Tuesday, June 15, 2010
I have to tell you, I can't say enough how grateful I am for every single one of these comments. Seriously, you are so supportive! I don't know what I'd do without friends (and my mom, who also commented). So I wanted to respond to each of your comments
~@ Caryn, thank you for your words of encouragement, and for believing in me as a good mama. I think you are right, that this woman was triggered into some sort of flashback or wide open, deeply felt emotions regarding her daughter's abduction, and directed those feelings onto me. I think part of what was so hard for me was that those fifty feet were the outer edge of my own comfort zone, so it felt like she was right. But I WAS actually watching him, it just didn't appear to be that apparent to anyone else that I was, I guess!
But why then did her friend team together with her, and why the poopy butt accusation? I guess more 'evidence' of my neglect and poor judgement??? A naked baby in the water park is CUTE, to me. But then, my parents were hippies, like I said. Nudity was just not an issue.
~@Robo, thanks for the love, babe. What doesn't kill us only makes us stronger, right? Or at least, more empathetic and less judgmental of other moms in parks. And wayyyy less inclined to confront people, not that I was ever in much danger of that!! Lol! Thanks for affirming my parenting! It's a tough job.
~@Mom. I love you. Thank you for being strong and loving and wise, and for setting a good example for me of how to teach your children autonomy and self sufficiency, and how to love them fiercely at the same time. I sure wish sometimes I was raising my kids in your generation, with more trust for all things natural and more support from your community. I think you're right, this lady is doing more damage to herself (and likely stifling her daughter) than to me, and that's not cool. I did get sleep! And I'm entertaining the idea of quitting altogether, in which case I won't have to ever work under such awful conditions again...
Anyways, you're so supportive and I'm very grateful. Thanks for loving me.
~@Emilie, Thanks for trusting that I love my kids, even though you have never met me! I'm not perfect by any means and I sometimes make errors in judgement--too much freedom or too little, but I think we could ALL use a little more grace and a lot less judgment by others, hey?
xo, you rock, too!
~@Tonya, Thank you, thank you for being on my side. I've told you before I really look up to you as a mother. You are absolutely right that we trust GOD to watch out for our kids, which has been something I have had to intentionally LEARN, since much of my post partum anxiety was wrapped up in a belief that I had to keep my children alive by constantly monitoring their breathing and car seats and whereabouts, to the point where I couldn't sleep. I had to learn that it is God's job to keep my children alive, not mine. My job is to love them and teach them and watch out for them and give them boundaries, but whether they live or die is actually God's job. I trust Him totally. Doesn't He do a better job than I, anyways? Thank you for affirming me, too. You are wonderful, and your story about Abi and Liza is just so perfect for me to hear. Yes, other parents think that responsibility and autonomy are good, and yes sometimes risky situations arise, but our kids are well equipped, and God watches out for them. He watches out for all children. xo, you are the best.
~@Sarah; Hello lurker! Congratulations on your delurking! :) I'm very glad to know you exist. I think you are exactly right, that she acted out of her own fear and pain, and I do feel empathy for her. I did right there in the park when her friend told me about the abduction, but she was too far gone to receive anything from me or connect in any way. That was when she yelled at me that she doesn't care about me at all, but only cares about my little boy and that I don't deserve to have children. Ouch.
You (and my mom) are right about the inappropriateness of her having Matthew sit with her. It didn't occur to me until the next morning when I had calmed down that it was weird that she had done that. I wondered if she had seen Matthew huddled on the ground, shivering, or if she had approached him while he was playing? So I asked him about it, and he said, "I was playing and she came and talked to me, and gave me her towel." I asked if she said anything else to him and he said, "Yeah, she said next time go with your mommy." So it was HER who initiated contact with my kid, which oversteps the bounds of acceptable behavior with children you don't know. But she was benign enough with him. She didn't say anything bad about me, and he didn't say if she asked about his relationship status to me, as far as I know. So it could have been worse. But it WAS wrong of her. She should have brought him to me if she really felt she had to get involved, you know? Not take him to sit with her and her friend.
