Am I a good parent or a bad one? Most likely, I am both. The case workers who visited my house were very polite. They assured me that they have many calls like this every week, and they are required by law to investigate every one, but that I would have nothing to worry about after they submitted their report. In days, they confirmed that our case was closed, and a couple weeks later, I received a very nice report in the mail detailing the results of their investigation. There it was in writing, if I needed it--I was a good enough parent.
And yet…and yet…the top of the paper says "Investigation into allegations of abuse or neglect." Every couple of years or so, usually after taxes, I'm going through my desk and I come across it again. I pull it out and read it, and those words, "abuse or neglect," rip me up inside all over again.
If you take a student who makes A-pluses in every subject and throw her suddenly and unexpectedly into detention, her perspective of herself changes completely. She was a success; now she is a failure. She knows, theoretically, that there are people who spend every day in detention, who eventually flunk out. But just being there, and being associated with them, is a branding.
For awhile I thought that being investigated by CPS was the worst thing that could happen to me. I held myself back from making friends in our new community because I believed that everyone knew that we were the new family in town that couldn't keep track of its kids. I felt like I was being watched all the time.
There is not a negative comment you could make about the way I parent that I have not already thought about myself. You spoke to your kids that way? Abuser! You'd rather read your own book than Hop on Pop? Neglector!
But I could also see that my little fall, was also somehow a blessing, because it shattered my pride and fear, which are the particular sins of the hover mother. She believes that she can be both mother and savior to her children. But I was not their savior; I was an obstacle between my kids and people who loved them. It would be ok for me to accept help when offered.
My father-in-law often says that parenthood is the most important job in the world, and yet it's entrusted to amateurs. True, just as all important relationships are the territory of amateurs: wifehood, daughterhood, daughter-in-law-hood. I pray that the people I alienated through the years of my helicopter parenting do not remember the sins of my youth.
I would also attest that having a CPS investigation is not worse than a child losing its life due to remaining in truly abusive situations. My sister-in-law is a Foster Parent who has kids in her home that have been removed from their parents not once, not twice, but six and seven times, which seems incredibly generous to me.
I love my children. I meet their needs. I do not beat them. I strive to keep them safe in all situations. I don't use drugs. And if those statements are false--someone probably should intervene.
I would say that any negative experiences I had with nature as a child were better than no experiences with nature, that even though I wasn't a naturally outdoorsy child, it didn't prohibit me from appreciating the outdoors as an adult.
I'm lucky to have several places where my children can play and be very safe. Our own yard (once they are past the dangerous toddler years), nearby parks (with supervision), and the homes of our families and friends where they can roam pretty freely.
That day I sent my children outside, and they kept coming back in--I stood there for a minute behind the locked door realizing that their rebellion had become their chosen activity for the day, that I needed to make nature just a bit more attractive to them at that moment. So I opened the door, and told them they were welcome to come inside and do my chores, and I would go out and play.