Courts separate mother and child

THE SCENARIO: A woman’s seven-year-old son puts his hand inside his mum’s shirt in public. She is charged with indecent dealing with a minor. Community Services removes the boy. That was in December, 2008.

When the NewsMail reported the court case today, they expected the mother and son to be reunited in two to four weeks.

There are so many variables that I don’t know, but by her own admission she had an issue with boundaries since she was abused as a child.

But for more than three years this child’s been away from his mother. Because he put his hand in her shirt.

That, to me, is terrifying.

That someone can deem an act inappropriate and remove your own child from your care for so long. It’s incredulous when I’ve seen other children suffer much worse neglect at the hands of their parents and their children are returned to them, time and time again.

It saddened me to read of the distress this caused the boy and his mother.

I can’t even begin to imagine.

But I wonder two things: one) was his hand (I hate using this word) groping or merely resting on her breast? And was this a measure of comfort that had been happening for years?

Is it really any different to the small child who hides their face in your lap when they’re embarassed?

That train of thought begs the question that breastfeeding mothers have been arguing for years – what is a breast? It’s not just about sexual objectification. It’s a source of nourishment and comfort and it CAN be a source of fascination to older children.

If the son did this to his dad, the situation would have been very different. So to what extent do women – do mothers – have to defend themselves when it comes to their chest?

Secondly, how do we decide when something is inappropriate? And does it depend on a child’s age? I can understand, if the act really was awkward for those who witnessed it, that they felt obliged to say something, do something. After all, what if something much worse is going on behind closed doors?

It can be incredibly difficult to trust your instinct when it comes to another person’s child. It takes guts to act on your convictions. But what if you’re mistaken?

Three-plus years is a long time for a family to pay the price for a social mishap.

Everything about this story shocked me. But what stuck with my subconscious was the ability to lose your children at the hands of others; of other parents, of the courts and community services.

The night I read this, I dreamt that I’d left my daughter napping in one town as I drove to another. I was meant to put her in the car, but in my haste forgot, and two hours later I was beside the highway, an hysterical mess.

I had no one to call on to check on her before I could get back and I knew I had to ring the police. But what if they considered me a neglectful parent? Would I ever get her back?

I rang the police and they checked on her and they told me they’d take her back to the station with them…. “where I could come pick her up”. I wept with relief.

I’d love to know what others think. Was this action warranted? Would you have reported it? Have you seen anything that you felt needed to be reported? Or have you been reported for something?

 

Digital Parents Blog Carnival

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Where have all the douchebags gone?

EVERYWHERE young lads are lifting the bar on romance – first Justin Bieber’s ‘Titanic’ date for Selena Gomez (who hadn’t seen it since she was a little girl… feeling old yet?!) and Liam Hemsworth dishes out for a black diamond pendant for Miley Cyrus’ 19th birthday at the end of last year.

They are tough acts to follow but even the timid declarations of love by my friends’ teenage boys on Facebook always make me go ‘nwwah’.

Still, a part of me is waiting for the tide to turn, for the moment those swelling emotions crash into reality and it all comes asunder.

I’m not a complete cynic. Hell, I’ve written a romance (okay, it has the word ‘ferals’ in the title, let’s ignore that for now). I’ve definitely swooned in my time. One boyfriend declared he would marry me on our second date, “if only a church were open”.

He had me at ‘marriage’.

But fast forward a year and a couple of break-ups and we found ourselves drinking at a nightclub in a strange, new town. We were trying the town on for size, since he’d been offered a job there.

It was the fresh start our relationship so desperately needed.

We were discussing his new job when he shouted over the bass, “She’s moving here too.”

I was sure I had misheard him. “She” was someone he worked with. “She” was the woman he’d been seeing when he wasn’t seeing me… and, I believe, sometimes when he was.

In the dark of the club, it dawned on me. He was never going to change and this would be my life – clinging to this man like he was some sort of inflatable raft.

But something remarkable happened in that moment. It all fell away, all the exhausting to-ing and fro-ing, all the miserable interludes peppered with intense remorse. It all melted away and I felt a bit like Katie Morosky in The Way We Were.

I smiled at my suddenly ex-boyfriend and sank into the crowd where, in honour of this revelation, I danced.

I danced to celebrate, to agitate (he thought I was being moronic) and to prove to myself I could do it on my own.

Sometimes, when I need to pool my strength, I take myself back to that defining moment that has become less about him – or her – and more about what I’m capable of.

Reading Caitlin Moran’s ‘How To Be A Woman’ and her Morosky moment, I wondered just how many capable women fall into the trap of seeing themselves through their partner’s eyes. Diminished in the hue of their partner’s critique.

