From Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul


I did not become a mother in the conventional way. I could have chosen to get pregnant, but my husband and I decided to start our family instead through adoption— the adoption of special-needs children waiting for home and family.

We knew we were going to face the raised eyebrows and rude questions, but we still felt this was the right route for us. Someday, I may give birth to a child, and I know that experience will be incredible and moving in its own special way. Just as the night I first became a mother.

We were adopting brothers—Jesse, age five, and Mario, age four. One look at the pictures of the boys as they had been discovered, dangerously underweight and sickly, had banished any doubts we might have had. We had accepted them wholeheartedly before we even met. But would they accept us?

Rather than sharing a first bath, or feeding my child for the very first time, I found myself sitting cross-legged on the floor of a stranger’s home, trying unsuccessfully to snap two pieces of plastic together in order to form a Lego submarine with one of my new sons.

I couldn’t keep my eyes off my boys’ faces. Mario’s hands flew over the speedboat he was constructing, though occasionally he would stop to look at me and make sure I was still there. He was gorgeous—long eyelashes dusting his cheeks, big hazel eyes fixed intently on the project at hand. I couldn’t believe he was four; he was so small, looking more like a two-year-old, and I cringed as I thought about the “before” pictures I had seen earlier. Now, he looked almost stout—chubby legs running back and forth, carrying toys he wanted to show us. He was so happy, so trusting.

Jesse, on the other hand, seemed much older than his five years. Though he was due to turn six in just a few months, he carried himself more like an eight-or nine-year-old—very serious and extremely concerned about his brother’s welfare and behavior. We watched as he corrected Mario several times throughout the evening and protectively hovered over him, ensuring that these strangers—his new parents—wouldn’t harm the little brother he had worked all of his short life to protect and raise.

Would he ever let us take over the parenting chores so that he, himself, could be a child—not again, but for the very first time? I hoped there was still a small window where the ability to trust a grown-up could enter Jesse’s young life. Had I taken on more than I knew how to handle?

“Mom, will you hand me that piece?” I heard a small voice next to me ask.

Then the voice came again, this time a little louder.

“Mom, will you hand me that piece, please?”

I turned to look at Jesse to let him know his foster mother had left the room for a minute, but I stopped in mid-sentence because I could see he was looking at me.


“ mean me, Jesse?” I asked quietly.

He nodded his head solemnly and pointed over my shoulder.

“I need that piece on the table,” he said, his dark eyes focusing on mine.

I reached behind me, took the small, blue piece from the coffee table and handed it to him. He smiled.

“Thank you,” he said politely, snapping it into place.

“Um, can I hug you? Would that be okay?” I was scared to ask this. It was like asking a 30-year-old. But I so wanted him to be five. It was time to be five.

He hesitated, then looked at me. I could see he was thinking hard. Could he trust me?

Then he nodded. “Yeah,” he said, putting down his submarine.

I reached out, and he came to me and sat on my lap. I enveloped him with my embrace and held him as closely as I could. I could feel him put his arms around my neck and hug me back.

In that moment I knew that he was giving me the gift of being a mother. And maybe, just maybe, I could give him the gift of being a child.

Barbara L. Warner

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