Life for a Child in the Library
Our 9-months-old son, TJ, only sits still for two things at this point: good food, and a good picture book. So I woke up this morning feeling inspired to take him on his first trip to the land of a thousand books.
After our usual Saturday morning family visit to the coffee shop, my husband, Josh, and I filled out a couple of forms, and voila! We were proud new members of the neighborhood library, all wholesome and such.
We strolled our little man into a section called “The Children’s Room” which is more like a full-sized library wonderland all by itself. It’s fun, and fresh, and even has a great selection of board books for little TJ’s age bracket. So exciting! And as an added bonus, we found a play area to let TJ out of his stroller and explore things, like he does. He went right up to a kid’s play thingamabob, and I figured he probably wouldn’t get bored with it for some time, because it didn’t belong to him, which always makes toys so much more interesting.
Within five minutes, a little girl came up, and asked if she could play with the baby. She was maybe around 5-years-old. I said, “Sure! His name is TJ. What’s Yours?”
We’ll Call Her Lily
Lily started spinning the little gears on the thingamabob, and TJ picked up the motion, so I thanked her for showing him how to do it. She was a bubbly, inquisitive little chatterbox, full of questions. “What’s this? What’s that? Can the baby walk? Can he play with this? Can he talk? Can he play with that? What’s this do?”
I answered her questions as best I could, because sometimes even grown-ups don’t know what kids’ toys are supposed to do. Some things we just had to sit, and try to figure out together.
At one point, Lily ran off and came back with a large stack of books she planned to build a house out of. “Great idea!” I said. “Then, you can read the walls, and look at all the fun pictures all the time! I wish all houses were made of books!”
She didn’t say anything, but her smile seemed to say that she thought so, too. TJ, Lily and I had ourselves a fun little time while my husband went off to explore the other sections of our beautiful, new library.
I originally took a few pics to share on Instagram. Little did I know the reality of the moment I was capturing.
About 30 minutes went by, and it was almost time for lunch, so we started saying our goodbyes to Lily.
“Are you coming back?” she asked.
“Yes, we’ll come back,” I replied. “Maybe we’ll see you here again.”
“Are you coming back today?”
“No, probably not today. But a different day, for sure.”
“Is the baby coming back?”
“Well, he can’t come back by himself, but we will bring him back when we come.”
“I’m here all by myself.”
“You’re here all by yourself?” I repeated, thinking she was playing another make believe role.
“Uh-huh,” she said. “My mama went to work. Ain’t nobody here with me.”
I just looked at her. Her face had become very serious, and for a brief moment I thought she might cry. But she just started wiggling again, instead. I was still not sure if I was supposed to believe her for real, or if she was just making things up because she didn't want us to leave.
A woman had been sitting at one of the kiddie tables a few yards away, and every now and then she would look up at us, so I assumed that was the girl’s mother. I walked over to the lady, and motioned towards Lily.
“Is she yours?” I asked.
She looked at me a little surprised, and shook her head no. Then, I probably looked a bit surprised myself. But you know who did not look surprised?
“Oh, not again,” was the Librarian’s response when we told her there was a little girl claiming to be there all by herself. Frustrated, yes. But surprised? No. Apparently, it’s not unusual for the library staff to discover that a small child had been left there alone.
Thankfully, I am only crazy in ways that are generally not harmful to children in any way. But what if I had been someone else?
I pointed Lily out to the Librarian, and told her the girl’s name. We checked out our baby books, and as we left, I overheard the Librarian approach the little girl. “Are your here with someone?” she asked.
“Yes,” Lily replied, nodding her head.
“Who are you here with?”
She said nothing at first. Then, as if surrendering in a corner, “Nobody.”
“Should we do something?” I asked Josh, who assured me that we already did do something, and that the library staff knows what to do, and would take good care of her.
What Kind of Mother?
It’s been several hours now. We’ve eaten our lunch. TJ is down for his afternoon nap. And I haven’t been able to stop thinking about Lily. I can’t help but wonder what happened after we left. What will happen to her later? I noticed she didn’t say her parents were at work. Just her mama. How will they confront the woman? Will they call the police? I hope they took Lily to the cafe area, and gave her something to eat. I hope she’ll be okay.
At a different time in my life, I would have found it very easy to judge her irresponsible mother, blaming her entirely. She is what’s wrong with society! Am I right!?
But that response does not come naturally to me anymore. As a new mom myself, my heart simply breaks for such a woman who felt her best option was to leave her child at a public library, and not with friends or family. Does she not have any? Or are they just that unreliable? I’m not saying that she did the right thing. I’m saying that maybe she couldn’t.