I think also that I concur that her assumptions regarding our relationship based on the colour of our skin was very horrible. It was like being slapped by an unknown man in a grocery store: surreal, and you know it is wrong but you can't even articulate why at the time or formulate an appropriate response!!! It was particularly confusing for me because her friend was black and her friend's kid was a mix of black and white. Shouldn't that make someone more open to mulitcoloured families??? What if I had said to her friend, "Is that your foster child?" Wouldn't THAT be rude! Prejudice comes dressed in all kinds of clothes, I guess. Here's a glaring example!
Being Canadian I encounter a lot less open, obvious prejudice and racism and prying questions about my family than some American parents describe, for which I am grateful. But it doesn't mean prejudice isn't there! It's just hidden under the surface.
Ooooh, whenever I think of that moment when she said, "You're his foster mom, I presume?" I remember an overwhelming urge to SLAP her. Then the shit REALLY would have hit the fan, eh?!
Thanks for commenting! Do it again soon!! :)
~@Ms Lambert ♥
Thank you, thank you. You are so sweet and kind to me, and your words and the other kind words people have said have helped rebuild in me a belief in myself that was shaken pretty profoundly on Sunday. This kind of situation reminds me of when I was in University and my girlfriends and I would get so offended when women would knowingly entice away another woman's boyfriend (or sleep with him, or what have you). We have to stick together, as women, you know??!!! Why do we rip one another apart with judgment and malice? Why assume the worst?
I think it's fortunate that I AM a Christian, since this kind of treatment from a Christian to a non Christian would be about the worst situation I can think of. At least I know she doesn't represent Jesus at ALL! So awful. Yuck, yuck, yuck. It was horrible to live through. Thanks for your support!
~@Louise, I think you are right that the woman deserves empathy because of her lack of peace, and very obvious pain. But I hope she feels bad. Is that bad?!!?? Gahhhh....
I have totally done that before, where you watch someone's wandering or unattended kid: I once did it in my own backyard for almost 45 minutes before I figured, someone's going to call the police and wonder why on earth I didn't bring you home! So I did bring her home--fortunately she knew the way--, but I reassured the dad over and over that she wasn't a bother and that he hadn't made a mistake (she had told him she was going to a friend's house to play, but that friend wasn't home and on her way back she saw us with our sprinkler and decided to play with us instead!), and that these things happen. Community, as you say. You just never know the back story or reason behind what appears to be lack of supervision, and you'd be hard pressed to find even a foster family that doesn't deeply care about it's littlest members.
She asked Matthew how old he was, and i knew she had because when she was yelling at me she knew he was five. He looks younger than he is, that's for sure (he's actually almost six now!), but she KNEW he was five and thought fifty feet was too far for a five year old.
I leave him a kilometer away from me when I leave him at his school every day!! Many, many times he gets way further than fifty feet ahead of me on the path through the woods that we take to school because he rides his scooter and I walk. I trust him. He's a smart boy with good instincts and he knows what is safe and what is unsafe. He would put up a royal fuss if anyone tried to swipe him from the park (or the path).
And yes, Matthew heard that crap from her. Every word. When we got home he said to his dad, "Some lady was mean to mommy at the park." He also gave me a hug in the van before we drove home, and said, "I love you princess mommy!" and when we got home he made me a paper airplane as a gift to make me feel better. He restores my faith in humanity, man.
I was also very impressed with the grandmother and very, very grateful for her willingness to try and reconcile, and to be Jesus' hands and feet to me. When i see her in heaven I'll have to thank her for that.
And thanks for affirming my diaper cleaning skills--that means a lot to me =P
~@Rach; THANK YOU for all the love!!!! Seriously, I totally agree that if I ever made a woman sob the way I did on Sunday, I would be utterly ashamed of myself and totally retract what I had said and apologize. It doesn't help any child to make their momma feel like shit, and it certainly doesn't help the momma to be a better mother!!!
