Friday, March 07, 2008

cracks and fissures

M and I walked merrily into her classroom the other day and as usual, her little posse ran up for the usual viewing and cooing. After a minute all but one girl dance away and she looks up at me and says My mommy hit me between my legs really hard.

So I bend down and look her in the eye. Does it still hurt? She shakes her head no. Well babe, I am so sorry to hear that happened to you. Hitting is never okay. How are you feeling? Sad, she says and M says I'm sorry _____ hitting isn't nice. And looks at me expectantly. Heh.

This little girl is usually there when we arrive and still there when I return. Her hours are long and on the few occasions I've seen her mom she always seems stressed. I've heard her yell at her once, she's a single mom and I am sure her hands are full. I give her a hug and a bit stupified, I look over at the teacher as the kids run off to play.

Quietly I ask her if she heard what was just said. She says she didn't so I repeated it to her and the teacher says Oh. She's said that sort of thing before, but I've talked to her mom and her mom says she makes things up that aren't true. I look at her dumbfounded. And sometimes they say things because they ARE true and then one day they will stop saying them because no one is listening, I reply. She assures me she'll look into it but now I feel a little ill.

I've seen more abused kids in the course of my work than I care to remember. I've seen many good families torn apart by speculation and system failures and troubled families whose troubles got worse. I've seen babies wrenched from their mama's arms and I've seen kids grow up in the system worse off than before. I've also seen kids rescued from horrifying situations and the damage that was done before folks knew to help. None of it is easy and all of it is bad.

There are no good answers and as a sister I am hesitant and as a mother I have no choice. Goddamnit, I say over and over as I drive to work.

I call the Director from work and tell her what happened. I like this woman and she responds exactly the way she needs to and says she'll take it from here. The teacher's comments were news to her and very troubling and I could hear the frustration in her voice. I hung up feeling like I did what was necessary and the sadness stuck with me all day.

When I got home I told J what happened and how it made me feel. He said you know, this is weird because I never usually see her but when I picked M up from school today she was in the parking lot and the mom was yelling at her in a way that made me cringe.

And we both fell silent for a minute, my heart breaking for the little girl and for her mama too.

This was difficult to write, I struggled to bring it here so if it's disjointed I apologize. Today's the last day to send me your Just Posts at girlplustwoATyahooDOTcom. Our Roundtable will feature all of them on the 10th. It's not too late to join us.

61 comments:

wheelsonthebus said...

It sounds like that is a mother who could use some support. If the child actually talks about it, then it probably has not gotten to a point of no return, at which point she would probably be living under a code of silence. You did the right thing and I hope the director reports it.

Loth said...

Urgh, just so hard, so horrible. You did what little you could do and at least the little girl is still willing and able to talk about it, which is probably a good sign. But I know this is still going to float round and round in your brain for some time.

kristen said...

big heart-hurting sigh. you did the right thing, i know you know that. but holy balls. it's awful that you had to get involved, shitty that the teacher brushed it under the rug, scary to.

i'd like to believe that teachers our advocating for our kiddies, so that if they feel safe telling their teacher something, they listen.

it was chilling, that urgency i felt in your words to the teacher, how if you don't help than the kid will stop telling.

i need to make sure to always listen. xoxo

Magpie said...

Oh, that poor little girl. I hope she gets some help, and her mama too.

hele said...

By bringing this to someones attention at least you introduced the possibility of positive change into both the mother and the daughter's lives*

cce said...

For her sake and her mother's, I hope this has just been a bad week for that broken family. But I think you were right in setting off the sirens. One never knows. Better Safe than Sorry and all those platitudes. Here's hoping that they are all okay.

thordora said...

She will get some help, both of them will. You did the right thing, even if it makes you cry as much as I imagine.

I'd be just as torn.

thordora said...

She will get some help, both of them will. You did the right thing, even if it makes you cry as much as I imagine.

I'd be just as torn.

mamatulip said...

I am so proud of you.

Andrea said...

What a hard situation--because you're right, sometimes it is nothing and a family gets torn apart for no reason, but how can you ever be sure or take the chance?

Christine said...

you did do the right thing but things like this are really hard, huh? some kids DO make things up (not saying that she did, but that it does happen), but no matter what every accusation has to be investigated.

let's hope it really was only a few swats (hitting is never ok, but there is difference between and swat on a padded butt and abuse. and like wheels said i hope that mom gets some support and that child gets some protection if that's what is needed.

Kyla said...

I think, for me, the location she said was hit was the alarm bell. If it is made up, I think it would sound general like "Mommy hit me." rather than specific like it was.

Such hard decisions. You made the right one by notifying the Director. The teacher should not disregard these things just because they are three year olds. Sadly, I'm glad J saw what he did and I hope it gave you some measure of comfort in knowing you did the right thing.

Janet said...

I think you did the right thing, hard as it might have been to make the call.

Gina said...

I'm glad you followed through. It's a hard thing to do. I think that the teacher is probably like many people who just don't want to believe that something like that could be happening. It's a tough call, but when a child is involved, better safe than sorry.

