Last Christmas we had a stranger sleep over.
Not a complete stranger. He was a 12-year-old kiddo from inner city Milwaukee we had met about six months earlier. Was it safe to have him with my two girls in the house? Was it smart? Would I recommend others do it? Probably not. But looking back, we wouldn’t have changed a thing.
Marco was a tweenage boy with learning and behavioral issues and was taking several medications. Why would this extremely overprotective mom, who wouldn’t let my kids ride their bikes on our small neighborhood block in the country, or let them go on sleepovers unless I knew the families intimately, want to mentor this boy…let alone have him stay overnight?
There was one reason for my seemingly dangerous decision.
I wanted to ignore finding out about this young man who had been removed by the state him from his home, was separated from his sister (she got adopted, but he didn’t) and was moved from group home to group home. I asked myself what difference would it make to help one child in a sea of children in protective services with similar stories. I wanted to ensure my own kids were safe, but I had a problem. I couldn’t do any of these things. Why? My own son.
What if Marco was MY son? What if MY son was being moved around to sterile, strange and unfamiliar places, with strange and unfamiliar faces? What if my son had been neglected and abused as a toddler? What if my son felt unwanted and unloved and was separated from his sisters? The thought of my son having to do even one of those things broke me. What we needed to do became crystal clear.
When we first met Marco we would play games at the group home a few times a week. After several weeks the whole family had a picnic lunch with him and eventually we took him on outings (I am a licensed high school special education teacher as well, so I am trained to handle most issues). We took him to baseball games and to the park. We took him day camping and he had his first s’more. The day before Christmas Eve the staff told me he was going to be the only client at the group home for the holiday. That was once again unacceptable, so we decided to have Marco stay overnight. He slept in the study adjacent to our bedroom (my kids sleep on the second floor).
Marco is now fourteen and a half and has been adopted, however we still have him over every month. He is doing well and is off his medications. We are thankful for the lessons he continues to teach us about joy, gratitude and contentment.
We learned doing nothing is not an option when it comes to a human life. And we are thankful we all have been given more compassion, more understanding and more room in our hearts to love because of this young man.