Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Imaginary Stick, part II

Welcome to the second half of my nightmare.  If you missed the beginning, CLICK HERE for part one! 
Sure enough, Mr. G. arrived about forty-five minutes later.
He was a balding, mousy little man, who was very pleasant and, in my opinion, pretty non-judgmental.  I offered him a seat, and we made small talk for a while.  You know - how long have we lived here, how old is your son - that sort of thing.  


Then he took out his note pad and the Official Interview started.  
He told me that he couldn’t disclose the source of the complaint, but I let him know that I already spoke with Peyton about it and knew the source of the allegation.  This ruffled him a bit because maybe she had been coached!  
Seriously.  
A four year old.  
The only creature more brutally honest than a four year old is a three year old.  
I assured him that I simply explained the situation to her to prepare her for this visit.  He interviewed her.  The kind of garden variety questions that could raise some red flags, depending on how they were answered like ‘Do you like living here?’  and ‘How do you like your school?’  The only thing I can recall her telling him was that she really liked the kids at her school, but the teachers were “not very nice.” 
Then he asked me what I can only assume to be the ‘usual questions.‘  Given my heightened state, it was all I could do to keep my defense-mechanism {being a smart-ass} from kicking in:
Do you or your husband drink alcohol, Mrs K.?
{Not NEARLY enough!}  Well, occasionally, you know, in social situations.
Is there any illegal drug use in the home? 
{Does that include heroin?}  No, no, nothing like that.  Absolutely not.
Are you on any medication? 
Now, this was before my MS diagnosis, so I couldn’t even pull the “crippling disease” card (dammit!)  But I wasn’t about to tell him about the Prozac for my ongoing clinical depression, or the Xanax for my panic attacks (one of which I was experiencing at that very moment.)
Medication?  No, just a Tylenol here and there. 
See?  I wasn’t even copping to DayQuil!
Do either of you spank your children?
{Hell, yeah!  But only twice a day.}
This was a tricky one, because yes, I have spanked the kids.  We live on a fairly busy street, and my number-one-non-negotiable rule is No Playing Out Front Unless Daddy or Me Are Out There With You.  It only took one swat on the bum to drive that point home.  
Well, yes, I have, but only if they’ve disobeyed a safety rule, and that hasn’t happened in months... 
I see.  Would you mind showing me your home, Mrs. K?
{Well, jeez, I haven’t really had time to put away the S&M gear, but if you must...}  Absolutely.  Come right this way... 
I gave him a tour of the downstairs:  living room, kitchen (fresh fruit, very good,) dining room, playroom (oh, what a nice collection of books you have!)  Then the upstairs.  Incredibly, I had actually made beds and tidied up that morning.
He commented on the decor (What a beautiful home you have!  Did you decorate it yourself?  Very nice.)  And asked about window treatments (Are those custom made?)  
And with every step, I began to feel more and more violated.  I wasn’t sick and anxious anymore.  I was angry.  And I told him so.
Listen Mr. G., I understand that this is your job, and I thank God for people like you, because I wouldn’t last a day seeing some of the things you must have to deal with.  But I fail to understand what the condition of my house has to do with the situation with my daughter.  I’m sure that there are people in much nicer houses than this who are abusing their kids on a regular basis, just as I’m sure that there are kids that live in crappy motel rooms who couldn’t BE more loved...  

...And just think about this for a minute:  if I were beating my daughter with a stick, don’t you think she’d be afraid that I’d beat her with a stick if she told anyone that I was beating her with a stick?!
::TESTIFY!::
I understand your frustration, Mrs. K.. Obviously, there’s been a mis-understanding.  Given the circumstances, I’m not sure why they didn’t just call you in for a conference.  I will file my report, and let you know the outcome in a couple of days.  I’m confident that the matter will be dismissed and the file will be closed.
Well, the matter was dismissed, and the file was closed.
It goes without saying that Peyton did not return to that school.  In fact, I got the distinct feeling they didn’t want her back, those Concerned Faculty Members.
But for me, the shame and anger and humiliation wore on for months after.  For the longest time, I was mortified and I lived in fear of anyone ever finding out this had happened.  
It took me a long time to realize that I didn’t really own any of this.  It had been thrusted on me, and it was my responsibility to not take responsibility.  I was letting them make me feel this way.
I finally decided to open up and share this story.  Yes, I was afraid of being judged.  But the reactions of those around me stripped away that shame.  “Are you serious?  Did they even say anything to you first?  Did they call her pediatrician?  Anything like that?”
No.  No they didn’t.  They called the mousy little man at The Department of Child Services.  
And for a moment, they made me feel like the worst mother in the world.

