Monday, September 3, 2007

Bad news at the old home front. It seems as I was sitting awake discussing culture with my daughter a dear family friend was sitting home missing her daughter and two sons. Last Wednesday evening, officials from the Administration for Children's Services in NY removed her children from the home citing neglect. Subjectively speaking as a mother this whole ordeal is bittersweet. Do I think the children were being neglected? I can't really take a stance on this. Were there areas of her parenting that I found unsuitable? Overall, her parenting style or lack thereof ran consistent with her identity as a woman. She is indifferent overall, just a very hands off person. All across the board, in her personal maintenance, housekeeping, romantic relationships, employment and parenting. This is where my confusion lies. I am a very hands on in control person in every aspect of my being. I am deeply involved in my husband's life as well as my children, their friends and anyone else whom I hold dear. This doesn't make me a better parent though. To the child who requires or prefers more freedom, this could be considered smothering or even stifling. Many may perceive this as my neglect, as I am ignoring and otherwise not nurturing their desire or need for freedom and autonomy. Once fairly early on in my parenting a girlfriend stated that she hardly see me kiss hug or show any affection towards my son who was probably about 6 years old at the time. Being childless herself she did not realize that kisses and hugs from your mom in public affront real live breathing people is a fate worst than death. I don't think I defended myself at that point, because like I said she was childless. It did stay with me though and I promised that I'd revisit the topic when she became a mom. Funny though, before I actually had the opportunity to address it, another friend pointed out to me that she spanks. Something that I do not do-because it isn't required to discipline my children, but I do understand the practice does "work" for some families.

I think women and mothers see the world very differently. Strictly speaking as a woman, her track record with Children's Services is lengthy and there are definitely areas that would garner concern from the conventional audience. As a mother though, I see her as a single mother on welfare, involved in an unhealthy romantic relationship, impoverished and uneducated. It doesn't make for the perfect model of a mother, but none of us are perfect, our children included. I am perfectly aware of my imperfections as a parent but the difference is that I rely heavily on the cognizance of those imperfections to work through them. If she is guilty of anything I'd say it is ignorance. And above what I think i know that her children love their mother and if asked would tell you that they beleive she does do her best. My heart goes out to her. I can't imagine the gut wrenching emptiness she feels right now. The pain of missing or losing a child is deep, the feelings are raw and guttural and primal.

The year after my grandfather passed, my youngest uncle died. It was the first time that I saw my grandmother as one of us, a mom. She was always my mother but she was a woman until the pain of her loss transcended us to the same place, motherhood. As I type my children are seated behind me and they're engaged in their usual bickering while eating ice cream at 10:40 PM on a week night. This is absolutely ridiculous, but with the news i just heard, I'm so grateful to have them beside me that I sit here content and even a little happy, bickering and all.

I wish I could do more for her. She spoke with her sons this evening ages 5 and 6 and they were well, upbeat even as they told her of the bicycles and video game console they received from their foster family and how they were headed to a movie later. I don't know that they understand the magnitude of what is happening and probably won't until they fall off the bike, there is nothing like a mother's kiss-your mother's kiss. I take nothing away from foster families, it is a noble gesture that I would love to take a stab at although I'd favor a mentoring family versus a foster family. One who would take another entire family under their wing and help them help themselves. The system works to enable the ignorant destructive cycle to keep spinning generation after generation. Teach these parents to be responcible and accountable for their actions and children. As it currently stands the state is spanking the parents without addressing what they've done wrong or developing a plan of action to correct and modify the behavior. Seems awfully hypocritical from where I'm seated, but I'm just a mom.

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