My husband, James, and I have been foster parents for the past four years. The touching moments happen often in the course of caring for neglected or abused children. Sometimes it just breaks my heart to see not only the physical suffering of these children but the silent, mental suffering no sees unless they spend time with each child. Currently we have two children in our care, David, age 4, and his sister, Susan, age 3.
Every time these two little ones return from a parental visit they are sad and tend to act out for a day or two. At the breakfast table after such a visit David appeared to be sad or maybe not feeling well. His head was down and his favorite breakfast of biscuits and gravy sat before him untouched. One hand covered his forehead and eyes so that we couldn’t determine whether he was actually sick or upset.
James, noticed and asked, “Say, Buddy, aren’t you hungry this morning?” David remained hidden and silent for a moment. Then in the broken language of his youth and speech impairment, he replied so softly it was difficult to decipher. “Hair.” Puzzled, my husband asked him, “Is there a hair on your food? Just brush it away, Buddy, and eat up!” “Face,” was David’s reply. James and I exchanged puzzled glances. After a while you get to know the intricate workings of a child’s mind.
From an inner intuition I suddenly knew exactly what he was saying…the reason he was sad and unable to eat. “David, did your mother hold you on her lap yesterday and give you lots of hugs and kisses?” I asked. He dropped the hand from his lowered head, looked up at me with pools of unshed tears filling his eyes, lower lip quivering and said, “Momma’s hair. On my face…” As he spoke his small little hand brushed the side of his face ever so gently.
My heart nearly broke. Barely holding back tears of my own it was all I could do to speak as I opened my arms. “Come here, precious, and let me hold you for a minute.” The sobs were released at last as he jumped from his chair and ran around the table and into my arms. I engulfed him in a fierce hug as I lifted him onto my lap. For long moments I simply rocked him and whispered in his ear, “You are so special…we love you…God loves you too…so special…” Until the tears were spent.
But the pain of this child will never completely go away. We can love him and try to reassure him that he matters…that he is special…but what he really needs and craves so badly is not ours to give. All he wants is to be with his mother. Oh that she could know what she is doing to her precious son and daughter. Would she try harder to get her act together and gain back custody of her children?
Every child deserves a mother. This is my wish and daily prayer…not only for this particular little boy…but for all the special children who remember the simple touch of a mother’s hair on his cheek.
* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism experience.