14 comments:

  1. Moving is so hard (done it a bunch!) and new schools getting to know our kids is hard too. Your kids are lucky to have a witty, inteligent and creative mom ... don't let the "concerned" parents/neighbors/teachers steal your mojo! There are lots of ways to live in suburbia...and more kinds of people than we first imagine!! Thanks for sharing the story ~

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  2. I can't believe this story. My four year old daughter ALWAYS has bruises up and down her shins in the warm months from playing outside like crazy. It would never even cross my mind that some idiot could misinterpret them so dramatically. I'm so sorry this happened to you.

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  3. I am SO glad that you got her out of that school. Thankfully the mousy man was also an intelligent man who could recognize a happy, healthy child, not to mention a good mom, when he sees one. Thank you for sharing

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  4. Wow, someone should probably call DSS on the people at that school for the irresponsible way they handled this situation. Yes, I understand that you need to be concerned if a child says something like that (as you said, 4 year olds are brutally honest) but they also need to realize that she was kidding. And if they really are concerned, there are better ways to handle the situation than getting the authorities involved. That school should be shut down.

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  5. dosweatthesmallstuffApril 24, 2011 at 5:00 AM

    Oh my goodness, I would've been chewing my Xanax like peanuts if I were you! And then I would sue the school for defamation and psychological trauma. What the heck were they thinking? It's one thing to be on the lookout for signs of abuse, but to call the authorities because of a couple of bruises without first investigating the real cause, that was totally uncalled for! I'm glad your little girl is outta that place!

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  6. She's nine now, and STILL gets bruises everywhere. We started calling her "Princess Peach" because of it (of course it doesn't stop her from climbing that tree...)

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  7. I kinda felt bad for that guy. Like I said, I wouldn't have his job in a million years. It WAS a little weird how he kept commenting on the house. To be honest, the kids just weren't really old enough to mess anything up yet! You should see it now #pigsty

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  8. I seriously think they were LOOKING for drama. Earlier in the year, I swear, there was a notice sent home saying that the kids should be sent to school with hats, scarves and gloves during cold weather. At the end of the notice, it was suggested that to send your child without these things could be interpreted as NEGLECT! I shoulda pulled her then.

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  9. I DID go to the school the next day. They wouldn't let me past the lobby! I was hoppin' mad, but I wasn't about to take out on the poor school secretary. I just told her to make sure she let them know that I had great relationships with several attorneys around the city (from my work,) and if I hear one word of this when she transfers to kindergarten the next year, I won't bother with the school, I'll go after them PERSONALLY. Haven't heard a thing since...

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  10. Thanks for your comment! Since that first year, we moved her to public school (which was the reason we picked this town in the first place,) where the atmosphere is warm and friendly and there's a high level of parent involvement. But talk about starting off on the wrong foot!

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  11. BTW, you know those bastards STILL send us a newsletter asking for money?!

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  12. Wow. Great Blog! You did well in that situation. Love that you had the guts to speak your mind to that man. Someone called DCS on us about 5-6 years ago. It was a horrible experience and made us second guess everyone we knew. They dismissed it as well and we believe we know who called them...someone we knew and trusted who was Nazi-OCD and couldn't stand our home enviroment. We had recently moved into a "fixer-upper" so the house was a constant work in progress.

    Perhaps I'll share the story in a future blog. thanks for stopping by my site!!

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  13. I think more people have been in your shoes. I know my ex-husband's ex-wife called DSS on me because she and I had a disagreement. I was mortified and embarrassed when they showed up at my house the day after the argument. The caseworkers were nice and explained they get these types of calls all the time. They told me about a father who knows once a month his ex will call and has coffee waiting when he sees them coming down the road.
    That's the frustrating part. People call for reasons that aren't what the hotline is designed for. I'm glad you had a chance to say your piece to him.

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  14. It was really crazy! I have to say, I was shaking in my shoes when I said
    those things to him. It was all I could do to keep from getting hysterical!
    And you're absolutely right - if you look at me funny and I don't like it,
    poof! I can make an anonymous phone call and put your life into a tailspin!
    Still, I DO feel bad for the case worker and some of the dark stuff he must
    deal with. I just wish he could concentrate more on the REAL cases instead
    of melodrama like this. Thanks so much for stopping by!

    On Tue, May 3, 2011 at 8:00 PM

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