From Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul

Mom for a Day

As a mother of three beautiful children, I have many special memories to share. But one of my most special moments as a mom was actually with someone else’s child. It is a moment that I will always cherish.

Michael came to our self-esteem-building camp last summer, referred to us by a boys’ home where he was currently residing. Michael was 12 years old, and his life had been a difficult one. His father had brought him to the U.S. from a war-torn country after his mother’s death, so that he could have “a better life.” Unfortunately, he was left to the care of his aunt, who emotionally and physically abused him. He had become one tough little boy, with very little trust and a belief that he was not lovable.

He hung out with a few other boys who were likewise negative, angry and tough. The “gang” was a challenge to the counselors, but we hung in with them and continued to accept and love them for who they were. We recognized all their exterior behavior as a reflection of how deeply they had been hurt.

Around the fifth night of our seven-day experience, we treated the kids to an overnight camp-out under the stars. When Michael heard of this event, he said it was “stupid” and he wasn’t going. We avoided getting into a power struggle with him and went on with the evening.

As the moon shone brightly and the evening waned, the kids began arranging their sleeping bags for the evening on a huge deck near the lake.

I noticed Michael walking around by himself with his head down. He saw me and quickly walked toward me. I thought I would avert his whining and said, “Come on, Michael, let’s get your sleeping bag and find a good spot for you with your friends.”

“I don’t have a sleeping bag,” he muttered in a low voice.

“Oh well, that’s no problem,” I exclaimed. “We’ll just open up several bags and get you some blankets for covers.”

Figuring I had solved his dilemma, I began to walk off. Michael tugged at my shirt and pulled me away from the crowd of kids.

“Anne,” he said, “I need to tell you something.” I saw that tough big boy’s face melting with embarrassment and shame at what he had to tell me. In a barely audible whisper, he said, “You see, I have this problem. I... I... I’m a bed wetter and I wet the sheets every night.” I was so glad he whispered into my ear and couldn’t see the look of astonishment on my face. I hadn’t even considered this as a reason for his negative attitude. I thanked him for letting me in on his “problem” and told him I understood why he was upset about the evening. We decided together that he could sleep in his cabin alone and just slip out quietly from the group.

I left with him and on the long walk back to the cabin, I asked him if he was afraid to sleep alone. He assured me that it was not a problem and that he had faced much scarier things before in his life. As we put his last set of fresh sheets on his bed, we talked about how difficult his first 12 years had been, and he told me how much he wanted the future to be different. I told him how he had all the power he needed to make his life the best it could be. He looked so vulnerable and sweet and real for the first time that week.

He hopped under the covers and I asked if I could tuck him in. “What does ‘tuck in’ mean?” he asked with curiosity. With tears in my eyes, I covered him up, tucked them under his chin and kissed him on the forehead.

“Goodnight, Michael, I think you are awesome!” I mumbled.

“G’night and uh, uh, thanks for being kinda like a mom to me, okay?” he said earnestly.

“My pleasure, sweetheart,” I said with a hug. As I turned to go, three sets of dirty sheets under my arms and tears rolling down my cheeks, I thanked God for the love that can happen between a mom and her son, even if only for a day.

Anne Jordan

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