As we are driving home from school there is fighting in my car over the different phones—mine and my oldest daughter’s.

The middle one and the youngest one are yelling. Somehow they work it out and stop. It gets quiet and my little one says, “Do they have phone in jail?”

“What?” I ask, not sure I heard right.

I wonder if this is a good thing that my 11, 9, and 7-year-old daughters are so connected to my work, and desperately want me to take them with me to see juvie. I am sure somewhere I am losing parenting points on this.

“Do they have phones in jail?” she asks again.

“Well,” I say, “No, they are not allowed to have cell phones or any electronic devices.”

“Oh no,” she says, “How do they talk to their mommies?” I smile, she has such a little girl’s voice that child of mine, and such a sweet innocent heart.

“Ema (mom in Hebrew) how do they talk to their mommies?” she asks again.

Mommy, not mom, not mother, but mommy. I called my mother mommy ‘til the day she died. I was in my late 30‘s.

I have NEVER heard one of my juvie kids EVER refer to their mom as Mommy—not in their writing, not in the improv, not anywhere.

I think that “mommy” has a deeper meaning than just mom. When my kids want to piss me off they call me “Mother” and they add a British accent to it as well.

Mommy—we all need a mommy. A mommy to call, a mommy to cry to, a mommy who will do her mommy job, give us unconditional love.

I truly believe this is the core issue with my juvie girls, the lack of a mommy –the lack of guidance, and the lack of unconditional love. Not that people don’t take a wrong turn, even when a mommy is present, (‘cause even the best of mommies does not have the all power, and even the best of mommy’s children fall trip and go astray…)

I have three girls at home, and a dozen more in juvie , I try to be THE mommy. It is a daily challenge, sometimes a battle. There are days when I am far from being that mom, you know, the one we all want to be but doesn’t really exist?

And then today I had the moment.

I started a new group in juvie. After I dropped my kids off at home, I drove up to jail. When I got back it was late and my kids were in bed. I went to each one to give them a kiss and my oldest was still awake.

“How was it, Ema?”
“Great,” I answer.
“Do you have a good new group?” I am surprised my distant middle-schooler even remembered.
“Yes” I say.  “Yes, I actually do. I have a great group.”
“That’s good” she says.
“It’s funny Ema, you’re kinda like their mom, right?”

No I think to myself, I am kinda like their mommy.

“Yeah, I guess a little,” I say, and I hold my child close, and I pray that as my girls in juvie fall asleep tonight they feel a little mommy’s love. My love.