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Saturday, January 9, 2016

4-year-old Ben’s mother came to visit today


I have covered her face for privacy reasons.
Early this morning I got a message from Helen saying that 4-year-old Ben’s mother was at the front gate to see him.  She had never been here before and I did not know that she had planned to come.  Helen assured me that she had followed the proper procedures and got permission from a Social Welfare Officer.  We take the protection of these children very seriously, so no one can visit without permission from that office.

It is very rare for us to have a family member (let alone a mother) visit because so many of our children were abandoned at birth and there is no record of family.  There are a few whose mothers we know, but they have no interest in seeing their children due to mental illness or other social issues.  But I do know Ben’s mother, because I met her in the hospital when he was 18-months-old.

If you don’t know Ben’s story I encourage you to go back and read the whole thing at http://janinemaxwell.blogspot.com/2013/04/the-burned-baby-has-burned-hole-in-my.html and then a follow up blog at http://janinemaxwell.blogspot.com/2013/08/how-and-when-do-toddlers-to-their-new.html.

The short version is that his father sat him down on a cooking fire and lit his soiled towel (used as a diaper) on fire, giving him third degree burns on his whole buttock and back of his legs. Then the father hid him for five days, withholding him from any life-saving (and merciful) burn treatment or pain relief.

Ben was living with his father and the mother was living in a different place looking after her other children from another man.  The case was finally reported to the police and the man was put in prison.  The mother was called to care for Ben at the hospital, which she did for two months, until we were given custody.  When we gained legal guardianship we transferred Ben to a private hospital (with funds given to my by an angel in Texas) and we have not seen his mother since then.  That was in June 2013.

Today she came to visit, and I panicked.  I am a ferociously protective Mama Bear and my first response was to not let her in.  But then, she did come with permission.  What did she want? Would she try to take Ben away? He is our child now … but of course he is still her child.  Helen reminded me that the Mother was the one caring for him in the hospital and that one-day he will want to know who she is, so it should start today. Helen is always right, and always much calmer in these situations that I am, so I listen to her a lot :).

 I was not at The Oasis dining room when she arrived, but Helen and the other Supervisors navigated the meeting carefully. We weren’t sure who to tell Ben that the woman was?  It was the first time that we had been faced with this situation. Do you say, “Ben this is your mother”? He is old enough to know what a mother is now, or is he?  Maybe “Mother” is just a word, or maybe a label for a woman who cares for him?

Shongwe pulled Ben aside and asked him if he knew who the woman sitting at the table was.  He said, “She is my Mother” and then went over and put his head on her lap.  She wept.

After a few minutes he raised his head and went back to his brothers and sisters to play.  They were getting ready to go for a walk, and off he went with them, leaving the mother behind watching him go.  Last time she saw him he had a colostomy bag and struggled to walk because of his burns.  Today he ran off like a typical, perfect, energetic, healthy, 4-year old boy.

We assume that if he remembered her so well, then he likely remembers the fire, and his father, but there were no tears or sadness, only joy, in that little boy.

I do believe that the Lord can heal our hearts, our minds and our memories.  That healing is the only way I can explain the peace and joy that each of these traumatized children exude every day.  That may change in the future and different things might manifest, but today we claim the healing and give thanks in all things.

I did ask Helen to find out what the status of the father’s jail term is. He will be released in June.  Ian and I dropped Ben’s mother off in town as we went in to buy groceries and get a hair cut.  

It's always fun to take children to town with us. Today was Gabriel and Rose's turn.

Running errands takes a lot out of a 5-year old.
Live from Swaziland … it’s Saturday.

Janine

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