Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Another Side Note

I would just like to make clear that it is NEVER appropriate to joke about child abuse. Call me "righteous" all you want, it is NEVER, EVER OK. I don't care if you were "joking." It's NOT FUNNY.

When I lived in Georgia I witnessed my neighbor abuse her daughter, verbally and physically. I had to file police reports against her, and take care of her daughter when she fled to my house. So I don't find it funny. Not. One. Bit. What was said on Facebook was completely intolerable, and that person is now blocked, but what I found even more appalling is how many people were defending his right to "joke" about such a travesty. His words were something along the lines of, "If everyone beat their kids the world would be a better place." I'm not going to apologize for taking offense to that. It was offensive. I haven't told people the half of what happened in Georgia because it's none of their business and I respect the privacy of a girl who was beat down every day of her life by an alcoholic mother. I did everything I could do to defend her, first subtly, then with increased fervor as the abuse not only continued but increased. Because I not only heard her daughter's accounts of what happened, I witnessed it. Her mother didn't hold back because I was present, or she would ask me to leave and proceed to abuse her daughter while I was still within hearing distance, sometimes even sight.

Kids will push you to the brink. Whether it's a baby that won't stop crying or a child who won't stop screaming, sometimes you'll want to tear your hair out, sometimes you'll want to sit down and sob, and sometimes you'll want to haul off and smack them. But by the time you get to the last one it's YOU who needs a time out. If you can't do that then you're a bad parent. If you react physically to your child then you need a serious reality check. Because it's abuse, plain and simple. I'm not saying you can't have a breakdown, but I am saying that if you can't control your emotions enough to keep from hurting your child then not only are you a bad example (your child is going to learn to abuse others to express his/her emotion), you're a bad parent. I worked 40+ hours a week in a classroom with 20 two-year olds and one other adult. There were definitely times I lost my temper, and I feel bad about that now. There have been times when I've been the one having the breakdown, even though I'm not a mother yet. I'm telling you this because even with all those kids I never hit one. Have I wanted to administer a spanking? Yes. I really, really have. That's when I left the room, took a breather, and was able to go back into the classroom and see that the behavioral problems that frustrated me so much were caused by a need for more love, not more discipline. And I would take that child I was so angry with, put them in my lap, and give them hugs. I would carry them around the playground and make sure I went out of my way to give them positive encouragement as they played. Positive reinforcement encouraged better behavior more than any negative reaction I could have had.

I realize you don't have to agree with my opinion on what constitutes child abuse. However you do have to realize that the law will side with me. In many states it's illegal to have an argument with someone else (including your spouse) in front of your child. That is considered verbal abuse. And if you commit an act of abuse against a child in my presence, I will call the police. My neighbor had previously been my friend. That didn't keep me from calling the police and reporting her to child services. I physically drove the investigation paperwork from the police station to the Department of Family Services. And I'm happy to report that my neighbor lost custody and her daughter is now happily residing with her father.

So don't joke about it. It's not something to joke about, and if you choose to do so, be prepared for immediate backlash. I've said my peace and released some of my bile. I'm going to try to let what this insensitive moron said go, and not let it get to me. Ultimately people like that aren't worth it, but that doesn't stop my wishing that they would all march into the ocean.

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