How do you answer a question such as this from a 6-yr-old boy? Why would you ever want to be faced with the question?
Well, this week I was. I left the house Monday morning to take the kids to daycare. I went to a meeting as part of my foster parenting requirements (one of those in which the facilitator just reads a powerpoint presentation to the audience…and I try not to roll my eyes). I returned home planning to knock out an hour or so of work on the crisis nursery project before heading to teach a class to medical students.
As I came up to the back of my house, the back door screen was propped open with Seth’s diaper box. Not too unusual…my dad sometimes stops by to do some work around the house. I headed into the dining room and noticed the front door open as well….I grabbed my cell phone and dialed 911 while calling out “hello?” I passed by the stairway and felt a coolness and brightness of air change….looking up there was a gaping 8 foot x 4 foot hole in the staircase where our beautiful stained glass window had been less than 2 hours before
I hit send on the phone and ran out the back door. In minutes, an officer was patrolling our house with a machine gun poised and ready. Bazer the police dog was “sweeping” the house for intruders (but finding only a couch and a mattress to shred to pieces). No people were found….as were none of our electronics. TV, computers, digital cameras, the Wii system (including the balance board under the table), jewelry…everything. To make matters worse, the idiot that I am had left my safe in the office upstairs and that was cleaned out of all my important documents as well as the back-up external hard drive for my computer (I backed up the files for virus protection…but never thought about needing to hide it from robbers!). Gone is my passport, birth certificate, social security card – my identity paperwork. Gone is the birth certificates and adoption certificates of my sons. Gone is my work on the crisis nursery nonprofit and all my professional and personal life. My stomach dropped to the bottom of my soul.
It’s amazing how long the state of shock lasts. It’s amazing how much more hyper-alert I am. Where an out-of-place kid’s toy was once cute, it now appears threatening in the middle of the floor at night. The random noise makes the heart stop. That sense of safety is now fragile. The disbelief rings out through the silence. The ache of loss seeps throughout the daily rhythm.
For the boys, there is a missing TV. The excitement of possibly falling out of the missing window is replaced by the starkness of plywood. The fact that the police dog chewed up the living room couch brings smiles to silly faces. But for the older boys, there are also some questions. As Micah fell asleep that night, he asked “Will the robber take me too?” It pierced my soul. “No, my child, you are safe.”
For after the excitement died down – the police had come to fingerprint the area, a kind man arrived to put up the huge sheet of plywood to keep the impending rain out and the children in, and the children were tucked in bed – I found Noah sleeping on the staircase landing under that big window. The image is imprinted in my cortex. He was curled in a fetus position of absolute comfort. He trusts that he is safe.
And I realize that this is what we as parents do for our children. In the moments of the storm, we tell them “You are safe. Mommy is here. I protect you.” When gaping holes appear, we find the patches to block the winds. When pieces of their world go missing, we stay by them and remind them that we are not leaving. When there is stress and anxiety and worry in the air, we hold them tight and kiss them softly. You are loved. You are safe. You are my child and I am your mother. I am here. God grant you peace, my little one.