Sunday, June 13, 2010

Oh, oh, wait!!! The saga continues!!!

If you are reading THIS post before you read the PREVIOUS post, go back and read "Living Life as Full as We Can....and I hate my job..." first. Trust me, context is everything. And please, forgive my f* bombs... my language got a little out of hand...
:p
(of course, it's nothing you haven't seen come out of my mouth before, but I've been a ton better lately. I don't know why. Minor blip, I'm sure the filthy mouthed monster will come back again to live in my mouth. It's only a matter of time. Hi, mom)

To start off with, please forgive me if I don't make much sense, am not as witty and charming as usual (haha), and have more grammatical mistakes than normal. I've had about two and a half sporadic hours of sleep in the past 36 hours. Which does not mean that I should be pitied or made allowances for, because I knowingly kept an assigned shift that put me at a serious conflict of interest with sleeping. I chose to work, I chose to work in a job with 12 hour shifts, I chose to work in a job that has night shifts which I frequently prefer because I can 'cheat' and be with my family during the day, sacrifice mere sleep, and work at night. Guilt free working. I take responsibility for how tired I get when I choose to keep a shift that's assigned to me that compromises my sleep. The reasons I took it were (a) it was a high paying shift, (b) it was on a weekend when I can rely on relatives for the overlaps, and (c) it had been over a month since I pulled something similar. Oh, and (d) it's really inconvenient for a number of people at work if I give back an assigned shift.
So, no pity. But a bit of an explanation for rambling and grammatical errors.

I got to my in-law's place, dressed the kids and packed up their stuff, and went home to get ready for church. Church was awesome! The older kids were well behaved and are very comfortable in their sunday school class at our new church now. Riley stayed with me for the worship, and then it took me only about 10 minutes to ease Riley into the nursery and leave without him freaking out. I went back, sat down, relaxed, and listened to an entire sermon. That is a first for me since Riley was born almost two years ago! I usually get either the first half or two thirds of a sermon and the nursery pages for a freaking out baby, or I am distracted by needing to keep him occupied or quiet or staying covered while breastfeeding.

[aside; yes, I do breastfeed my toddler in church. I believe breastfeeding toddlers is something most of us need more exposure to, especially if we happen to be conservative evangelical Christians. It was God who created boobs and their functions, after all. He can't be that opposed to breastfeeding in church]

So. Autonomous church service. Beautiful. I collected the kids and we returned to my in-laws to pick up a bottle of my milk I had forgotten in their fridge, went to get dog food, and returned home. I cleaned, in order to stay awake. I knew if I relaxed at all it would be hard for me not to drift off, and I generally feel more comfortable supervising if Riley is up and about, so I cleaned to stay awake. Not that my house is now clean. It's simply less dirty than it was before. =)
Ayden had hip hop class at 5. I dropped him off, went to the grocery store, and returned with half an hour to spare. There is a playground and water park next to the community centre where Ayden takes hip hop, so I let Matthew and Riley play while we waited. Part way through, they discovered the water park, which was on because the sun had popped out and warmed things up in the afternoon, so we wandered over there to play in the water. Riley pooped his diaper, so I ran to the van, which was parked about 50 feet away, and grabbed some wipes--of course there was no spare diaper in the spare diaper spot in the van--and ran back. I took off the dirty diaper, scrubbed his butt clean, and set him free to splash in the water, naked except for his shoes. I had a moment's pause...what if there is a pervert wandering around the park, and here my kid is running around naked? But I determined that a little nudity is fine in a 1 year old (my parents were hippies--we spent half our childhood running around in various stages of au natural, especially in the summer), for a few minutes while we waited for Ayden to be finished hip hop. I noticed the hip hop class was demonstrating its dance for the parents during the final five minutes of class [this was the final class]. I put Riley's shorts on and went over to watch, 50 feet away from the water park where Matthew wanted to continue playing, and kept giving myself whiplash double checking on him. When Ayden's class was done we went back to get Matthew, and he was sitting with some women, with a towel wrapped over his shoulders. And one of the women started in on me,
"Are you responsible for this little boy? You are his foster mom, I presume?"
"Yes, he's mine. NO, HE'S MY SON."
"I watched you leave him here all by himself in the park, you had no idea he was even cold! He's been here without supervision for like six or seven minutes!"
I pointed to where I had been, and said,
"I was right there! It's fifty feet away!"
"Fifty feet is TOO FAR AWAY!"
And she tore a strip off me. She yelled at me to shut up at one point, and I told her not to use language like that in front of my kids. She told me she and her friend and another man had been watching me all along, and noticed me 'leave both your children unattended while you disappeared' [when I ran to the van for wipes], then watched me take Riley's poopy diaper off and let him go play in the water park, getting his poop everywhere
"But I WIPED HIM OFF, that was the whole point of going to the van!!! He was clean!!!"
And she said, "You call that clean? He was covered in poop!" and her friend is nodding away, uh-huh, he was all poopy. This was crazymaking, and actually took me few minutes to figure out exactly what they were talking about, because he really was scrubbed clean. I think they just associated the nudity with germs, especially after watching me scrub off a poop. But I promise you, his ass was CLEAN.
And then she watched me 'walk away and leave this poor little boy to fend for himself in the water park, where anyone could walk in and just TAKE HIM!!!'

