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Catholic Adoptive Parenting Columnist Heidi Hess Saxton

Additional Catholic Mom Columns Recommends:

The Runaway Bunny

Whether your child is pushing the boundaries, or you are just in need of a little "family affirmation," this beautifully illustrated children's classic is bedtime reading for the whole family. Heidi


Confessions of a Mean Mommy

During the summer months, the upper-level of our Cape Code can be downright uncomfortable even with an overhead fan to supplement the air conditioning (my brother-in-law tells us we need a booster fan).

Consequently, during the hot days we allow the child occupying the upstairs bedroom to sleep downstairs in a sleeping bag. Sarah sees this as an opportunity to get a little extra face time with mom and dad; she starts out in the bag at the foot of our bed but, like the proverbial camel in the sheik's tent, she winds up firmly entrenched between us.

When Christopher discovered the sweet deal his sister had finagled for herself, he decided he wanted some extra attention, too. And so, as the sun poked a tentative ray over the horizon, Christopher materialized next to me with a not-so-tentative request for a “cuddle.” At first I just slid over and let him in – this was, after all, the reason we had invested in a king-sized bed. Besides, I had enjoyed all of five hours of sleep, and was too exhausted to protest. But each time both children were in the bed, the giggles and pokes ensued. No one slept. Least of all me (YOU try to get forty winks with a squirming rug rat under each armpit).

Now, I know what the ideal mother would do: Eagerly make room for both children and enjoy the resulting circus, fully aware that the time was coming when they no longer want to be that close at five a.m. or at any other time.

In case I haven’t mentioned it before, I am not an ideal mother. After a week of this, I laid down the law. “Puh-LEASE, Christopher! It’s too early. Go back to bed, so we can all get some rest.” The effect was immediate: Arms crossed, grumpy face emerged … and sister started to stir. I said it again, this time with a little more conviction. “Christopher, go back to your room, please.”

“You don’t love me. I’m going to run away.” Stomp, stomp, stomp, slam! Then one more, for good measure – in case we didn’t hear the first one. SLAM! Much later, I discovered that he had urinated all over his bed, just to get even.

The bedwetting was a mild annoyance; the threat to run away, however, was starting to get to me. This was not the first time he has expressed the intent to find another family – usually one in Florida, land of perpetual vacations and water slides. Most days I can tickle the dark clouds away. This time I decide to deal with it a little more forthrightly. “I know you’re mad, Buddy. You think it’s not fair that Sarah gets to sleep in our bed and you have to stay in your own bed. But running away won’t change anything. Remember
The Runaway Bunny?” If you ran, we would always find you – because you are our bunny. You belong to us. We are your family.”

Privately, I have darker thoughts: Is it possible (I hate to even write the words) that in fact I favor his little sister? Truthfully, in the early months when the two older children pushed me to the absolute limit, the prospect of losing the baby kept me hanging on with the older two. I find it much easier to connect with Sarah – her strong will, creativity, her love of music, and her love of God. I enjoy teaching her about what it means to be a young lady, and she seems to enjoy following in my footsteps.

With Christopher, it’s more difficult. He is a good kid, usually compliant and affectionate. He is also moody, and becomes instinctively clingy when I need nothing so much as to be left alone. But the more I back off, the harder he holds on. It’s maddening.

From time to time, a prospective adoptive parent raises the unspeakable question: Is it possible to love a child as much as one loves biological progeny? Having never had biologicals, I’m not in the best position to answer this one way or the other. But this much I can tell you…

Love is not sentiment, and can be at times nothing more than an act of the will. It is true with husbands and in-laws, and it is no less true for children.

From all I’ve read and experienced, I can also say with some certainty that loving traumatized children (including children adopted from the foster system) requires a kind of tenacity that “regular” parenting may or may not require. These kids can be exceedingly needy, whiney, loud and rambunctious. (Then again, can’t we all?) Their fearful impulses never entirely seem to go away, and they sometimes behave in ways that leave you scratching your head – and other parents whispering and pointing.

So if your idea of “family” is one continuous Norman Rockwell vignette, and your sense of self is integrally linked to your ability to produce a “model child,” well … foster adoption is probably not your best bet.

But if your idea of bliss is waking up to a little kid crawling into bed with you to watch the sun rise, you might want to give it a shot.


Heidi Hess Saxton and her husband Craig are adoptive parents of two children Christopher (6) and Sarah (4). is the editor of Canticle magazine, the “voice” of  "Women of Grace". A convert to the faith since 1994, Heidi is also a graduate student of theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Michigan, and a frequent contributor to  Read more of Heidi’s writing through her website or visit Heidi's blog at

Would you like to receive Heidi's column by email?  Send a message to Heidi.

8/31/06 Recommends:







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Adoption Resources:
These resources have been recommended by our readers.  To suggest a link or book, email [email protected] with your suggestion.

Helpful Links:

*Several readers have recommended local DHS and Catholic Charities for adoption resources. 

Little Flowers Foundation

Catholic Charities USA

National Council for Adoption

Priests for Life Alternatives to Abortion Resource Page

US Department of Health and Human Services

National Adoption

Information Clearinghouse


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