The Nonrivalrous Riches of the Heart
I have really good parents. Great parents. A mother who read to me, sang to me, always had time for me, and thinks everything I do is perfect. A father who taught me to hunt, took me fishing, and made dinner for me almost every night. Growing up with my parents was peaceful. Safe. Fun.
I became a mother for the first time when I was 25. In many ways I was woefully unprepared, but in other ways I was better prepared than many could ever hope to be. Good parenting was in my bones, in my muscle memory.
My family with my husband and two children has its own cadence; notes from my childhood, notes from my husband’s, blended into a familiar and comfortable daily life. Our children are thriving. Their happy childhoods are inherited, passed down to them like a family recipe.
Today I served my first shift as an Office Mom. The social workers brought in a beautiful little boy. When I bent down to take him out of his car seat, he looked up at me with his clear blue eyes and gave me a happy baby gurgle, just like my kids used to do. I immediately noticed that he had marks on his head. When the social workers came back, I asked about his head and if there were medical issues I needed to be aware of.
“Oh, he just had surgery. Those marks are where the stitches were.”
“Yes, his brain was swollen from the abuse he’s endured. He’s had multiple surgeries.” She said it in a way that suggested this was not uncommon in her world.... I don’t know his parents. I don’t know their story. I do know there are parents who find themselves with a baby in their arms, but when they draw from the well of their own childhoods, they don’t find memories of singing and reading books. As I looked at this sweet little boy and heard his laughs, I didn’t find myself blaming his parents for the pain that this little person has endured in his short 6 months on this planet. I blamed myself.
In economics, there is a concept of rivalrous and nonrivalrous goods. A rivalrous good is competitive; if one person enjoys it, another cannot. If I eat an apple, you can’t eat it. In contrast, a nonrivalrous good is not diminished by distribution. It can be exposed to one person or to 1,000 and each person has full capacity to enjoy it. I sat on the couch looking into this little boy’s eyes, knowing that within my own heart, my own muscle memory, I held a wealth of nonrivalrous goods. All of the riches from my own childhood are resources I have to offer; resources that won’t diminish if I share them with 10 or 1,000 children. But I spend my life comfortably 30 minutes and a world away, watching Netflix, griping about a messy house, coordinating sports schedules, helping with homework.
Office Moms and Dads and has put new children, new voices, new notes into the comfortable cadence of my life.
Is the bag packed for tomorrow’s practice?
A six-year-old is sleeping on the couch at the Department because they couldn’t find a respite home. He must be terrified.
I need to add paper towels to my grocery list.
Someone hurt a baby because he cried.
He could have brain damage.
I really need to start adding money to the Disney fund.
Those sisters had to be split up because nobody had room for both of them.
These new dissonant notes make me uncomfortable. They’ve disrupted the rhythm. They hurt my ears, but I can’t shut them out. If the innocent little boy with clear blue eyes and marks on his head grows up to be a man and finds himself with a baby in his arms, I want him to find more than angry words or cruel hands when he draws from the well of his childhood.
What I have to offer, what you have to offer, are the nonrivalrous riches we share with our own children. Your aunt’s funny stories. My grandpa’s song. The way your father listened—really listened—when you talked. My mother’s unconditional love. Your sister’s laugh. These riches have made us who we are, have cultivated our own children’s lives, and will remain just as potent and beautiful if we share them with 10 more children—or 1,000.
...to Office Moms and Dads for taking care of our foster children, or any child in the office that is in need. We truly appreciate it! -- Bobbi, social worker, DCYF
Foster Parent Testimonial
Long-time foster parent, Shannon, shares how Office Moms & Dads has impacted the whole community.