Fifty feet, people. Fifty feet. Never out of my sight.

I yelled, "Don't you DARE accuse me of neglecting my child! I was NOT too far away!!"
And she's yelling and red in the face about how lucky I am nobody in authority saw me abandon my kids in the park, and I'm all,
"Yeah, you call the cops, then! Call them here so they can see how crazy you are!! Because when they show up and you tell them what happened, they're going to think 'This blonde chick is LOONY TUNES!'

It was not my proudest moment, people. But this was mama bear on mama bear on 36 hours no sleep on defensive for having walked 50 feet away from my kid for five minutes (remember the whiplash? I did feel kinda conflicted about it, although I kept checking and checking) on how dare you accuse me of being a (utterly inaccurate) stereotypical foster parent who doesn't care about the well being of her foster child just because my kid is brown and I am white on Oh My God you have been watching me for half an hour and think I'm a horror show of a parent on you just accused me of being a DIRTY PERSON WITH DIRTY KIDS, the fear of which triggers anxiety attacks in me on I can't believe I'm being harrassed yet again after being harrassed at work all night on I try my best everyone makes mistakes in judgement sometimes on you're ganging up on me on I fear you are right and I'm a terrible parent what is God thinking entrusting me with these children???

She's all,
"Don't you know how fast someone can come and take your child? And then you'll never see them again, and you would deserve it!"
And then her friend drops the bombshell. By this point her friend was actually kind of taken aback by her behavior, and was sympathetic to me. She says,
"You have to understand, this lady had her two year old abducted from her several years ago when she was at the park. She got her daughter back and everything was fine, but she's really sensitive about kids being abducted."

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, suddenly this makes more sense. Although what was up with the poopy butt accusation? And WHAT is UP with the freaking gang up judgmentalism and tongue lashing in front of about twenty five kids and their various parents?!??!
I turned to lady #1 and I said,
"Why didn't you say that? Why didn't you start with that, instead of attacking me? You have to rethink your approach if you want people to listen to you, because nobody gets anything but defensive when you just attack them! Why didn't you approach me like your friend did just now?" Lady #2 turns and walks away.

"Because I don't care about you at all! All I care about is this little boy and how you left him here all by himself and he was COLD!"

And I turned slightly to my left and Lord Jesus in Heaven Thank You My Love, one of my oldest friends was walking towards me with her husband and little girl. "Hi Meliss! Do you need some help!"
YES! Lady #1 turns and runs away, still yelling about how I should be arrested, and I fall into my friend's arms and was sobbing. Like, wracking your body, shaking, snot everywhere sobbing. She's so wonderful. She just hugged me SO tight and said, "You're a good mom. You're such a good mom. You are a fantastic mom. And you love your kids SO MUCH! And it SHOWS!" and it was Jesus in her words, Jesus falling from her lips, Jesus holding me tight. Because all my mind wanted to do was panic attack, and I couldn't have held it off if I were alone with no one to counter the OhmyGosh she's right I'm a terrible parent I'm an awful person I don't deserve to have children I'm evil incarnate. My friend even said, "It's a miracle I'm here! It's a miracle. It's God letting you know it's okay, and I'm so glad I could be a part of a miracle for you." And her husband watched my kids while I cried on his wife's shoulder and she held me and I shook and shook and snotted. Thank God for good friends.

