After living in Haiti all of these years – I still cannot wrap my mind around this. I’m watching my 2 year olds covered in orange from a bag of Cheetos – stains on their shirts from the bowl of rice & beans they just ate. And I can’t help but think about the little girl I saw this morning. Those big brown eyes – that precious little mouth.
I have clinic Monday-Wednesday. I was walking a patient out of my office and letting the next patient know they could come in. I swung my door open and I watched a young mother slap her 2-year-old daughter right in the mouth. The little girl cried and the mom yelled at her. She wasn’t next in line but I told her to come into my office.
Here is our conversation:
What is your baby’s Name?
Her name is Michelet.
What’s going on? Why did you slap this beautiful little girl?
Because she was crying. I can’t listen to her cry anymore.
Why is she crying?
Because she is hungry.
When did she eat last?
Yesterday – Sunday morning.
Tell me about your family?
I am 23 years old. I have 4 children. I have no husband. I have no help. I work in the field making charcoal. Michelet knows it’s not her day. She needs to stop crying.
Why isn’t it her day? What does that mean?
I have 4 children. They are 6, 5, 3, & 2. I don’t have money to feed them every day. My 6 & 5 year old eat today. My 3-year-old and Michlet will eat tomorrow.
I’m sitting there listening to this young mother – watching tears stream down from Michelet’s big brown eyes. It’s 48 hours between meals for these 4 children. Understand what I mean when I say “meal”. I’m talking about a small cup of rice every 48 hours. They eat Sunday morning and then the next time will be Tuesday morning. This little baby is SO HUNGRY and the mom is slapping her because she won’t quit crying. This 2-year-old is somehow supposed to understand that today is not her day! OH.MY.HEART.
My kids act like they’re starving at lunch if they miss breakfast. How do I tell Rosie and Malaya that you can eat a cup of rice Monday, Wednesday, & Friday. And nothing else all week-long. And Gabriel and Asher can eat Tuesday, Thursday, & Saturday. How do you make any child at any age understand that “today is not their day”.
The young mother was tired. Overwhelmed. Discouraged. At 23 – her life was already too much for her to bear alone. She was doing what she had to do – clearly just going through the motions. She wasn’t “present”. And she is just one of hundreds of thousands of mothers who are just trying to make it each day. Mothers who listen to their babies cry themselves to sleep – only to wake up and cry all day long. No hope of stopping the tears – they’re mentally spent – no patience left. So they take their frustration out on their babies – or they tune them out and shut down all together.
The last team left some crackers and granola bars. I opened a pack of crackers and the little girl shoved the whole cracker in her mouth nearly biting her little fingers. STARVING. I counted out enough items that all 4 kids could have something each day this week. But that’s just this family…..for just this week.