The UN has designated June 1st as the Global Day of Parents recognizing parents as vital in providing protection and positive development for their children. The UN has noted that parents worldwide are the primary caregivers and teachers of their children. This has never been truer than during a global pandemic as parents have gone beyond their usual roles in caring for their children and trying to fill the gaps in remote instruction.
My biological children are young adults who can fend for themselves in most ways yet they still come to me when they are worried, need help, and often just for a hug. My husband and I are currently guiding them through preparing for an uncertain fall, adjusting to moving home for one, adjusting to leaving home for the other, car questions, help with taxes, and many other small things. Just things that parents do.
We are also looking forward to becoming parents again, this time to a 9 year old boy living in an orphanage in Casablanca. We were ready to travel in early March but have been placed in international adoption limbo as international air travel has come to a standstill.
When I think of my son and his friends, I can’t help but think about how difficult it must be not to have a mom or a dad who you can go to as a child living in an orphanage and voice your fears in an uncertain time. Someone who is just your person if there’s a disagreement with the other kids. Someone who can tell if you need a break or if you need a hug and who’s world revolves around making sure that you come out of this o.k.
My heart breaks for the children who will never live in a home environment with a parent or two. While adoption or kefala is certainly the best option, children living in orphanages cannot always be placed in a loving home. It’s a big part of the reason why BLOOM builds play gardens in orphanages. It’s meant to be a permanent structure for children who don’t have a lot of permanent things in their lives. It’s for the kids who will grow up in an orphanage.
Our BLOOM team has had the unique privilege of interacting with many of the children living in the orphanages we serve. We are all mothers and feel the pull to clean a nose, pay special attention to a little one who is hanging back, or just rock a fussy baby. We also have been able to listen to the experiences of young adults who have grown up in orphanages and are suddenly thrust out into the world. Initially we felt really conflicted about going in for a couple of hours and then just leaving wondering if it did more harm than good.
As we have been able to go back and visit orphanages multiple times, we realized something. The children remember us. They look forward to seeing us and hopefully they feel how much we love and care for each of them and their well-being. The young adults look forward to visiting us. We laugh with them, help with resumes, talk about school, fashion, whatever it is that they want to talk about. They also do a great job of keeping in touch with us. We get to really know them and it informs our work to hear about their experiences.
Being a parent is both an incredible responsibility and the greatest gift. I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to do it in so many ways. The excitement and joy of carrying a child from conception and watching her grow into a strong, capable woman has been my greatest source of pride to date. Going through the process of adoption and learning about all the ways my son and I have been unknowingly connected through the last 10 years (yes, while he was still in utero) and all the things that had to happen for us to come together has opened up a dimension of my faith that I wasn’t aware of before, and having the opportunity to serve in loco parentis to so many children in a country I never even visited prior to BLOOM? It has been the gift of a lifetime.
In loco parentis is a legal term which means “in the place of parents”. It refers to people or organizations who take on some of the responsibilities of parents. The caregivers who work in the orphanages, often taking time away from their own families, certainly fulfill many of those roles.
During Ramadan I came across a story of Prophet Muhammed (p.b.u.h.) staying a little longer at a playground watching the orphans play. When asked by the father of a child playing with the orphaned children why he stayed his response was “I was watching those children and sat close by so that they know that even though they do not have fathers, they have the Prophet of Allah to care for them.” I shared it with our board and like many things that have happened as we have done this work, we felt like it was just what we needed and it expressed our own intentions in a way we couldn’t fully express. While neither we, nor the caregivers, can truly be parents to all the children living in orphanages we can express our love through the gift of play, by remembering their names, and by sitting for a while to watch them play so that they know that while they may not have parents with them, we care for them so very much.
Thank you for helping us provide the children living in Moroccan orphanages with the opportunity to play. Celebrate Global Day of Parents by telling your own children how much they mean to you and by donating to an organization that serves orphans so they can also feel the protective shade of a parent’s love.