Moran wrote of her teenage love: “But I am absolutely determined to be in love. I figure this will probably… knock the edges off me. It’s love as a lesson, and a penance. I don’t think Courtney will kill me, so he will, therefore, probably make me stronger…  I believe in feeling bad for love. I think it is, somehow, glorious. I am stupid. I am so stupid.” (p146)

And I couldn’t believe the similarity in our mindsets – the urgency to dispense of singledom, like a man’s virginity, and be invested in a relationship, any relationship, no matter the fallout.

Could it be a rite of passage for young women to have their hearts trampled underfoot?

It’s true, I find it hard to pick a female friend who did not invest in a relationship that was unhealthy for her. We’ve all done it and maybe that’s not a bad thing.

Only after the wretchedness did I begin to take affairs of the heart seriously. I played recklessly with emotions – mine and others – flitting through rocky courtships and worse until I hit my iceberg.

Needless to say, I began to gauge more carefully what I would and would not tolerate.

But what of our underlings who have these gentleman lovers straight out of high school? Might they never learn the invaluable lesson that hearts mend despite the awkward grasp of ill-equipped partners? Do they even need to?

Germaine Greer once described an older woman’s love as tender, deep and warm – very different to the passionate but fickleness of young love.

“The older woman’s love is not love of herself, nor of herself mirrored in a lover’s eyes, nor is it corrupted by need.”

Have you had your heart hurt by an incompetent boy?

Ode to my puppy

MY dog died on Friday. It wasn’t without warning. It was via a big needle full of green stuff that snuffed out her life and left her asleep on my lap as I sobbed heartbroken into her fur.

It was horrible.

Horrible.

Let’s do the addendum thing… she was born sometime in December 1997. She’s been mine since January 1998. She’s had an extremely long and full life. It was time. But I wasn’t ready. I don’t think I was ever going to be ready.

And the kicker to all this is…. I have had her almost my entire adult life (minus one year). She’s seen me through boyfriends, heartbreaks, car crashes (will always rememer my relief to see her running in excited circles on the roof of the car after I flipped it in a culvert – and both of us riding in the ambulance, then the nurses moving my hospital bed so she could see where I was and stop disturbing other patient’s with her barking), graduation, career (remember the time she tried to bite the mayor? Good times.), weddings, babies… the whole shebang.

I can’t count how many times I confided in her before anyone else, how often I sobbed into her smelly coat, unafraid of being judged.

She was the only person at the house when I was chased home by some crazed weirdo one time. She sat on the couch with me as I called the police. She was just a pup but she knew something was up, she sat quietly, attentively, watching me with concern.

And she showed me places I may have never discovered on my own. Always on a quest to find bushland where she could run leash-free, I eventually bought a house near some bush/farm land that boasted hills, creeks, horses, kangaroos and even a waterfall. Would I have even known it existed if I didn’t have to chase her down overgrown paths? Doubtful.

Even when I was pregnant, I would walk her down there, sing songs to my unborn son and when it was time to go home, she’d happily drag my tired butt back up the hill to our house. And when I had kids, I could tie her to the pram knowing she wouldn’t try to bolt and disturb sleeping babies.

But it’s not those things I miss. Though I’m grateful to have those memories, I just miss her pushy, “pat me now, pat me here” shoving whenever you walked outside. I miss rubbing my feet over her whenever I sat outside. I miss checking on her one last time before I go to sleep at night. My instinct to do these things is as natural to me as breathing.

I didn’t think I could miss a dog this much. But for so long she was a fundamental part of my life: my source of unconditional affection, my first real responsibility in life, my Karra-Mia.

PS A heartfelt thank-you to my boss for giving me the day off, to my brother who helped bury Karra, to Husband’s boss  who also gave him the day off, and to Husband for all his support.

Dropping the f-bomb

HE hands me a colourful bunch of petals with a sheepish flourish.

“Aaww,” I half-smile, half-wince.

I like flowers. Sometimes, I even like getting them from my husband. But bad days are not made good by flowers alone.

Sure, I may be a cold-hearted bitch who doesn’t know how good she’s got it (I’ve been informed thus by countless women who never get flowers).

But flowers resemble expectations and require fake exultations.

The expectation that I will immediately trim them up and arrange them in a suitable vase, gaze adoringly at them and forget all about the crappy day I endured.

The expectation that – if you’re in an office and receive flowers on any day that isn’t your anniversary, birthday or Valentine’s – you must have had a marriage-quaking argument the night before. Even though there was no such disagreement, I begin to feel self-conscious that I’m perceived as either: a) the woman putting up with her husband’s shit or b) a cold-hearted bitch.

Hmm, I see a pattern forming.

It’s all a lot of work if it’s coming at the end of a particularly arduous day. The same, however, cannot be said of chocolate.