I'm just as shocked by her friend's behavior. Who goes along with such irrational and unkind treatment of another human being? Well, I can think of lots of examples in history, but I expect more out of women these days I guess!!!
I appreciate you saying that we are the most judgmental of the things that we are ashamed of. I think it can be true, although in my personal experience any painful event (including this one) only serves to deepen my experiential empathy for others. Not embitter me towards them. You just NEVER KNOW until you walk a mile in another woman's shoes. You just never know.
And I hope you were able to get over this, eventually! I'd hate to work your heart up into knots when i love you so much!
I also read that TFB post about mother judgment and the superiority of kindness, although it didn't occur to me to apply it here until your comment on it. So true!! A little kindness would go a long, long way. Ick. I can still see them gossiping about me and sending me disgusted looks: I noticed it before the confrontation but didn't give it much thought or consideration, because I was so distracted by caring for my kids...
Gossip, judgment, slander, aggression, can we count how many sins these women performed??? PLANK IN YOUR OWN EYE, PLANK IN YOUR OWN EYE!!!!!!
~@Lori, Thank you for saying it is evident that I love my kids! I think you're right, to say accept the acceptance from people who know me, not the judgement of a total stranger, but it's HARD!!! Those total strangers seem to have it all together and seem to be so SURE! It's hard not to believe them, especially when they band together. Yuck. It's like elementary school all over again, with the popular girls giving me the random silent treatment and hating me because i had a hole in the knee of my pants, you know?
You think this woman feels guilty? I guess probably, hey? I figured pain and anxiety, but I hadn't thought guilt until you guys mentioned it. You just might be right about that one, and don't I know how dangerous guilt can be!!!
~@Amy. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Not only did you tell me it's obvious I love my kids, but you gave specific examples of WHY it's obvious. I cried when I read your comment, because it hit me right where I needed. You're a blessing! Thank you! xoxoxox
You all are amazing. Thank you for loving on me, I really needed it!!!!
This confrontation has been ringing in my ears ever since it happened, and it has been very hard to put to rest. I feel that I didn't do a good job of defending my parenting style and philosophy (probably because she shook my own faith in my judgement). I firmly believe in freedom, and following your child's lead regarding what they are ready for. I also firmly believe that the risk of abduction is so small that it doesn't factor very heavily in my at the park parenting decisions [the vast majority of child abductions are performed by someone the child knows, and the vast majority of THOSE are a result of custody disputes--ironically, the best thing we can do to protect our children from abduction is to work on the strength of our marriages!].
If I am going to be a Free Range Parent, I need to be prepared to intelligently defend my parenting style in public, because it goes far beyond what most parents are comfortable with, and I will likely encounter opposition to it again. Funny, I have always been fully prepared to defend myself for breastfeeding in public but have never actually had to. I didn't anticipate having to defend the amount of free range I grant my kids, but apparently I do have to!!!
The woman who started the Free Range Kids movement taught her nine year old who to trust and how to get around, gave him a map, and let him ride the subway alone. In NEW YORK CITY. And her kid didn't die.
It is good to have our philosophies questioned, so that we re-examine them. In the future, I will re-teach Matthew about not going anywhere with people he doesn't know, re-discuss appropriate and inappropriate touch and that he can tell me and his dad anything, no secrets will get him in trouble, and make triple sure he knows he can come get me if he has a problem or is uncomfortable.
I might also keep that hypothetical leash 40 feet long, instead of 50, just in case I was erring on the side of too much freedom. I love my kids. I want them to grow up as whole and healthy as possible, with intact imaginations and an experiential love for nature and a knowledge of the origins of their food and a realistic view of humanity. If they are going to realistically view humanity, they are going to have to encounter its not so pleasant side sometimes. I can't actually protect them from everything: I'd do better to equip and empower them to cope well, and stay true to themselves.
[Free Range Kids]
"Children, like chickens, deserve a life outside the cage."