It took about half an hour for me to calm down, gather my stuff, gather my kids, and walk them to the van (with the help of my friend and her husband). After I loaded the kids in the van I started up again crying and we were talking about, what would I have done differently and isn't kindness a better approach if you see a parent doing something you aren't comfortable with, and wouldn't an offer of help be so much better than judgement and accusation and yelling in the park? And I was saying I wish that woman knew who I really was, instead of taking a snapshot of my behavior in a park on one of my most tired days and judging me based on that? I told Dawn, my friend, about the 36 hours with no sleep, and she commiserated. Then WOULD YOU BELIEVE IT, the woman and her friend and their kids are loading themselves into the vehicle RIGHT NEXT TO OURS and I'm still the one crying and they're all pretending not to notice and all holier than thou averting their eyes. I'm just wanting the ground to eat me whole, and contemplating never returning to this park ever again, in case these women are there, when around the back of my van comes a woman about my mom's age. She says, "I'm so sorry. Is there anything I can offer you, you are obviously very upset at what my daughter did to you. Is there anything we can say that would make you feel better about this situation?"
"Yes! Maybe, instead of judging me for an apparent lack of judgement, next time she could offer to help me?" I'm crying pretty hard again, it's hard to get it all out. Because an offer of, "Hey, I can see you just went to your van, I had my eye on your kids while you were gone so you wouldn't have to worry about them. Can I carry anything or do something to help you?" would have actually been something I welcomed as I was pulled in several directions at once. Teamwork. A village raising a child. All that jazz.
My friend says, "And you know what? My friend here has three small boys, so she's doing the best she can. And she's been up for 36 hours because she worked last night and has to stay up to watch her kids. And her husband works shift work, and she adopted this little boy because she loves children and is really really good with them."
So the grandmother says, "We are Christians, we shouldn't act this way, I'm so sorry, why don't you come over and talk to my daughter and her friend and see if we can sort this out?"

This behavior came from a CHRISTIAN? But I'm actually not surprised. Just embarrassed to share the same religion as this Woman Without Grace (or manners).

So we go around and the grandmother rolls down the windows and says, "Okay, who here is a perfect mother, raise your hand?" And we all snort and say no way not me nuh-uh. And she tells my story: 36 hours no sleep, have a job, three energetic boys, husband works shift work, adopted my son and love him very much, and I can see the friend, lady #2, soften her face and entire body language, and she nods when I say, "Perhaps next time, instead of judging me, maybe offer to help? That would be more kind."
But lady #1 is still angry, and attacks me again.
"It's pretty hard to be kind when you see children being neglected by their parents who are supposed to love them--"
And I said, "It is not hard to be kind," emphatically.
She started in on me again and I put up my hand and said, "Stop. You are still judging me and being unkind, so I am going to leave." And I did.

Her mother followed me around the side of my van and said, "Please, can I pray for you? Come here." And she enveloped me in a deep hug and prayed, "Jesus bring peace to this girl, bring peace to us all, bring us peace. Shower down love on this woman and her children, and cover them in your care, Amen."
And it was Jesus again, Jesus pouring words from another woman's lips for me for me, how is there so much love and so much hatred living intertwined in this world? How is it that Jesus speaks to me in this way, a small suburban nondescript mom with so many faults? This grandmother had no idea I was a Christian too, wasn't she brave enveloping me in her arms and praying for me right then and there?
How can I be kinder to the women I meet or see in the park or the woods or the school or in their cars or in the grocery store, so that I don't ever make a woman feel the way I was made to feel today?

I'm torn up for me but also for her, because she obviously was completely traumatized by her daughter's abduction and it is the lens she sees everything through now, she's so full of worry and guilt and anger she can't even be kind (don't I know how that feels?!).
I feel better. I came home and told Brent the entire story wide open no hiding anything I said or she said, and I was totally second guessing my parenting because of the run to the van and the fifty feet of distance at the end there, and of course I would do it all differently had I known I was being WATCHED FOR BAD PARENTING, but I'm trying to balance Free Range Parenting with safety and teaching my kids appropriate touch and inappropriate touch without spooking them into not trusting adults and the world around them and a hefty dose of common sense, since 97% of abductions are by someone the child KNOWS, the vast majority of the time someone the child is RELATED TO, and the remaining small percent of stranger abductions seem to me a small enough risk for fifty feet of distance at the water park with my five year old (and also a run to the van for wipes). I try my best I try my best don't we all just try our best?

