My youngest son stood next to me in the kitchen, peering into the bread maker as whirling wheat flour worked it's way into a ball.
“Look, Mom, the butter and salt have disappeared but water keeps bubbling up in the middle.”
I smiled. Teen boys don't care about bread dough and baking!
My son, my chosen son, loved every minute in the kitchen with me. After spending his early childhood in multiple foster homes, the comfort of a mother's homemade cooking left an impact.
When we met, his sixty pound body did not resemble that of a “tween” boy but revealed years of competition with boys twice his size crowding in for a bite of rationed food. His staples were Hamburger Helper, peanut butter and jelly, and boxed Alfredo. His definition of meat was cheap hot dogs and chicken nuggets. It's not that he preferred junk food. Many children do. Teens, however, are food vacuums. My other two sons proved it. He, however, was too afraid. His horizons were narrow and low.
Bringing him into the kitchen to help, I introduced to him one new food at a time. Soon, he began to choose better than the sugar and chemically-injected fare which he knew prior.
Other choices sought expansion too. When we met him, he had no sense of hope, no interests nor hobbies-only fantasies. Instead of the normal adolescent tendencies to enroll in sports, or join social clubs, my son wanted to play by himself in his room with toys more fit for early elementary school students. He didn't know how to make friends and couldn't follow social rules for games and group activities. He was afraid to give anyone else control over him and yet had no sense of self-control.
We asked questions like these: How do you feel? What would you like to drink? What's your favorite color? What kind of things do you like to do for fun? What books do you like to read? What do you want to be when you grow up?
Each time, the answer to all of these questions was the same three word phrase: I don't know.
Tears welled up and ran down my cheeks. It's not suppose to be this way in the adolescent years. These years are for dreaming and becoming, for learning to stand on one's own two feet but my son had one thought: survival.
“Why ya cryin', Mama?” He would ask when I was deep in the sorrow of it. Hearing him call me “mama” would have made it seem like he really had a sense of family from the start in our home. I knew otherwise. Every woman who ever housed him had been “mama” with a different last name. He even asked teachers to be “mama”. No mother had ever instilled in him a love of life and awareness that God had bestowed upon him unique talents to bring joy both to him and to the world. This became my mission.
Soon, “Mama” became “Mom” and then “Mommy”. He was a teen but he was my little boy and he knew I was his mother. Our time in the kitchen helped him discover his love for culinary arts.
While we cooked multi-grain blueberry pancakes and stood, side by side near the bread machine, he showed me that the cocoon where he had hidden was opened and budding into young adolescence.
“Mom, when I become a famous chef, I'm going to come back to your house on Saturdays once a month and cook for you. I'll invite my brothers and dad too.”
More tears blurred my vision now as I pondered these thoughts. How could my curious little boy only a year later show signs of becoming a teenager already? And yet it was true. He had discovered a dream, and it was his dream. He had discovered abundant life. Life that breathed and grew-just like him.
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