Thursday, September 18, 2008

Tragic and Unnecessary

Christian and I spent a while at the courthouse today, as we had to get fingerprinted for our adoption application, just in case we are hiding that we're international jewel thieves who need a third with really small hands to fit into those unreachable back corners of safes.  We had to wait for the fingerprinting technician and were sitting in the lobby when a young woman came in, pushing her shirtless two year old son in a stroller.  The lobby was for both the fingerprinting/gun permit office and for filing civil and small claims cases and restraining orders.  The woman approached the latter desk and spoke with the clerk, and attempted to communicate her story of an abusive ex-boyfriend and papers being served to her fraudulently, but, in her anger and frustration, she wasn't able to explain herself sufficiently to allow the clerk to understand and be of any assistance. She said over and over that she had been in a safe house when the papers had been supposedly delivered and that she was going to have to leave the state to escape her ex-boyfriend's violence.  She said that he was trying to get custody of his son, and she didn't know what to do.  The clerk kindly offered to call a detective to see if he or she could be of any help, and the woman sat down to wait.  

As this scenario was playing out, the woman's little boy had been playing with the rain cover of his stroller, to her intense annoyance. He hopped out of his stroller and was about to start pulling on his mother, so I started talking to him to distract him long enough to give her a chance to do what she needed to do.  I asked him question after question, and heard his answers around the thumb he was loudly sucking.  I said above that he was two, but that's because he told me that was his age, whereas he looked closer to four due to his size.  He and I spoke for a while about nothing, and, as I had my phone out, thought he might like to see pictures of the birds.  So, we looked at those for a while, and he was fascinated by the birds as well as the way the phone flicked through the pictures.  He came to my side at one point and wedged himself between my arm and my side, and I have no idea how he did it.  That a child that little wanted to attach himself to a total stranger and his mother seemed relieved to see it made me terribly sad. 

When she was leaving, she made an effort to tell us that she was going home to change her son into more clothes as he had had an accident with his lunch, necessitating his shirtlessness.  I shared that Shelly and I had taken the boys to the zoo and, when they both wet themselves to soaking, had dressed them in whatever we could find, so I understood insufficiently dressed little kids.  She left, and the kindly officer who was on front door duty, who we could see through the door but not hear, pointed at her son with a smile and she laughed at whatever it was he said.  Everyone tried to be so good to her, but I could see that the life she had made for herself and the choices she had been required to make had taken away her chances of normalcy.  
Upon seeing a girl like her, I couldn't help but think of how her life is laid out for her now, and how, unless she and her son are both incredibly lucky, he will end up exactly like her, or worse, his own father.  And how would they change their fortunes when they are obviously alone, without even anyone to go with them to the courthouse?  

Women like her break my heart and make me feel spoiled and selfish, and also make me wonder if what we've heard said is true, that the women who choose to keep their children when they become unexpectedly and unwelcomely pregnant are often the ones the least equipped to raise their children.  Were their mothers like them, insufficiently educated and taught that their only value is in what they can give to men?  

It does break my heart so.  I hope that our adoption will help break this cycle for one family, at least.

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