The kind that asks for dessert as it sits down to dinner. The kind that needs a bounty of admiring eyes and physical closeness and lavish time. It grows worse in times of upset, like anniversary trips, and the ruling of a judge this month in Erie County to terminate birth parents’ rights. Then it craves and cannot be satisfied, sure that everyone else is getting the best of it: that X is the favorite child, and Y gets all the privileges, but Z is not good enough and will never be good enough and nobody likes him and he doesn’t get anything nice. The hunger sings this repeatedly, to the tune of hot tears.
There are reasons for the hunger, and the reasons make sense. The reasons are not needless or entitled or ridiculous. They are how we survived.
After months of steady enough-ness, of cereals and outings and snuggles and stories and praises and warm eyes and good clothes and trust and privileges, the craving settles to a low hum again, until the next upset, which takes less time to feed into health than the last one did, and so we continue.
Because I am a fixer and I like to fix things, I have to step back over and over, and remind myself that it is not my job to fix, only to love. Only to love and go on loving, which some days is a desperate kind of courage I do not have. I sound heroic in this but sometimes I am only tired, and the door of my heart swings closed by mistake. Later, when I can, I push it open again. I can see Karyn Purvis, who never frowned, frowning at me now from her grave; and once more I genuflect briefly to the lie that if I were the perfect mother, I would heal them quick and certain. Meanwhile I do all that I can, ma’am, and I am grateful for the good that you taught me; but when I can do no more, I breathe in grace and watch for redemption. There is only one Healer in this world.
be it ten months from now
or ten years
or ten decades,
these children I love
will discover abundance
and they will believe in it
because it is the ultimate truth
about the universe.
There is enough.
they will drink straight
from the cornucopia of bounty,
and I will be there
to watch their faces
This post contains an affiliate link to a book I recommend. Do you ever see the doctrine of scarcity showing up in your home and heart? I would love to hear about it, and any secrets you have to disarm it.