When I get chocolate, my “ooh”s are genuine, I gush over the thoughtfulness and it does make me forget (for a moment) the crap-tacular day I’ve had. I’m enthusiastic about chocolate – “Are they for me?” “Can I have them now?” “Are they all for me?”

If I get flowers, they tend to end up on a bench, left to slump on the counter while I have a good sit-down. Which, understandably, is a little like a slap in the face. Which, unfortunately, leads to the “aren’t you going to put them in water?” debacle. I figure any gift specifically given to alleviate the stress of one’s day – should not add any further commitments nor make any demands.

A block of chocolate requires no water, no vase, no kitchen scissors to trim off stems… it comes to the couch with you, you can rip it open and enjoy it without the use of utensils and the wrapper can sit wedged between cushions until you’re ready to get up. No fuss, no muss.

(PS For the record, I have delighted in getting spectacular bouquets for special occasions. I don’t mean to sound quite so stingy. But random flower-giving from servo’s and the Woolies counter… you may as well just go to the confectionary aisle).

Me love you long time at short time price. Tell your friends.

I DON’T talk about my sex life to anyone other than my husband. Aside from the standard jokes amongst other parents about “mismatched libidos” post-children, I think it’s a topic reserved solely for the couple in question.

Which is why, when my husband relayed an office conversation to me recently,  I was gob-smacked to hear a woman reveal to several colleagues that she and her fiance have a “payment plan” on sex.

In short, he pays $50 when he wants sex. He gets two free ones, but anything extra will cost. That includes oral.

What the?!

She said she doesn’t particularly enjoy it, so she ought to get something out of it. Well, we’ve all been there (I hope), but monetary payment?! Surely not.

I had so many questions for my husband, I’m guessing he wishes he hadn’t mentioned it.

Will they continue this “arrangement” after they’re married? Does he have a high-paying job? Do they worry about their sexual compromises reaching out to discolour other aspects of their partnership?

Or is she actually on to something? Could their relationship rise above the usual bedroom conflicts by creating an incentive, regardless of whether it’s physical or financial? It’s no secret plenty of marital disagreements centre around a couple’s “frequency”, is this a practical way of resolving the situation?

I’m not deluded enough to think couple’s are only ever doing it out of love. I know it can be used as an effective bargaining tool (take, for example, Lilly using sex to coax her partner into flossing his teeth on How I Met Your Mother), but actually dollar notes? Isn’t that a bit… ahem, red light special?

Are we doing this now? Using sex as leverage even in loving relationships? Hmm… I do need a new iPod.

All the psycho-babble aside, I’m still prudent enough to be awed by her openness in the office, and admittedly even her audacity to request payment for services rendered. But does her fiance know she’s discussing these things to others? Not just the transaction, but the fact she obviously isn’t enjoying their “mattress habitat”? 

While my husband was happy to weigh in on this discussion, I suspect he’d have a mild conniption if I did the same.

Is it a generational thing? One of those types that discusses Everything With Everyone? “I had a nice sandwich for lunch and can’t seem to find my erogenous zone” types of people?

I can’t say I’ve ever divulged things such as “oral makes my jaw hurt” (except when I’ve drunk half a bottle of Sambuca, probably). But my husband seemed to take it in his stride, replying that she was simply doing it wrong. He is one of those Gen-Y’ers (while I’m the much cooler Gen X). Though my older sister (also Gen X) would probably share all of her sexual escapades unprompted. Visual aids optional.

Maybe it’s just me. I’m blushing just blogging about it.

How much pillow talk do you share with others? And do you exchange sex for money or chore-trade-offs?

(PS. I’ve been trying to make sure all my photos are ones from our album to prevent any accidental copyright infringement. The above photo is the closest I could find to “sexy”. Sad really.)

Happy ending bulldust

FAIRYTALES have much to answer for – unfortunate stereotypes of step-sisters, impossible waistlines, impractical footwear… but the worst offence is the “happily ever after”.

The idea that the story ends once she’s met, and usually married, Prince Charming.

Of course, dragons have been slain, witches boiled and other cesspools of evil have been overcome for the dashing couple to unite, but what if Cinderella had father issues that caused a rift in her marriage? What if Prince Charming couldn’t get past Snow White’s reputation? What if Sleeping Beauty actually suffered sleep apnoea?  What if Rapunzel was not trapped, but in a witness protection program?

There’s any number of obstacles that aren’t necessarily banished from the kingdom once a ring is slipped on the finger.

And, as is usually the case, when marriage is followed by child-bearing… there’s a whole other lot of issues to contend with. Princess Jasmine is pretty feisty, but what if she suffered Post-Natal Depression? What if Princess Fiona had a child with autism?

