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...
(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???
"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...