They don't come with a frickin manual.

But when i described the scene to Brent he said, "There is absolutely nothing wrong with what you did. The kids were safe. You are a great mom, that woman was crazy and had no right to talk to you like she did."
Maybe he's right. Maybe Lady #1 is right. I'm doing the best I can.


[here is a message Brent wanted to type on here:]
brent says hi...and melissa is a great mom...and hot

And now I'm going to sleep. Please don't judge me too hard, I do the best I can...

16 comments:

Caryn Ouwehand said...

Melissa.

Ugh. This sucks SOOOOO much. Reading this made my heart ache.

xoxoxoxo.

Your a great Mama.

Roboseyo said...

thank you for sharing that story; I'm sorry you had to go through that experience. You ARE awesome, and you ARE a great mom.

... and hot.

nancy said...

Its not a case of you doing nothing wrong - you were doing everything right! As parents it is our job to take steps back as our children grow so that by the time they leave home they can take care of themselves. Finding a balance between safety and independence is always a guessing game, but 50 ft away?!
I'd like to know where that woman was when her child was abducted. She is insane to react to you in this way. I can't believe you're exposed to this shit as a parent. It makes me so grateful to have raised you kids a generation ago in a much more tolerant forgiving time. You know how much freedom I gave you - unusual even for the era - so you have my support 100%.
maybe encourage the boys to find you instead of going with strangers if they need something (like a towel). Also, that woman was out of line encouraging matthew to sit with her instead of helping him find you. Don't second guess yourself here - you were practicing great parenting. That lady is warped and sick and her condeming harsh spirit is eating her up internally. As much as she hurt you, she is doing more damage to herself (not that I'm supposed to be happy about that!)
I hope you slept well last night. You need sleep to survive parenting!!!
love you forever
mom

ms emili louann said...

holy toledo.

you ARE a fantastic mother! even though i don't know you personally, i can tell from your written words - you love your boys, you sacrifice for them, you work your ass off for the betterment of their futures... and i'm pretty sure you wipe their butts thoroughly enough... you rock :)

crazy, man. somewhat good intentions marred by judgment and irrationality.... grrr.

Tonya said...

Melissa, I am so crying for you. You ARE an awesome mom. An amazing mom. You love your kids. You do a wonderful job with those boys. And, here's the BIG one - you trust GOD to watch out for your kids because you know you can't do it all.

A couple weeks ago, we stopped to get lunch at Wendy's. It was a busy holiday weekend in a busy, touristy town. Liza was asleep so I was going to stay in the car. Abigail offered. She's 12, old enough to babysit, so we let her. I ate quickly and came out to the van to check on Abi and bring her her lunch. She told me a man had watched her for a while and then knocked on the window of the van and asked her if the door was locked. Praise GOD the door was locked and Abigail knew enough to not roll down the window or anything else. Praise God for HIS protection.

I look at situations like this as an opportunity to teach our kids about stranger danger AND an opportunity to evaluate our parenting.

I am so sorry this lady was mean!

Anonymous said...

Hi,

Sarah here. I am a bit of a lurker, stumbled on your blog through a friend of a friend of a friend etc.'s blog, and haven't quite gotten up the confidence to comment in the past.

But, this did it for me.

That woman was in the wrong in many many ways. She acted out of her own fear and guilt and pain, and mistreated you and your children. You should not for a second worry about your own parenting or your own children.

It is amazing and disturbing what people think they have a right to say to others.

I agree with your Mom that she was not right for having Matthew sit with her. We've all been in the situation where we come across a child who is clearly lost and looking for a parent (malls, parks, etc.?) and never should we take the child off with us. I always ask them if they know where their parent might be and if so I send a friend off to look, if I am without a friend I stay put with the child until their parent finds them. And certainly NEVER do I judge a parent.

What really caused me to comment though was how offensive I find her assumptions about your role in Matthew's life. While I don't know you or your family, my heart goes out to Matthew that she would assume you are his Foster family because of his race. That she thinks it is even remotely acceptable to jump to any sort of a race-based conclusion is unfair to you, to Matthew, to all adopted children, to all children of parents with mixed heritage, and to all foster children. Offensive.

