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For the Woman at the Post Office Who is Reporting Me for Child Abuse

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.

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12 thoughts on “For the Woman at the Post Office Who is Reporting Me for Child Abuse

  1. Sometimes people go overboard. I’m sorry this happened to you. Just consider how the world is these days with many children actually being abused and no one saying anything. Rebecca, you are a wonderful parent! And I do know how you feel because it happened to me too when my girls were little. Jona

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  2. I am so sorry you went through this. As a former social worker in the field of child abuse and neglect (and a current homeschooler and ‘bleeding heart liberal’) it stings even more. While this woman may have been a mandated reporter, she was obviously ignorant of the criteria for substantiating abuse. The gentleman in the parkin glot probably doesn’t realize that many staunch ‘reporters’ are conservatives. She was using her own ideals- which aren’t the state’s measure for abuse/ neglect anyway- and I would be willing to bet that she never had Olivia : )

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  3. Self-righteous judgmentalism, along with dogmatic absolutism and sectarian triumphalism, is one of the reasons why it is acceptable to admit publicly that one is a “person of faith”; but identifying oneself as a “Christian” results in being profiled as a fundamentalist and/or a Republican. Makes life more challenging for those of us who are progressive Christians or unaffiliated voters.

    BTW, Liberals who impute “racism” or hatred of the poor to everyone who doesn’t support a 60′s political agenda are just as culpable.

    We are living through a period of rapid socioeconomic/political change brought on by our highly complicated advanced technology which has rendered much of our traditional ways of coping with our individual and collective lives ineffective. The more powerless people feel to control their own lives the more they try to control others to regain a sense of power.

    Power is morally neutral. It can be used to either help or harm. Unfortunately, it takes more time, effort, wisdom and compassion to use it to help rather than harm and when a person is needing a quick “power-fix” innocents are misjudged and manipulated, often with tragic results.

    “We exist in a bizarre combination of Stone Age emotions, medieval beliefs, and god-like technology.” —Edward O. Wilson, esteemed Harvard biologist

    “The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.” -Isaac Asimov, scientist and writer (1920-1992)

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  4. I’m sorry that happened to you! Kudos to you for working so hard! We had a very similar situation in a restaurant parking lot, only we handled it with less grace than you did. (Still didn’t hurt the kid though. Yelled at the lady.)

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  5. Most of us have embarassing moments in public places and some of us have special needs children and none of us needs a self-righteous bitch (apologies to the dogs in heat at the moment) who is creating stress in your inherently (because you have little kids) life and (listen up, self righteous prigs) you are distracting the authorities from people that are ACTUALLY abusing their kids by wasting their meager resources reporting people like Rebecca.

    So, miss dressed in Prada, you are actually contributing to abusive people getting away with their crimes by crying wolf. Hopefully, you will be put on a do not take seriously caller list so your damage to families you encounter and society as a whole will be minimized.

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  6. Parenting is so unbelievably difficult at times. People expect you to restrain and control you kids at all times, but do it in the way *they* think is correct–as if a calm word or a tap on the backside is all it takes. A couple of weeks ago, my child had an absolute meltdown in the mall: throwing himself in the floor, going limp, and screaming that I was hurting him whenever I tried to hold his hand. I had my arms full of stuff and could barely carry him. I pretty much half-dragged him to the car. It was awful. I struggle to control my temper with him sometimes, and it was near the breaking point then–not to mention I was completely mortified. I think if anyone had threatened to report me, I’d have told them to get bent. Still, I think I could use some help in this area of gentle parenting. Going to look up your posts on the subject.

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  7. Hey Rebecca,
    I ran into your post via “The Female Bible Warrioress” post because she reposted one of your later posts where I saw you you put up one of David Hayward’s fine cartoons (see link below).

    Why that background? Well, I am an atheist, so I wanted to explain how a blind, lost fool like me found your site. :-)

    I enjoyed this post for several reasons. I know a very progressive Christian pastor who has a web site and just did a post on “Judging other Parents”. Your fine post here illustrates the message of his post.

    So, I thought you’d like an introduction to these two excellent sites by Christians who aren’t Bible worshippers (unlike the Warrioress).

    (1) “Naked Pastor” — by David Hayward: the Christian cartoonist, former pastor.

    (2) “Luke Lindon“: a UCC pastor

    There are lots of different Christians out there — and many of them think each other aren’t ‘real’ Christians. My Christians feel that other Christians have such bad theology, that they might as well be nasty, evil atheists like me. :-)

    Maybe all that theological judgement is similar to judging parents without really understanding them. ;-)

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    • Some of my most spiritually productive relationships have been with atheists. Unlike fellow Christians, they won’t let you get away with pat answers or dodging the hard questions.

      One of the reasons I think that a lot of Christians are so far off the mark is that they view salvation and the work of Christ pretty exclusively as a matter between individuals and God. But really, I think that God’s work and the work of Christ is best understood as a group project undertaken by all of humanity to bring about a “new heaven and new earth” for all of us. With this in mind, I’ve come to believe that it may well be that atheism can be seen as a vocation for some people to push us to abandon that in our religious understanding that is harmful, counter-productive or doesn’t make sense.

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  8. Thanx, Rebecca. Yeah, you are a universalist.
    Since there are so many completely different and often contradictory theological positions that label themselves “Christian”, it is important to ask “Just what flavor are you” when discussing religion with a self-declared Christian. They can all be so very different. As CS Lewis said, some Christians may have more in common with a Buddhist, rather than with many other Christians.

    To that end, I made this table to help Christians be honestly transparent in dialogue:
    http://triangulations.wordpress.com/2010/01/14/2813/

    Likewise, I made this table telling my favorite type of Christian.

    http://triangulations.wordpress.com/2009/10/24/my-favorite-type-of-christians/

    You may enjoy.

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