Sober Briquette said...

Jen, thank you for putting this out here, as difficult as it was...you know how to react, beyond just an emotional response. I sure as hell would not. So thank you, again. It never ceases to amaze me, your unique blend of gentle and tough.

liv said...

ooof. i've had to do something similar twice--both times i felt like it really put me in a stick situation in home/school life. sometimes you just can't shake the feeling that there's more there. it's an awful, gut wrenching feeling. i'm sorry you had to be put in the situation and proud of you for dealing with it. you're a powerhouse, girl.

patches said...

Heavy.

You handled yourself and the situation well. We need more child advocates.

Mama Drama Jenny, the Bloggess said...

You did the right thing. Hailey says things that aren't true all the time but that doesn't mean we shouldn't listen. Maybe it isn't true but obviously she bothered and someone should be listing.

I'm glad you did.

jen said...

Jenny/Christine, M says things occasionally that aren't true too - and that was rattling around in my brain the whole time. That was part of what had me knotted up. That, and a fairly good knowledge of how screwed up things can get. "help" as we say isn't often very helpful.

Amy Y said...

Yes, all children have sometimes overactive imaginations. But I think there is always a line there... this is something that kids just don't make up. I think, even at a young age, they must know a lil bit the severity of the accusation and probably wouldn't make it if there weren't at least some truth in it.
I definitely think you did the right thing and I hope that lil girl is able to find peace, somehow.

uurchin said...

you did the right thing. that little girl deserves a follow up. A stressed out mom is not an excuse to abuse a kid...

Candy said...

I think you did what most of us would want to do, but might avoid because it's too "messy." You're to be commended. Even if the child did make it up, her voice deserves to be heard. And I think there's a little bit of truth in everything.

Annie said...

I'm sitting here crying reading this. Firstly because this is the second time a story involving a little girl has made me cry today - the first being the story of the mother turning the car wash hose on her daughter in Orlando as punishment. Secondly, twice recently I have had to screech at Miss E in the parking lot outside her preschool - it's near a busy road and she is feckless and manages to run off the first opportunity she gets which is usually when I'm wrestling with her, her brother and my car keys. I've screeched out of sheer panic and resorted to it as the only way I could get her to pay attention and stop before she got mowed down. On both occasions - separated by about 3 months in time, two different mothers have given me the most condescending looks and made me feel like I couldn't keep my child under control. Now I fear they'll assume this is what it's always like? While my heart breaks for the child in your story - sometimes a child being yelled at by their mother (sometimes!) is for a darn good reason.

Mad Hatter said...

Oh man. This was so tough for you, Jen. You did the right thing but it is so hard to think straight when you know the system supports that are out there may not make things better anyway.

meno said...

As is your way, you got involved. Thank you.

Chicky Chicky Baby said...

You handled that so much better than I ever could. You give me strength, friend.

Deezee said...

kyla spoke my thoughts.

I think you did a brave thing all with protective intentions. It's so easy to dismiss what kids say and believe that if something is truly wrong someone else will handle it. Well, you may just have been that someone else.

alejna said...

This story hurt so much I'm having trouble pulling myself together. I'm so glad that you told the Director, and that she sounds like she will know how to follow up. And I'm glad you shared this story. I fear how many reports like this get ignored because people don't know what to do. And more because people don't want to get involved. I love you for the things you do.

Oh, The Joys said...

Oh, friend. I think you did what you had to do.

However.

If, say, there is a God... and if he and I were colleagues... I would march right into his office and say,

"Look-a here, Buster! Why does it ALWAYS have to be jen's job? Let someone else do it for a change. Give her a break!!"

[Bet you didn't know God's name is Buster.]

[Are you smiling?]


xo,
J

Jennifer said...

You did the right thing. Whether it was a little girl making up stories (mine do sometimes) or not (mine don't really make up stories like that.) But it sucks so damn much that the right things is so, so hard. I'll be hoping the mom gets some support and help and that sweet little girl is loved as she should be. Damn.

Defiantmuse said...

tough one, Jen. I think that although it's *possible* the little girl "made it up" the possibility that she *didn't* outweighs any sort of headache the mother will face from an investigation if she is, in fact, innocent of abusing her daughter. Ugh, just typing those words "abusing her daughter" made my stomach hurt and my heart ache.

Beck said...

Poor baby girl - although I have known some little kids who were the most horrible little liars, they all came from horrible disordered backgrounds.

Her Grace said...

You absolutely did the right thing. There are no easy answers to the problem, but standing up for kids who are being hurt is sometimes the only way to give them a voice. Shame on her teacher for not listening.

flutter said...

This just kills me

pgoodness said...

achy hurty things is right. This one brought me to tears. I'm proud of you.

Christine said...

oh jen, i hope you know i wasn't judging you at all--i was just saying. . .

but i think you got what i was get in gat. i just worked at a day care once and i've seen both sides---unfortunately all of them ugly.

