This post originally appeared in Blogger Idol’s Week 7 Challenge: Share a “secret”–something your readers don’t know about you … yet.
I never would have thought I could be arrested for providing structure for my ADHD son, for protecting my daughter, or for establishing an expectation that hurting someone else is not acceptable. I couldn’t have guessed the overstimulation from attending a child’s birthday party would result in a brush with the law.
Six years ago, the kids and I traveled to a friend’s party. It was loud and bustling. The Boy was on overload. Several times during the day I had to take him to another room to regroup because he was out of control. Parties with lots of kids really cranked him up. His struggle to control impulses was always magnified in those situations.
I was glad when it was time to leave. During our ride home we stopped at a rest area. In the bathroom the Boy was slamming into the Girl while they were washing hands. I squatted down and turned him to look at me so we were face-to-face. I told him there was no hitting. He thrashed at me. I grabbed his arm. I repeated firmly, “There is NO hitting.” He yanked away from me and started swinging at my face again. I caught both arms and he started screaming for me to let go of him.
He broke free from my grasp and at the same time that I was saying “We do NOT use our hands for hitting,” he swung at my face. His hand jammed into in my mouth, his finger wedged between my teeth. He yelled, “You bit me! I should call the police on you!”
His emotions continued to ramp up. I knew that in order for him to settle down, he needed a quiet place to regain control of his emotions. My only option was to have him stand him in the corner. I told him when he was calm we could talk again.
I stood next to him while he faced the corner. He was still screaming and yelling at me when a woman approached us. She scoffed at me, “This is reprehensible!” She said she worked for the children’s protection agency and my behavior constituted abuse. She threatened to call the police and report me.
The first thing that went through my mind was ‘Children’s Protection Agency’? If you worked for them, wouldn’t you know that it’s called Child Protective Services? As a teacher, I know that … and I would think that if you were employed there you’d know it too. But I didn’t have the time or interest to engage her. My concern was my son. So I said, “I guess you’ll do what you need to because I’ve got other things to tend to here.”
I returned my focus to the Boy and didn’t pay her any further attention. Once he was finally calm, we talked about the importance of thinking before acting. I reminded him that it’s not acceptable to hit his sister, his mom, or anyone else. He apologized.
When we left the bathroom, I held each of their hands as we walked to the food court. I approached the cashier to place our order but before I could she asked, “Are they here to arrest you?”
I turned around and saw that there were two state troopers standing behind me. One of the officers said that someone called to report an incident of child abuse. He asked me to recount what happened.
I described everything. Then he asked, “And at what point did you hit your son?” I was confused. I told him that I didn’t and repeated that while I had technically bit him, I never hit him. He replied that the witness account included me striking my child.
I was absolutely furious! That woman lied and embellished her story to make it something more than it was. I already felt I had to defend myself for not allowing my son to hit his sister or me, and now I had to prove that this person was lying.
The officer questioned my son about what happened. His story corroborated mine exactly. After examining his fingers, the officer told me he didn’t see any marks that would indicate he’d been abused, but he informed me that their supervisor would need to determine whether or not to file charges.
When the officers left, I sat with my kids while they ate. My head was spinning and I felt sick to my stomach. I couldn’t understand how this was happening. All I could think was that because some delusional, judgmental woman was feeling called to some twisted, false sense of justice, I could lose my kids, my teaching license, my livelihood.
Two long days later, I heard from the officer. They were not going to file charges. He suggested in the future it might be best if I disciplined my children in private so I wouldn’t draw attention of people like the woman who called. Instead of choosing public place, maybe I should take my son out to the car.
I asked, “If I have a child melting down and I have to drag him kicking and screaming through a rest stop (or anywhere) out to the car, wouldn’t that draw more attention than just handling the situation? And who’s to say that holier-than-thou woman wouldn’t be sitting in the car next to me anyway?”
For weeks after that incident, I was worried any time I needed to correct my children that someone within earshot would be the next person to call the cops. I was afraid to be a parent concerned for the potential repercussions.
But I realized something: My kids are entirely too important to me to not correct them when they need it. I love them too much to not make them behave according to the expectations of acceptable behavior. I care too much to not help them learn what is right and hold them accountable for their actions. If I don’t parent because I fear that some overzealous, irrational, judgmental person is going to call the police, then I fail my kids. I fail myself. I fail as a parent … and failure is not an option.