God bless you and your family, I hope nothing like this ever happens again.

Sarah, de-lurked.

The Land of the Lamberts said...

Ugh!!! This story seals how I think most moms feel and how unbelievably unkind, judgmental, hardened woman (and mom's especially) can be to each other. It's sooooo weird. Shouldn't we be banning together to care for each other and our kids? Yes, the kids are important. Yes, we should as adults be looking out for kids, but what about the parents? Why aren't we more concerned with each other? Did this woman ever struggle with a tough day being with her children? I would assume so, since her history is having her child abducted. In saying that, I don't want to sound harsh because obviously she needs love and forgiveness and unconditional acceptance. She obviously is still shaken by what happened (who wouldn't be). I can't imagine that kind of trauma, but as woman and mothers we need to embrace each other, accept each other and be a lot more gracious. I've noticed the judgemental spirit on woman since becoming a mom in 2006 and can't believe how much guilt it causes a woman to feel-causes her to doubt her abilities as a loving mom, and even just as a person.
One of these days, it's going to change...I have to believe that because woman are woman...people are people. We all have flaws, bad days, ignorances, days in which we are tired, discouraged or whatever. We all also, need acceptance, help and encouragement in this world that is so filled with judgement, and hate and discord.
I have to believe some day it will change-at least for the Christians. I'm embarrassed to be associated with the title in times like this.
I'm sorry about your day. Shake it off and listen to what Jesus was saying to you....'comfort', 'peace', 'love'
that's what He wants you to think about, not feeling lousy and discouraged about your purpose, and giftings.
WHAT YOU DID WAS NOT WRONG! DON'T DOUBT YOURSELF AND YOUR NATURAL PARENTING ABILITIES. The world is crazy over what we should and shouldn't be doing with our kids. We've lost focus of what is really important for them.

Louise Chapman said...

Mel, I feel bad for you (that you had to go through that) and for the lady (because she obviously is not at peace with her life). As a mom at a park, I totally would've just kept my eye on the kid (Matthew in this case) and not have mentioned it at all because I would assume any momma there would do the same for me. Community. I bet she thought Matthew was younger than he is right? Did Matthew have to hear that crap from her?
I am impressed that grandma wanted to work towards reconciliation and that she offered to pray with you.
SO glad you had a friend show up. Thank you God.
PS I've seen your diaper cleaning skills in action, you're good:)

Rachel Clear said...

Good LORD, Melissa. This post actually made my eyes fill up with tears and made me red-faced with anger.

I am trying reallllllly really hard right now not to be filled with bitterness towards that lady. Even with the awesome mom trying to smooth things over... wasn't she embarrassed to be carrying on like that? If I EVER in a million years made another human being sob, it would seriously tear my heart out. There would be NO WAY IN HELL I would just ignore it or saunter back to my car. I am just... well, I'm shocked that she could be so cold.

I think that the trauma of her daughter's abduction did something irreversible in her brain, and she can't let it go.

They say that we are the most judgmental of the things that we are ashamed of, usually because of our own guilt. She was obvioiusly packing a lot of guilt and felt this was her opportunity to be the "good parent" for once and look down upon the "bad parent", as I'm sure she's felt like a bad parent since her incident.

I am so sorry that this happened to you. You ARE an incredible mom (just as everyone else has said) and I hate that anyone could make you second guess something that God has already instilled deep within you, that you are meant to be a mother to those boys.

I'm so glad that there were some hands n' feet of Jesus there (your friend and the stranger's mom) to love on you. I kind of wish she hadn't said she was a Christian. I mean, if you hadn't been one, boy, that would have been the WORST representation ever.

I could go on and on. I'm just going nuts over this!

Rachel Clear said...

Damn. I mean, damn. I just can't get over this.

I was reading on the Feminist Breeder the other day how this sort of mother-judging is so common, and the overall point of her story was exactly what you said: insteading of JUDGING, how about we offer to HELP!? What a novel idea! Why don't people do it?!

Rachel Clear said...

Seriously, I am about to have an anxiety attack over this shizzle.

lori lls said...

