They were hauled in the back seat of a police truck. Wild eyed, confused, scared. They were dirty and hungry. When they came into the office they barely spoke. The two-year-old clung to the nine-year-old. He didn’t want to be put down, she was tired of carrying him around. Yet she did. This was the norm. She caring for him and the twins.
When asked about their mother, one of the twins replied, “she (the nine-year-old) is our mom”. At nine years of age, she was mom to her 3 siblings. At nine years of age, being only one year older than the twins, she was the primary care-giver of the family. At nine years of age, she found the food, she changed the diapers, she did her best to protect them. At nine years of age, this incredible little girl, was more of an adult than the woman who gave them birth.
The nine-year-old was being robbed of more than her basic rights. She was being robbed of her childhood. Instead of playing with baby-dolls, she played with the real thing. Instead of scavenger hunts, she had food hunts. Instead of serving at tea parties, she served whatever she could find. Instead of trips to the park to play, she took trips to the market to beg.
She protected them at night, the best she could. But nine-year-olds were not meant to be protectors anymore than they were meant to be parents. The best she could do was offer herself, so the others would be left alone. It was all she could do. It was all she knew. Provider in the day, protector at night. At age 9, “our mom”.
She has a hard time smiling. It’s as if her smile will betray who she is. She’s not supposed to be happy. She’s not supposed to be a child. Those were already taken from her. If she smiles too much, then she becomes someone she doesn’t know. If she laughs, then she must not be the responsible one her siblings depended on. It’s a paradox. If she allows herself to be a kid, then she can no longer be the adult. If she continues to be the adult, then she cannot become a kid.
With time this amazing little girl has become a kid again. She laughs, plays, sings, and interacts the way she was created to do. She still has a serious side to her, but that’s to be expected. She’s a little slow to trust adults, but who could blame her. She continues to keep a watchful eye out for “her kids”, but has allowed others to take over the majority of their upbringing.
She enjoys dressing up and looking nice – something that wasn’t even a thought when she was simply surviving. She enjoys arts and crafts – something that she didn’t even knew existed before. She enjoys playing with her sisters and visiting with her brother – something that now she realizes is different than taking care of them. She enjoys going to church and learning about Jesus – something she longed to do and someone she longed to meet. Now that she has met Him, she’s figured out who she is. She’s now a kid. Not a mom.