Running on empty

jen said...

Christine, not at all. You nailed it, as did Annie. There is always more to things than a casual observer can ever understand and far be it for me to presume I know anything about others parenting and so that was the last thing i wanted to convey (as i can barely manage my own kid)

Little Monkies said...

Wouldn't it be great if you felt like the person knocking at the door to investigate the claim was coming in to say "Ma'am, we have heard that you've been having a really shitty time and want to know what we can do to help you out so you can be a better mom. Now, we have babysitters who will swoop in when you feel stressed and stretched, we have rent-a-sisters who can give you a shoulder to cry on, we have a little more money to make ends meet, we have some Xanax...what do you need?"

Unfortunately, that's not how the conversation goes.

Hugs to you for the queasiness and the conflict in your mind. I agree with OTJ that I am sick of the forces forcing you to do the crappy work, but then I realize that often we all see this shit and avert out eyes. That's why you are a leader, my friend.

Blog Antagonist said...

Heartbreaking. You did the right thing, Jen, absolutely.

Lisa b said...

ug Jen, there just are no winners here.
As others have said, I wish help would come as support for this family, but sadly doubt that it will.

Ruth Dynamite said...

This makes me ill.

You are her voice, Jen.

kgirl said...

I can't handle the thought of someone hurting a child. Can't handle it. It kills me that it happens.

Sandra said...

You know that you did the right thing. But, man, do I understand first hand how that feels. Like crap.

My thoughts are with that little girl. And with you.

cinnamon gurl said...

Oh boy.

I bet after all your years of experience, your gut is pretty reliable. But oh... it sucks.

And that teacher? Um, if the girl WAS telling the truth, would the mother admit that she'd been smacking her kid around? I don't think so...

crazymumma said...

oh...I hope some wheels start turning for that child. And the teacher? dude. she's not doing her job.

I feel haunted by stories like these. I'm gonna go hug my girls.

slouching mom said...

Oof. So hard. So, so hard. Of course you did the right thing -- you know that.

It would stay with me, too, jen. In fact, I've done something very similar. And it has stayed with me for a long time now.

(hugs)

Anonymous said...

Jen,
Please look at the link below to get the contact information for the Child Protective Services unit in your county. And please call them or forward this post to them with details. I know it's hard to do and if it happened here in New York that teacher and that director would be required by law to make the call to them, but still it is worth a follow up. Don't just assume they did their duty - one of them obviously failed before now.
http://www.childsworld.ca.gov/res/pdf/CPSEmergNumbers.pdf
Thank you. If someone had made that call for me when I was that age maybe life would have turned out completely different.....

Anonymous said...

Around here all center staff members are mandated Reporters and failure to report is a misdemeanor. Sounds like the program staff needs some training and that paticular teacher needs to be sent elsewhere.

Daisy said...

Mandated reporters. Absolutely. This needs to be reported. If it turns out to be nothing, the report will say so. If the mom needs assistance, hopefully it'll happen. But really: day care providers are mandated reporters by law.

canwekickthebarhere said...

What bothers me is the specificity of the claim (I know someone else said this, cant remember who). Why not just say mommy hit me unless it is sticking in her mind?

Mrs. Chicken said...

You absolutely did the right thing. As you always do.

Ally said...

You are right, there is nothing easy about this and it is all just awful. I'm glad you were there, and that you listened, and that you followed up. I hope this Mama can get some support, education, and respite. I'm so sad for her child, and for her.

painted maypole said...

Oh Jen. I'm so glad that you didn't let it end there. That you called the directer. I'm Horrified at how the teacher dealt with it. Heartbreaking.

on a totally, totally different note - I'm writing a little ditty about you over at my place.

Catherine Morgan said...

I wanted you to know, that I nominated you for Women's Voices Making History. Your blog is on my list of over 300 women blogging about politics, and I am currently going through it, and nominating blogs that I think are most worthy. Anyone can nominate a blogger, so if you have others you would like to nominate, all you have to do is go to the site at Women's Voices, Women Vote. :-)

Best,

Catherine

painted maypole said...

I've written you ANOTHER ditty at my place, this time a limerick for Just Posts:

Got causes? Then write some Just Posts.
Mad and Jen are the lovely co-hosts.
Speak truth in love
Or throw down the glove
Over issues that speak to you most.

Suz said...

To tell you the honest truth, my heart isn't breaking so much for the mother. It probably should be, but I'm so glad that you did what you did and I hope that the little girl gets some help.

Family Adventure said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Family Adventure said...

Oh my goodness, Jen. I am so glad you did the right thing. How easy it would have been to just let it slide...apparently, easy enough for the teacher to do so.

It is hard to be a single parent, but it is much, much harder to be a little girl who cannot trust her mother to not hurt her.

Heidi

Karen Forest said...

my heart aches.

for you, for the child, and for the mother

nomotherearth said...

oh jen, I think you did exactly what you had to do. thank you.

Susanne said...

Oh my. Do you know what's coming out of that?