My Thursday-Friday back to back 12-hour shifts in the ER are like a one-two punch in the noggin for me. It knocks me out for a while but when I wake up I feel alright. I just returned home from a couple of whirlwind days that began right as I awoke from my post-shift slumber Saturday afternoon. It all began with a kiddo birthday party that my child was invited to, then straight to the Great Southern Stampede Rodeo, and then straight into a late-night drive to Warner Robins where my mother-in-law lives. Once there I can commence my vegetative state that I often slink into upon arrival because it's very quiet, the focus is absolutely not on me, and I can sleep uninterrupted. So tonight I'm rather fresh and while not necessarily inspired, I do have something on my mind.
In the last few days, several headlines on cnn.com have bothered me.
'Pediatrician faces more sex charges'
'Sex-offender admits killing teens'
'Haleigh's dad told to make funeral plans'
'Man admits to killing [his] family'
'Toddler beaten so badly that intestines had to be removed'
Believe me, this is just a sampling. As you all know, I'm a mother of a perfectly happy, healthy 5 year old little girl. From the moment she was born I've been taking care of her. I've dealt with stinky diapers, colicky crying spells, repeated ear infections, a totally messy house due to toy take-overs, constant talking slash singing, and now, bouts of arguing for independence and games of 100 questions. There have been days when I come home in the middle of the night after working 12 hours and she pops out of bed and wants to play. There have been days when she wouldn't take a nap or wouldn't go to bed before midnight. I've lost amazing amounts of alone time with my husband, and I've stayed up at night worried about how I can possibly mother this child for the rest of my life. I worry about the boys she'll date, about the clothes she'll have to have, about the grades she'll get, and about whether her preset mode of happy will change during those moody teenage years. I worry that she won't want to talk to me or that she'll cry under her covers at night when someone breaks her heart. I have worried about how to make her life the best it can be from the moment I saw those two pink lines on the stick. I'd barely pulled my pants up and flushed the toilet when they shined like a beacon at me, professing my upcoming motherhood. This child I have has completely changed my life. In a good way, despite the bad days. I have never not-wanted her. Oh sure, I joke with her about how I'm going to inflict bodily harm if she doesn't do what I'm telling her to do. I have also popped her a few times. I've lost my temper and yelled at her - but I have also always come back to apologize to her and tell her I shouldn't have shouted like that. I'm human, and I make mistakes. But I cannot, for the life of me, understand how any human being can really *harm* or kill a child. I also cannot understand how anyone could turn a blind eye to a child who is suffering through abuse.
Every parent out there understands how easy it is to lose your temper. You've worked all day, they won't do what you're telling them to do. They refuse to potty-train, eat their vegetables (or anything at all for that matter), they won't pick up their toys, they've colored on the freshly-painted wall (again), they won't stop picking on little brother or sister, they've gotten bad grades at school. Kids have a zillion ways to get into trouble. And parents have a zillion things to worry about besides the misbehaving kid. This sometimes, obviously, fuels disaster.
There is absolutely no reason to hurt a child in any way, whatsoever. I'm not saying that discipline is bad - I'm saying that children shouldn't be neglected, beaten, raped, sold, martyred, starved, or killed - ever. And I know that you all agree. Most of the time all it takes for a parent who is struggling is simply someone to listen, a few basic parenting tips, or maybe an anger management class. Sometimes people who have children simply cannot take good care of them and despite intervention the children need to be placed with another family member or a foster family.
If you know of anyone who is struggling, please refer them to the Georgia Parents Helpline at 1-800-CHILDREN (244-5373) or firstname.lastname@example.org. If you think you know of a child in an abusive situation, please call your local DFCS office or call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (www.childhelp.org).