Catholic Adoptive Parenting Columnist Heidi Hess Saxton
Catholic Mom Columns
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.
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
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,
“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
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
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
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 CatholicExchange.com.
Read more of Heidi’s writing through her website
www.christianword.com or visit Heidi's blog
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