I was taking care of baby boy today. Eleven months old, malnourished and unable to walk due to neglect from his biological parents, and now the foster child of a family in our church. He is precious. I smile at him and his little face lights up and he giggles. I love to hold him, to love on him and kiss his little cheeks and forehead every time he looks up at me. I've been trying to teach him to walk, and today he stood up by himself, though I kept him balanced with my hands underneath his arms. His head has grown too fast for his body and he often can't hold it up, so I rest my hand behind his head...his little curls are adorable. I tell him, "You're doing it! Big strong boy, you're standing up by yourself!" He'll smile and murmur some gibberish. He'll probably grow up to be a politician or a preacher as much as he tries to talk ;)
Taking care of this little boy has made my heart ache even more for a child of my own. This morning as I sat holding him, he reached out for my breast and instinctively I almost offered it to him, remembering after only a split second that he was not my child, nor was I capable of nursing. I'm only 18. I'm not even sure if a child of eleven months is supposed to be nursed. But I loved that boy. I cannot imagine how much I'll love a child of my own some day. Already I feel bonded with the baby girl or the baby boy that I may have. And I am content to wait. I still have college to experience, years after that to live my life traveling and writing and loving someone. But when the day comes...when I give birth to my child, I want to press him or her against my chest and let that baby know that I would sacrifice my life for it.
Anthony is his name. The boy I cared for today. Anthony. I've no idea what he'll go through as he grows up. If his mother regains custody of him, it's possible he'll have health issues that continue into his adult life. Or perhaps she will love him and better care for him. He'll never remember me. I'll be an unknown face in his dreams. A figure he doesn't think twice about, as I'm sure I don't remember all those who held and loved me when I was a small child. But I hope he grows up and finds happiness. He's such a small human being, but his soul is new and curious about life, just as big as mine, only not as experienced. I wonder where the soul resides. How can you measure it truly? Walt Whitman said, "Was it doubted . . . if the body does not do fully as much as the soul? And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul?"
I love children. They are so new, so curious, so precious. They are not without fault, as I am faulted. They are not snow-covered angels as some poems depict them to be. There is a reason they shout "Mine!" and cry until they receive gratification. But is that not what humans do? Does that not only make them more human? We do not rebuke a child for being human. We discipline them to teach them how to love and be gracious. But their souls burn with as much passion as a grown man or woman's. I remember as child being absolutely enthralled by the stars...I was enthralled by a stick on the ground. I was enthralled by the rocks in our driveway and would sit there for hours picking up each one and turning it over, noting the difference in color and shape and size and texture in each. I collected rocks and sticks. I couldn't collect the stars, so I stared at them. I knew passion. Anthony will know passion if he does not now, but who am I to say that he doesn't?