Child protective services contacted me to let me know that someone had called in, concerned for the well being of our children. The lady on the phone said that she must come to our home and talk to our daughters, to be sure they were safe … safe from their parents. Safe from me!
Terrified. I have never been so terrified.
Visions of officers banging on my door, demanding my children be handed over … I went blind to everything but fear.
Could they really do that? Can they really take my children? And why would someone call child protective services about my family? What did I do?
My husband and I now have three daughters, but at the time we had two, our oldest was 6 and youngest was not quite 2 years old. I became a protective mama bear the moment our first daughter was born. To even think of having to send my girls into a room to talk to a stranger from child protective services felt terrifying, much less the thought of them being taken completely.
I was in shock this was happening. And yet this was happening. The woman was already on her way.
She arrived within hours of the phone call. We were still living in our house trailer at the time and it was in desperate need of repair. The judgement suffocated me as I welcomed her into our messy home. Not her judgement. She actually seemed quite kind. The judgement was all mine.
We had put a chair out for her in the center of the living room and I sat with our two girls on the couch, my husband beside us.
My heart raced as she pulled out her file and started asking questions. My oldest daughter was bouncing beside me, thrilled that we had a visitor. My youngest clinging right to me, just as I did at her age to my mother. The lady’s words blurred in my mind as the thought washed through that she might ask to speak to them in private. She had told me she would need to do this. To think of having to peal my 2 year old away from me to hand her to a complete stranger was more than I could stand.
“So, I am told your daughter does not go to school?” – her first question arrived before I knew it.
“We home school”, I replied from my heart in my throat … and then asked our 6 year old to get the book she and I had just self published together. I tried to explain to the lady that it was very important to us to empower our daughters to know they can create anything they want in life and so our most recent home school project had been to create this book that my 6 year old wrote, “Delilah The Yoga Goat“
I do not know what the lady thought. She did not seem very impressed, but she checked the box and moved on to the next thing on her list.
“I see here that you do not brush your daughter’s hair or give them baths.”
My 6 year old was excited to speak up to answer this question and said “Oh yes I take a bath and I do not like it.”
The lady smiled for the first time, seemingly approving of our parenting skills. Well, at least this one.
I then tried again to explain – the hair! I used to brush her hair. She would scream and tell me to stop until one day her dad said, “You know, it is her hair. I think it should be ok if she does not want to brush it.” …
I must say that I was not so sure at first how to really embrace this. Can we really tell our kid she does not have to brush her hair? I mean, is this like brushing teeth? Is it the same thing?
There is no doubt society tells me it is the same thing, but is it really? … my husband has an amazing way of just pausing every so often to ask “Why are we really doing this?” … and it was in that freedom of asking myself – why? … and not just asking my surrounding society to answer for me … it was in this space that I realized, well. – Why not?
And so, we had owned it. We wrapped colorful yarn around her little wind knots and instead of brushing, we just added more colors of yarn to wrap the next knot that formed. Always telling her that she could brush it if she wanted, but no longer did she have to – we did of course, wash it. At the time of this lady’s visit, my daughter’s locks were full of long, colorful, flowing – knots!
I smiled as I listened to my daughter talk to this stranger with such self confidence, such truth and such lack of self judgement… including complete lack of judgement of this stranger in our home … my daughter only seemed to hear the question about taking a bath and the hair brushing comment did not even register … and she certainly did not take offense.
But I was offended. And I was feeling more and more defensive with each question.
Some anonymous person had called in on our family?! And this person did not even have to tell us who they were and yet could call up social services and demand that a stranger come into our home to ask our family questions as if we were doing something horribly wrong.
I felt judgements pour through me so thick, I could no longer discern between what I was judging myself for inside and what I was feeling judged for on the outside.
Inner judgement for the huge wet spot in the ceiling from a leak in the roof that we had tried to fix too many times (Yes, that was on her list too) … and the messy house and the messy hair and the all that I felt the world seemed to think was so messy and wrong within me ….
Judgement of this woman who seemed to only approve of me when my daughter talked about me making her take a bath.
And fierce judgement for whomever it was that called her in to protect my children from me!
My judgement was so freaking thick it was all I could see, or feel, or be.
And then, somehow my whole tiny world just stood still as I witnessed Grace flow through the very being of my amazing 6 year old child, as she took this stranger by the hand … Smiling through my fears, I watched her windblown locks of hair, wrapped in every color of the rainbow. Her precious, dirty barefeet guided those high heels right through every mud puddle, introducing this woman to every pony and every goat and every dog.
When it was finally time for her to leave, my daughter asked the lady to please come visit again and she said she would. Much to my displease, she had to follow up with us for a second visit in a few weeks anyway. She did ask that we fix the leak in the roof and she would be back to check on it.
That was over 4 years ago. Our family now has one more daughter and we live in a house that does not leak – We just finished building our new home a few months ago.
I look around my home now and see strong walls, tight window seals and no stains on the ceiling. It is a safe haven and I am grateful. … but the judgement I felt that day for the leak and knots and perception that somehow I was not a good mother. That inner judgement is still there.
How do I know? I know because it still hurts when I am judged. It still hurts when people hurt and then throw their hurt at me. I still hurt too. There is hurt still inside of me.
Will I ever reach a point of just not caring? Not caring if people care. Not caring when their ‘care’ turns to judgement of what they perceive as my carelessness?
I will offend. As long as I share my life, as I do when I write, as I do when I live. I will offend. And there will be times I fall blind and I will want to defend all that offends me. And I will hurt. No matter how much I try not to. There will be times that I will hurt.
And so, I give up.
I am just going to be here. And I cannot help but care. So I will do that too. And well, I am sure I will still judge others when I am hurt too deeply to see that I am just judging me.
“Why are we doing this?”
I ask myself.
“Why are we doing this life?”
I ask myself from a space of freedom, freedom that transcends what society might say in reply.
And my answer, from inside of me …
I am here to be real. Just like the velveteen rabbit, I am loving my own self into a whole human. A human that does all the things … from mistakes, to grace, to brilliance, to judgements, to everything in between. A whole human that witnesses her whole self, being a whole human. A whole human that loves her whole self, including the leaky ceiling and the messy hair and every crack in the heart of my whole freaking being.
That. That is why I am doing this life.
… my daughter decided to cut her hair and no longer have her long colorful knots. She liked them, but wanted to try something different.
… Since then my husband and I have stopped brushing our hair, we wanted to try something different.
~ my whole self, just me, Mary
ps – 4 years later, after this experience. Now that my oldest is 10 years old. I shared the details of this story with her. She wanted us to add a blog post from our conversation. Apparently I left out – the chickens.