Whoa. Thanks for writing this out. I agree with your friends and family here. You obviously care for your children very, very, very much. Accept the acceptance from the people who KNOW you, not the judgement of a total stranger.

I think Rachel has hit upon something: the lady probably has strugged with such intense guilt for so many years that she jumped on the opportunity to be the "good parent," and to let everybody around know she was saving the day. She may have, back at the time of the abduction, even felt real or perceived condemnation from her own mom and friends, which may explain how she felt free to show her hero-ness so loudly in front of them. Who knows?

Anyways, it was good of you to share. Someday it'll just be a faded memory. For now, though, it sounds very painful. So sorry. :(

Yes, we've got to understand each other, all mothers, especially fellow mothers who you know are TRYING!

amy frances said...

I'm so, so sorry, Melissa. You really are an amazing mother. Your boys are well behaved, well adjusted, well rounded, intelligent, full of life, learning, and growing. You work like crazy to care for them. You help them to experience culture and the natural world. You cook amazing, nourishing meals for them. You nurse your toddlers. You get your kids help when they need it so that nothing will hold them back in life. You give them freedom to explore their world, to become strong and independent, even though it's so hard for you to give them space. You know and appreciate your children as individuals and human beings, and you don't objectify them. When you make mistakes, you change your behavior for your children's well being. You write birthday tributes to your children that show how intimately you know and powerfully you affirm your children's strengths.

My god, Melissa. You are such a great, great mom, and a beautiful soul. I'm so, so sorry that you're doubting.

ramblin'andie said...

Melissa - are you still trying to sell your Matrix? I have no idea of the year or details, but if it's still for sale, can you send me your sale listing? There's two people I know of looking for used cars right now and I'll forward your Matrix listing to them. One needs a car by the end of the week. andrea.menary@gmail.com

Caryn Ouwehand said...

Melissa, I can't stop thinking about this.

I have to say that psychologically speaking... this lady was absolutely directing her own anxiety and fears onto you. You do not need to take on this lady's hateful response or take any ownership for her "upset" feelings. Other people's reactions are out of your hands.

Know a few things for sure:
-You DID NOT leave Matthew unattended.
-She should NOT have touched (wrapped up) your child.
-She has anger issues.

Your a good Mom. She was just on the attack. She's got issues. Issues that you sadly were the VICTIM of on that particular day.

What a hurting stupid lady. People can get so out of line and spastic about this now-a-days.

tamie said...

Mel, I'm going to tell you the truth here. I have huge, huge doubts about ever wanting to be a parent, and watching most of my friends parent only makes me have huger doubts.

But watching your parenting (reading about it, mostly, but also watching you when we were there) is one of the few things that makes me actually consider being a parent. I'm not kidding. And it's not because you do it perfectly. It's because you pour your heart and soul into it, because you're super intelligent about it, because you care SO much about your kids and about how you parent, you're SO thoughtful about it...and also because you genuinely enjoy your kids. You totally delight in them. They also drive you nuts and you're honest about that, rather than pretending that they're little angels all the time. All of that--the delight, the honesty, all of it, makes me think that parenting may not be the horror so many people indicate that it is.

I'm shocked at the woman's behavior. Truly, shocked. You said somewhere in there that your response to her was "not your best moment" or something like that, but I disagree. Not only do I find no fault with how you parented, I find no fault with how you reacted to her. You stood your ground, you didn't back down, you defended yourself which I think was really important. But you did so in a truthful way--like, you were speaking the truth to her rather than saying, "you're a fucking idiot, lady, eat my shit." I think you handled the whole thing incredibly, incredibly well.

Rachel's insight, that this woman feels so guilty for her daughter being abducted, is right on the money I think. What a terrible thing to have happen to you--to have a daughter abducted--and then to live with the lifelong guilt. Oh the necessity (and difficult) of self-forgiveness. And how it can create terrible violence, when we're not able to move beyond our pasts.

As I was writing this, I read down through the comments, and I began to feel convicted. I guess I am very suseptible to mother-judging too. (What I wrote above, that watching most people parent doesn't make me want to parent...) Hm. I'll have to ponder that. Am I justified in my judgment? I don't know. Maybe it's not up to me to decide. Maybe I should just make it a policy to try and help rather than judge, as much as possible.

Thanks so much for writing this all out, Mel. Love you so much.