I just got done reading this post written by Ms. Samara about the joys of parenting her Little Dude and I wanted to respond, but my response was so long that I figured it would be best to just make a blog post out of it. So, after you’ve visited the link above, I’ll get to it. Or, I could just get to it, right now. Either way.
Princess was four when I first allowed her to go to the playground at our apartment complex by herself (we don’t live there any more). At four, Princess was a very intelligent young lady and had managed to convince me that I was being paranoid about the possibility of her getting kidnapped or injured in some way. She didn’t beg me. She never does. She presented, at four years old, a highly logical argument consisting of a series of reasons why I was being over-protective for not allowing her to go to the playground by herself. I’m certain she could have convinced the head of the FBI to allow her to go to the playground by herself at that point and she was only FOUR. Had I said no, I’m fully convinced she’d have climbed out the window, as she had been doing, and gone anyway. She always has been partial to doing her own thing if I couldn’t come up with a solid reason as to why she shouldn’t.
So, on this particular day, she presented her argument to me as to why she should be allowed to go by herself to the playground and why I was being over-protective for not allowing it. At the time, I don’t remember if jak was asleep or out of the house, but I was on my own. So, I caved. I let her go to the playground, provided she promise me she would stick to the side walks and cross walks that were all over the place where we lived. Smilingly, she promised she would.
About fifteen or twenty minutes later, our doorbell rang. Mystified, I answered it to find some strange woman standing at my front door with my daughter in tow. Princess was smiling like she had no idea she might be in any danger (she was four, remember?) and she wasn’t, really. She had been discovered sitting on top of a power transformer which, for some reason, is right by the playground. This woman began to angrily bawl me out at the top of her voice for allowing my daughter to go to the playground alone. She had watched her walk across the parking lot on the crosswalk all by herself. During her rant, she called my parenting skills into question as well as my desire to be Princess’ mother. She told me, “If you don’t want to be a mother, you should give your child to someone who does!”
I was so shocked I couldn’t speak. If I’d been able to speak I probably would have screamed back at her that she had no idea what she was talking about at all, and that I did want to be Princess’ mother. That she had gone to the playground alone wasn’t evidence that I didn’t want her. She had just given me a decent argument why she should be allowed to go alone and had promised me that she would stay on the crosswalks (which she had obviously done). It was evidence that I was trying hard to be a good parent. Just because I didn’t fit into this person’s psychotic mold of what constitutes a good mother didn’t mean I didn’t want to be one. But I didn’t say anything to her. By the time jak got back home, I was sobbing and princess was trying desperately to calm me down and apologizing to me over and over again. It was traumatic for both of us.
Incidentally, had I known where this stranger lived, jak would have gone to her place and told her off (and, likely as not, been arrested). He yearned to do so after I told him what had happened.
Needless to say, my daughter was never seen at the playground alone again, not because I was caving to societal pressure but because I never wanted that woman to turn up at my door again.
Now, Princess is 12 and walks to the bus stop alone. She is nearly as tall as I am and drives both jak and I crazy sometimes because she’s intensely smart for her age and can still usually come up with good reasons to be allowed to do the things that we’d rather she didn’t do. We have a deal. As often as I can, when she asks to do something, I will say “yes.” If I can’t say “yes” I will try very hard to give her a decent reason why I had to say “no.” I’m not good at that, but I try.
Boy, on the other hand, has to be monitored almost constantly. Not because he’s prone to get into cars with strangers or things of that nature. Because, due to his autism, he’s a roamer. Also, there’s the fact that he tends to be destructive if he’s not watched. He plays outside by himself, not because I let him but because I’m busy and he just goes outside when my back is turned. He feeds himself, not because I let him, but because, when he happens to be hungry, he just goes into the kitchen and gets whatever is available in the refrigerator when I’m busy with something and then smuggles it into his room and eats it there. He knows he’s not supposed to take food from the kitchen without asking. Additionally, he tends to climb up on the fence and throw things at the neighbor’s dogs (he tells me he’s throwing them “to” the dogs. I tell him… not to.) When he was five, he climbed into our LOCKED tool shed (it’s one of those aluminum ones with the sliding door which I never knew could be forced in the first place), took his father’s axe and began to make lovely holes in the walls with it. Just lately, he’s taken to making holes in the back lawn with a shovel.
Boy isn’t unintelligent. I sometimes refer to him as my little Houdini. When he was two or three and we were still in the apartment complex, he shoved the screen out of his window, climbed out of said window, and crossed the street to the nearby middle school parking lot without being hit by a car while he was supposed to be taking a nap. When I discovered he was missing I was frantic. I searched all over the apartment complex looking for him. I never dreamed he would cross that busy street by himself. When I finally found him, CPS had him. They were concerned about the bruises on his legs (which I didn’t put there) and wouldn’t let me near him for a full half hour while the police questioned me. How did CPS get him? Someone at the middle school had seen him wandering around alone in nothing but a diaper and had called the police.
Boy, I don’t let out the front door without an adult attached. I walk Boy to school every day unless we don’t get out before 8:15. Then I drive him. There is a keyed deadbolt lock on the front door to prevent him from leaving without an adult attached. He has a caregiver that comes three times a week to watch him so that I can actually get some WORK done around this place. Sometimes, I’ll admit, I use that time to just be myself for a while.
All things considered, though, I love my kids. They make me nuts sometimes, but I love them. I’ve often wondered if what that psycho woman said to me is true and I don’t really want to be a mother. Then I think about someone coming and taking my kids away from me and… I just can’t do it. I just can’t. Does that mean I love my kids? I sure hope so. I just get this warm glow in my heart when I hold my daughter, or when she decides to tell me about things that are happening at school. I get that same warm glow in my heart when my son comes and gives me a hug and says, “I love you, Mom.” I just want to hold him indefinitely. Just never let him go, forever. But, of course, inevitably, he’ll say, “You can let me go, now.” Like any Mom, I especially like to watch my kids sleep. They look so angelic and peaceful, then.
So, you decide. Am I a bad mother because my daughter can talk her way around me and my son more or less ignores me unless I’m right up in his face? Am I a bad mother because sometimes I feel so overwhelmed by it all that I tend to just leave the housework untouched for days at a time? I don’t want CPS or anyone to come and take my kids away. They’ve threatened. Believe me. But then again, both my kids know the names of their private body parts by their scientific names. Even Boy, who wasn’t speaking understandably until he was four, knows the names of his privates.
So, Samara, I hope that answers the questions you asked. As for the rest of you. I only have one question.
Am I insane for writing all this out and posting it on the internet? My inquiring mind wants to know!