For as long as I’ve had children, I’ve had one MAJOR fear. One thing that gives me waking-up-drenched-in-sweat-nightmares, one thing that I truly worry about: That my kids will get taken from me and I won’t get them back.
Is this paranoid? Probably. Does it linger anyway? Yep.
Not long into my journey of mothering, I saw a large sign at some parent-oriented thing blaring a message about “signs” of abuse. I wouldn’t have given it a second thought except I was mothering my daughter with several of them! I didn’t take her to well-baby checkups past the first one. NEGLECT! She slept in bed with me instead of a crib. ABUSE! I hadn’t vaccinated her and was strongly leaning towards never doing so at all. ABUSE and NEGLECT! Basically, I fit almost every one of the “signs”…except for the actual hitting or yelling or shaking or leaving her unattended…the actual abuse and neglect parts. It was terrifying.
Being a young mother, I also received unwanted attention from people who meant well but scared me. On my chart at the hospital, there were several “special” boxes checked for outside services that could help me (even though I didn’t ask for them and was perfectly capable of parenting my child). I was offered home visits from a newborn nurse, which I politely turned down. In the young parents mentoring program I attended, parenting tips were surprisingly off-the-mark for “alternative” parenting styles such as mine. Other than breastfeeding and babywearing, I just kind of kept my mouth shut. I also kept a “room” for my baby with a crib and what-not, just in case.
I have also maintained a link to the “system” for years on the off-chance that anything would ever come up. I have a file, a case worker who has met my children and seems to think I’m pretty cool. I am very careful to always have my ducks in a row when dealing with this, as well as being gracious and thankful. In my mind, these actions provide a bit of a “safety net” for me. Were anyone to file a complaint about me, she would probably see it and think, “Oh yeah, that’s the lady that has her kids at home, homeschools and her son likes to dump her wallet contents on the floor then put them all back in.”
Some of my friends know about this fear; some of them even understand it. Others have tried to remind me that it’s very rare for children to be taken out of their homes, even when they really do need it. However, it feels common to hear or read stories of children who have been taken from their homes unnecessarily, with parents fighting for months or even years to get them back. Many times, these parents were doing such “fringe” things as having babies at home, refusing routine medical procedures and homeschooling. Then, it’s also common to hear or read stories about children who were severely abused, or worse, and still were left in their homes. To someone who’s already filled with fear about this, these stories escalate in the mind to the point of feeling like the only time kids get removed from their homes are when the parents are questionable, as opposed to actually abusive.
Thinking the way I do, factual or not, also leads me to wonder how many others, like myself, have been in need of some help or support but have delayed seeking it because of this (very real) fear? When we live in a society where every little thing is scrutinized, evaluated and judged, it can be difficult toask someone to come into our lives and scrutinize for the sake of help. What if this “expert” believes that allowing my children to sleep on the schedule that works best for them is wrong? Or what if he/she believes that all children should be in school? What if? WHAT IF????
It’s enough to drive myself batty! Eventually, though, our family got to the point where we just can not continue to function as we have been. We are not happy. By the end of most days, someone is frustrated, someone is angry, someone is sad and so on. This is not a way to live and it is obvious that we need a person who doesn’t live with us/have emotional ties to help us evaluate our next steps.
For the sake of my family, who need and deserve more, it is necessary for me to set aside my fear…or, at the very least, to walk through it, and get us help. I can do this. We can do this.