I feel like my life lately is like one of those posts about what really goes on behind the camera of a gorgeous Instagram shot. It’s all sunbeams and soft focus when you look at it. In real life, however, I’m crouched behind a dirty dumpster in a questionable alley behind a 7-11.
I will honestly tell you that, since I met my husband, even when life feels dark, everything has worked itself out in the end. He’s my lucky penny. Together, we’re kind of an unstoppable duo. Like Batman and Robin, without the homosexual undertones.
Though we’ve only been married nearly two years, and we’ve been together for four, but it doesn’t take an expert to know that there were surely going to be some hard times. And during those dark times, it would take more than a hug and a few crossed fingers to get through. By the way, that’s not really how we get through hard times; I mean, we hug. A lot. But I can’t remember the last time I crossed my fingers. They’re rather chubby.
Anyway, if you’re a parent, you know how difficult it can be. Like, most of the time. It’s a legit punch-in-the-face-then-laugh-till-you-cry emotional roller coaster that’s mostly good, with a peppering of some really hard shit. That analogy might be more true for us since we have a boy and a girl 10 years apart. You’re constantly questioning whether you’re doing the right things. Did you punish them appropriately? Are you yelling too much or too little? Will they grow up to hate you or thank you for the parenting decisions you made on a minute-to-minute basis?
The doubt in myself as a mother was the heaviest burden I’d ever felt. This person was the person who’d raised me, who knew my secrets and in whom I’d confided in, was calling me out in the worst way possible.
Every once in a while, I try really hard to step away from my phone to leave social media – AKA, my job – behind. To live in the moment, to play with the kids, to get some peace and quiet. One lucky day, I was able to do just that and when I returned to check messages, there was one from our county child services office. Someone had filed a report with a list of about 10-15 complaints in total. Against me, mostly, regarding child neglect in our home.
My heart broke. All those questions I ask myself each day, all those doubts about my parenting skills, all swirling in my head and apparently, swirling in someone else’s, as well. They couldn’t tell me who made the accusations, but as I sat and listened to each one, I knew exactly who had filed the claim. Only one person in my life – someone very close to me – was witness to a slap to the head of my son when he smarted back (reported as physical abuse) or the lack of a doctor visit when her burnt his finger at work (checked by a medical professional, but reported as 2nd and 3rd degree burns), or about my nearly life-long struggle with bipolar disease (reported as emotionally detrimental to my children).
We set up a home visit to justify or deny the accusations. For days before the visit, I was sick to my stomach. Not because I thought that I was a bad mother, but because I felt like a mother who just wasn’t good enough. A mother who, when viewed from the outside, might have seemed like a bad mom. Worse than that, I wondered if my kids thought I was a bad mom. If that’s the reason that my little girl was such a daddy’s girl, or that my teenaged son complained about how unfair my groundings were.
The doubt in myself as a mother was the heaviest burden I’d ever felt. This person was the person who’d raised me, who knew my secrets and in whom I’d confided, was calling me out in the worst way possible. A way that could result in my children being ripped from my home. This person had used my own ghosts to haunt me.
The day child services was due at my house, I was next door at my in-laws trying to comfort their dog who is deabetic, struggling with seizures. I couldn’t leave my kids together alone because they fight like cats and dogs, so I had my 6-year-old with me, watching this poor dog suffer. Luckily, my sister-in-law took the dog to the vet so that the poor thing could get some relief (the dog later passed away) and I could meet with our child services investigator. The house wasn’t clean, the kids were dirty from playing outside, and the dishes weren’t done. Our house, our family, and our lives were about as vulnerable as they could get.
The kids answered their questions honestly and brilliantly, I answered honestly and took comfort in the realization that most of the accusations were unfounded. Some were truthful, but greatly exaggerated. By the end, my little one was giving them a tour of her room and her new “big girl” bed. My son, because of the nature of the questions, realized there was only one person who could have filed the report. This made it worse for him personally. He didn’t understand why, and I couldn’t explain to him, this person would experience zero repercussions after making the accusations.
This visit, these accusations by someone close in my life, changed our family. I’m thankful because overall the kids weren’t emotionally affected by the visit. But the dynamic of our family changed when we stopped communications with the person who filed the accusations. Sometimes the best way to fight a cancer is to have it removed. Because of the circumstances, it wasn’t difficult or painful. My son felt the same way, though because of the proximity of this person in our lives, it’s likely this feeling of betrayal won’t last for him. For me, I don’t think the feeling will ever go away.
I respect the investigator and what the agency represents. They’re meant to keep children safe. I’d rather that they follow up on every single accusation made, whether it’s in our home or another family’s home. They’re welcome here anytime because I know, whether my kids think I’m fair or not, I know that they see their parents trying the best they can.