She just moved in with her dad, 250 miles away from her mom, for an undisclosed reason. I ask dad about family history. He rolls his eyes and says: “My family is crazy; we don’t have anything to do with them. Her grandpa kept her for a couple months while I was in rehab, but she won’t ever see him again.” When I ask about her mom, his look says, “Don’t ask.”
Her giggle lights up the room, even though her smile is dotted with 13 cavities. She hugs me several times while I ask her dad routine questions. She keeps interrupting us to tell me that she likes my hair and my bracelet and my shoes. Her legs are covered in bug bites (which makes me think of my own boys), and she tells me she loves playing outside. About half of her curly blonde hair is held up in pigtails. ****
I ask her dad if she has ever had medical problems, to which he casually responds that she was diagnosed with genital herpes 2 years ago.
You can probably guess how she got that. And she will always have it.
I fight back the tears.
It’s not fair. It’s not fair that she gets off to a start that is defined by abuse, disease, fighting, court dates, moving back and forth between parents/schools/friends, unhealthy habits and very little attention.
Kids in these situations usually destroy the exam room while they climb up the walls and see how fast they can push the “spinny” chair while their parents pay more attention to their cell phones. But THIS child sits politely in the chair and looks at me with big sweet eyes and says, “I got a Tinkerbell pack-pack! I’m going to preschool!”
She doesn’t know her ABCs or how to count to 10, but she is as excited as a girl going to Disney World.
Lord, thank you for that Tinkerbell pack-pack. Please let her keep that joy and give her at least one good role model in school. Please don’t let the other kids or teachers judge her because of her situation. Give her the positive attention she needs.
It’s not fair that this sweet little life has been placed in a situation where she will have a higher chance of developing health problems, anxiety, and depression. She is unlikely to have many people to encourage success in school or healthy relationships. She is already learning not to trust anyone, having obviously been mistreated by at least one person.
I return to my office and glance at the picture of my healthy little boys. They don’t have a perfect life. They don’t eat the perfect food and could very well have a cavity or two. They certainly don’t have a perfect family. But we work hard to shield them from unnecessary hardships, things that could hold them back from reaching their greatest potential. I don’t want them to naively think that life is all butterflies and lollipops, but I try to avoid preventable problems that will only threaten to steal their joy and desire to do something meaningful in life. In other words, I want to add more good than harm to their lives.
But what about this girl? I will think about her when I wake up in the night tonight. I will wonder what she is sleeping on and if anyone told her goodnight. Yes, her life is probably a lot better than the lives of many children around the world who are living as orphans or in extreme poverty, but I can’t help but think about how much better it could be.
I’m trying not to judge her parents. They likely had similar things happen when they were young which led to them making bad decisions. But I’ve also seen plenty of adults who don’t want their kids to go through what they experienced in their own childhood, so they do everything in their power to give them a better life.
I hope she doesn’t ever feel like she is an inconvenience. I hope she feels loved. I hope that when the waves start crashing over her she knows that she was “fearfully and wonderfully made” by a God who thinks she is great.
I am unsettled. I want to take her home. I want to teach her the alphabet and how to count. I want to fill more than just her “pack pack” with good things.
She has been given a different life. I don’t know why. I don’t like it, but I can’t change it. All I have is this twenty minute encounter where I can make her feel like the loved, beautiful, unique little girl that she is.
Perhaps one day I will read her testimony about how God used some really tough things in her life and brought about good. I can only hope and pray.
***Several demographic and personal details were changed as to avoid a HIPAA violation.