In fact forget about additional obstacles, just turning a Princess into a mum presents an interesting dilemma… though perhaps it’s not so tough when you have footmen to fetch your nappy bags and ladies-in-waiting to keep your bustier straps from showing (do bustiers have straps?!).

It pains me that we are taught from such an early age, the concept of perfection and the falsehood that it comes so easily – and predominantly via the affections of a man.

Life is never that simple. Nor that perfect. Nor courtesy of a strapping young man on a white horse.

Bearing that in mind, shouldn’t I relish the original faerie tales – the Brothers Grimm variety – where people die, blood is spilt? Where there is an ending but it’s not always happy?

I thought so too.

But when I saw the original take on the Little Tin Soldier (one of my childhood favourites) I was left bereft by the fiery demise of the brave little man and his delicate ballerina.

It wasn’t the much-preferred ending I recalled from my childhood. They had overcome the adversity and deserved happiness (don’t we all?).

Despite all my nay-saying, I need a happy ending.  I perpetuate the “perfect happy ending” in my own writing. I need things to be wrapped up nicely with a pretty bow.

If it’s not a good ending, then what’s the point? Why slay the dragon, or hack down a centuries-old forest, if you’re just going to die before your time?

Of course, the characters seldom know any better. But why would you want to read about it? It’d be enough to make Ariel never leave the sea.

Maybe the Disney version of events was borne out of necessity? Of people needing some optimism, something positive to hold onto when your happily ever after starts to wear thin.

 

The mouse who roared… at her husband

IT was the third time I’d tried to finish my story when another scream came from the play room (the play date consisted of three mums and six kids – plenty of screaming).

I got up to intervene and by the time I came back the conversation had moved on to glazed donuts. Such is life as a mum. Lots of half-finished conversations, half-eaten meals and emotions left unresolved.

It wasn’t that what I had to say was important. But since I’d struggled three times to finish it, I thought perhaps it was just a little important. To me.

The story? Oh yes, some mild implication that I was a neglectful parent when I was of the apparently mistaken belief that I was an overly protective one.

I love having a girly catch up with my mum-friends (and my un-mum friends* but conversations with them sometimes require more witticisms than I’m predisposed to on most days) but the perils are two-fold: you may not get to talk and you may not get to hear it all.

Driving home, I got just an eency bit teary (have I mentioned I haven’t been sleeping? Yes? Yes, of course I have.) because I wanted that one story to be heard by someone else. To have another woman hear the crux of it and know exactly how I felt.

Instead, I came home and got on with my day.

Enter Husband, pale, with some sort of tummy bug. After a quick cuddle, he went off to bed. I sat down and got to work (I work from home). But the day descended into a rollercoaster of bum changes, getting drinks and snacks out of fridge, breaking up fights, nursing bruised shins and egos, taking toddler to toilet, taking calls for our couch that’s for sale… It’s a typical day, really, but I’m so tired. And a little overwhelmed.

And the sight of our bedroom door, shut, with my husband convalescing behind it wriggles its way under my skin.

I wonder if he can hear the countless things I’m doing when I’m meant to be working, whether he’s listening and thinking “I don’t know how she does it”. But I know he’s got his own problems right now.

So I get on with my day.

When he comes out for a chat, I’m amicable but Still Very Busy. It’s only when he informs the kids – screaming for his attention outside – that he can’t oblige them as he’s not well, that I clench my teeth.

Okay, he IS sick and he does entertain them as as best as he can, bless him. But it doesn’t stop the madness. It doesn’t stop them clambering onto my lap, or screaming nonsense as they thump-thump-thump through the house. It isn’t enough. And I start to blame him. Why can’t he keep them away from me? Just long enough to get my shit done, to get my head straight?

The day drags out with over-tired babies, sick husband taking over dinner as my work banks up, arguments over electricity bills and leaving the kids alone in the tub. And ringing in my ears is the untold story of Me The Mum: The Neglectful One.

It’s too much for one night. And though my Husband understands I resent that he gets to “just be sick”, he doesn’t know everything else that’s going on in my head, in my heart. And I know he’d ease my burden if I could only share it with him without pointing accusatory fingers.

And I’m just so tired, all I have are tears and blame. If he doesn’t wear it, then I will have to, and I simply can’t. Not tonight.

I’m trying to think of a positive note to end on here. Of the Small Potato that told me today not to give up on dreams, or my son offering to be my best friend. But before me stretches another night of restless babies, scared little boys and me, floating like an apparition in a blue dressing gown, tending to them and hoping tomorrow I get to tell someone how “neglectful” I am.

(* Un-mums as opposed to non-mums haven’t made the decision NOT to have kids, they just having got round to that chapter yet.)

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