Mother’s Day is just around the corner.
I am not exactly sure what it means to be “mom.”
It is true that as a high school houseparent at St. Joseph’s Indian School, I do a lot of mom-like things. I see the kids first thing when they get up, and I hear their prayers before they go to bed at night. I know who won’t eat onions and who shouldn’t eat beans. I cajole, correct, encourage, exhort, commend and sometimes nag. I say stupid things like, “If your friends all jumped off a cliff…” I sing the birthday song off key and with enthusiasm. But I’m certainly not mom. Not in a conventional way, anyway.
These precious Lakota children are entrusted to me by their families, and that is a big responsibility.
I find it impossible not to claim these kids, though. When I’m sitting in the stands watching a basketball game, or the Fall play, or the Spring concert, I turn to the parent next to me and say, “Oh, which one is yours? That one is mine!” And if the kids at St. Joseph’s ever pulled shenanigans in public (which they never do of course) then I’d be there, saying, “Um, yeah. That one is mine.”
And when it comes time to sit up all night with a child who has the flu and is crying for her real mom, well, she’s still mine. Or when real mom dies and he doesn’t wear a jacket to the funeral, and I see he’s dancing around in the cold, then I worry and fuss. Because he’s mine. Or if she becomes a mom herself and wonders if I’m going to be there, well yes. Still mine.
Come graduation day, I’m going to cry tears of joy, pride and sadness when “my kids” finish their time at St. Joseph’s and move on. I will probably have to call my mom, who has been through all of this before.
Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there: real, step, honorary or otherwise. Many thanks to the moms behind the moms, too—uncis, grandmas, aunties, sisters, and donors who support the children and staff at St. Joseph’s Indian School. And a big thanks to my mom too.
Claire—high school houseparent