I gave her my name, so I’m kind of hoping she googles me. Cuz that’s how cool I am – if you google my name, it brings ya here. As long as the cops never figure that out, I’m good. ;p
Anyhow, the reason I hope she googles me and finds this is because like her, I care very much about the proper treatment of children. In fact, I care so much about it that I even care about the damage which is done by those who see something very good – caring about how kids are treated – as an opportunity to tear vulnerable people down, be self-righteous and judgmental. (Sound familiar? It’s ugly behavior outside of a Christian context as well!)
So what happened was I was at the post office with my 3 year old daughter Olivia. The one who was walking at 8 1/2 months. The one who we couldn’t let Great Grandma hold when she met her at 5 months because she was too squirmy for an old woman to hang onto. The one who can scale our refrigerator by holding the handles. The one who can hoist herself up to your waist and onto your back and onto your shoulders all by herself as you struggle to peel her off before she’s sitting on your head like an ill behaved cat. She climbs on counters and tries to launch herself onto your back as you pass by. That one. Up there in the picture looking all abused. Because she got into my lipstick and gave herself a plum unibrow.
So anyways, I admit that I give my kids a free-er reign than a lot of people. I won’t let them be excessively loud or climb things or tear anything up. But I do let them move around freely as long as I can keep an eye on them. So Olivia, being Olivia was being extra squirrelly and trying to play “keep away from mom”. I’m 100% certain a few people were wondering why I didn’t grab her and get her under control. But she wasn’t being bad or hurting herself or being a nuisance. Plus she is very, very strong and can throw her body weight around like a pro. So I waited until I was at the counter to force her to stand by me. She got away a couple of times and I just calmly brought her back. But when she stuck her head between my legs, I took the chance to catch her and tightened my legs so she couldn’t easily pull her head back out. Trapped! Bwahahaha! Evil mommy strikes again!
So anyways, I honestly wasn’t paying as much attention to her as it sounds. I have 5 kids. I’m on autopilot and talking with the postperson anyways. Olivia made a very half hearted attempt or two to escape, but mostly settled down to look around from her novel position. She’s really strong – if she had really wanted to, she could have escaped. So, I was a bit surprised to here a voice behind me say, “am I really seeing you restrain you child by holding her head between your knees?” I turned around to the fashionably dressed woman who spoke and said, “yes. Absolutely.” At which point she told me that she was a mandatory reporter and had to report me. I told her to go ahead. In fact, later after getting Olivia into her coat, hat and gloves (she was doing her limp noodle routine), and picking her up off the ground where she was doing her dead weight routine and slinging her over my shoulder because she was doing her “I’m going to throw my weight around with great force and see if I can tip you over” routine, I went over to the woman and gave her my name and address. She said thank you. And like I said, I do hope she looks my name up because I wasn’t going to force Olivia to wait while I explained some things to her.
I want her to know that I know something about child abuse and the damage it causes. My husband was brutally abused as child. I spent 3 1/2 year volunteering with boys in prison – all of whom had been abused. I know quite vividly the damage it causes. And I also know how hard it is to overcome and not pass on to your own children. Parenting is hard. Parenting when your only example is to use violence to control your children is immeasurably more difficult. You don’t know who you are talking to. You don’t know how much effort has gone into raising our kids without relying on violence and authoritarian control. If this woman had a brain in her head, she would have observed that I was not angry, I had not raised my voice or even been irritable, I certainly didn’t pinch, hit, smack or otherwise accost my daughter, shame her or scare her. She clearly wasn’t in any distress. I was being a good parent to a challenging, hyper-squirmy child.
This woman, on the other hand, was very deliberately trying to shame me. If I were a bit younger, a bit less experienced or unsure of myself or otherwise vulnerable, she would have succeeded in causing me shame. A shamed parent is no better than a shamed child. It’s a potentially harmful thing to do to a person. And if a parent is harmed and feels shame, guess who ends up paying the price? The kid. Shaming a parent in public is the opposite of helping a kid. You might as well walk up to a kid and stomp on their toes for all the good it does. If you are really that concerned about a child’s wellbeing, you offer to help the parent. You could say, “boy she looks like a real handful. Would you like me to amuse her while you finish what you’re doing?” When you just want to be indignant and self-righteous, you do what this woman did.
And when someone does something like what this woman did today – publicly reprimand and threaten a parent engaged in nothing more serious than restraining their child – it doesn’t just affect that parent and that child. Other people saw it. A man came up to me in the parking lot outside the post office to tell me that I did nothing wrong and express how angry he was at this woman. As he talked phrases like “bleeding heart liberals who think they know every damn thing” came out of his mouth. Do you suppose that the next time he runs into someone talking about the benefits of gentle parenting, he’s going to be more or less open to the idea? Do you suppose that his obvious disdain for “bleeding heart liberals” became more or less entrenched today? Do you suppose his trust in his fellow citizens and our government’s ability to deal with abusive parents was strengthened or weakened a bit today?
Not only is shaming a parent and threatening them wrong and potentially damaging to the parent and their child, it helps to rip this already fragile fabric of our society apart just a little bit more. It makes us believe that our neighbors are not only idiots, but dangerous to our wellbeing. With your “mandatory reporter” status announced, it creates the impression that our government is a danger to parents and children rather than a support. There is no good thing which can come from what this woman did today.
So, if the woman who saw me at the post office today and was so appalled at my treatment of my daughter did look up my name and find this, please, look around my blog. Here’s the link to my page on “Spiritual Parenting”, in fact. And if you want to contact child services and tell them that this Christian mom who advocates gentle parenting and is working hard with her husband to break numerous generational curses for their kid’s sake needs to dealt with, go right ahead. I have nothing to fear. You, on the other hand, will have exposed yourself as arrogant, foolish and one of the people responsible for making this world I’m raising my kids in a worse place for all of us.