There are moments when my husband stops in the middle of whatever it is we’re doing, looks right at me, and sincerely tells me that I am a great mother. He thanks me for giving him such a beautiful son. And, I tell him that I could not be a good mother if he wasn’t such a good father. Neither of us are perfect, but we are in this together for the long haul. TJ is stuck with us both.
I also have a caring support system made of friends and family, and—I’ma just be real wit’ya—a therapist, a new mom support group, a Mommy’s Morning Out program, and a Catholic nun as my spiritual director. I have all of these people, plus a LOT of prayer, and just a tiny smidgen of anxiety medication, because yep! This is what it takes for me to feel like I’ve got a handle on being responsible for another human life in such a precarious world as this one. Some of these things I probably—hopefully—will not need forever. But here in the beginning? When my post-pregnancy body still feels so foreign, and my son is still not quite grasping the native tongue, and the challenges of new motherhood are still bringing up all kinds of issues from my own childhood that I now have the adventure of working through as an adult? You betcha! This chick needs HELP!!
And even with all of this support, there are still days when I find this whole motherhood thing to be so overwhelming, like I am definitely losing my mind, and I wonder how any of us mommy creatures are able to come across as even remotely sane.
I mean, do we though? Is anyone pulling that off? ‘Cause, good for you, lady! Whoever you are! You go!
But what kind of mother would I be if I didn’t have all of this support? What kind of mother would I be for my son without his father doing his part? I can tell you right now. A lot more desperate than great.
I noticed a good friend of mine post on Facebook that there was a nationwide rally to defund Planned Parenthood earlier today. The organization’s underground practice of selling fetal body parts has given fresh fuel to the fire of the pro-life movement. This volatile issue that the media would not touch for a long time is now back in headlines in a way that forces us to see beyond the “women’s rights” mantra to the fact that there really are tiny human lives involved here.
I didn’t make it to the pro-life rally. Instead, while that was happening in another part of town, I was sitting on the floor in the children’s section of the library trying to explain to a lonely little girl that the toy we were looking at didn’t work, because the magnet was missing. And also, attempting to explain to her what a magnet is.
Then, I went home and made chicken salad wraps wondering what Lily’s mother was like. Perhaps she had been a teenager when she had her. I imagined that maybe she went to an abortion clinic to consider her options when some brave pro-lifer outside the building talked her into keeping the baby. So she did. And that pro-lifer saved Lily’s life. Awesome!
My good friend, Kelly, just recently started an organization called Seneca, Choices for Life. It’s not your typical crisis pregnancy outreach. Among its many valiant goals, Seneca doesn’t just seek to convince pregnant women to keep their babies. They actually seek to help support these women in their motherhood by helping them with resources they’ll need, such as completing their educational goals, finding jobs, and finding childcare once they get one of those jobs. And get this! They even want to help fathers with the resources they need to be good daddies too, because they still realize that men are actually an important part of the parenting equation.
Right now, Seneca is a tiny movement with an enormous vision. But I believe they’re onto something, because a truly pro-life vision gets the whole picture of the struggle for life, and it is an enormous picture. Abortion is not an isolated issue; it is a symptom of a massive, systematic brokenness in our culture. Trying to address the abortions by themselves is like trying to cut the golden flower off of a dandelion and hoping that it'll die. Everyone knows it'll grow back. Everyone knows you have to get the root, and those roots are deep.
Photo courtesy Botanical.com.
It’s not enough to convince a frightened, unprepared pregnant woman to accept her responsibility as a mother. It is everything to let her know that she will not be doing it alone.
And yet, that’s the very reason there aren’t many organizations like Seneca yet. It takes a moment’s worth of courage to stand on the side of the road, hold a sign and pray, but it takes an entire paradigm shift and lifestyle change to say that—when no one else will—we will help share in the responsibility for the very lives we are trying to save. We will help carry that load.
That is what it truly means to be pro-life. And that is much harder than just saying, “Congratulations on your new baby! We are so glad you made the right choice! Now, may God bless you while you’re on your way! We hope you'll write!”
What do we even mean by that? Are we not His hands and feet?
God, Help Us.
Maybe Josh is right. Maybe the library staff knows what to do, and how to take good care of Lily. If that’s the case, maybe they’ll inform the rest of us, and it'll all be settled. I’m guessing it isn’t the case, though. None of us really know what to do. But maybe we do have some ideas we could bring to the table. Maybe even a literal table, like at a Seneca meeting with people gathered around one.
Because sometimes even grown-ups don’t know how to fix things that are broken. That’s when we have to just sit, and try to figure it out together.