10 December, 2008

This Really Happened

Wednesday 10:30am annual IHSS meeting with Ruth. Jake is at school, Descartes is at work and Lucy is with me. 

Ruth is a kind, late 50's ish woman who speaks carefully and calmly. She listens well, offers words of encouragement and admits easily that my life is harder than she can imagine. She has been a social worker almost as long as I have been alive.

Lucy is cranky, getting molars, not sleeping well, and figuring out toilet training on her own, insistent that she does not want any help, and is therefore often found without pants, having used  said pants to wipe herself. She places dirty clothes and diaper in a nice pile and simply walks away, leaving pee pee diapers, and sadly poopy diapers behind. She seems to be in need of an increasing amount food, and when that won't make her happy, candy, especially PEZ delivered via Santa head. She has 9am swim lessons on Mondays and Wednesdays, so her hunger, whininess and need for a nap are generally at their peak at about 10:15 on those days.

I am tired. Lucy woke me up at 4:45am. I get a nervous stomach when I know a social worker is coming to my house because I know the power these people have.  They control money for services and they can take my children away. I never forget this part. So even though I have no reason for someone to take away my kids, I fret until the meeting is at least halfway over.

And so, at 10:15am, Lucy is crying for candy, with no pants on,  and she has left her shoes and socks and pants spread out across the entire living room floor. The pee-pee diaper? She has hidden it somewhere. This is really no big deal. I got Lucy back together, got her a snack of wheat pretzels, cheddar cheese and orange juice and have set her up at her little table with her "math" book (Jake's workbook from last year) and several twistable crayons, and blank paper on her easel as well.

Ruth arrives at 10:29am, with calm, and a sweet smile and a non-judgemental look at my dirty dishes in the sink. I offer her coffee. She says she has just finished a Starbucks and declines. We sit.

I get Lucy more snack. Ruth and I talk a bit more. I explain the rough autumn we've had with Jake's never-ending episode, and change of aides. She is empathetic. Lucy crawls up onto the couch and into my lap laying in my arms like a baby. She says "Momma. Momma." over and over again. She says, "I'm a baby. I need milk from my momma." and tries to lift up my shirt.

Lucy takes off her shoes and sticks her cold feet up the back of my shirt.

Lucy asks for more candy.

then more snack.

then more crayons. 

She plays tea party with Ruth, then Lucy goes to her little table and quietly plays for a minute. Ruth and I begin to wrap it up. I am signing papers now when all of a sudden Lucy comes back and sits down on the ottoman and says:

Lucy: "I think we should talk about it."
Ruth: (enamored with Lucy) "Oh Lucy what would you like to talk about?"
Lucy: "Hitting."
Me: "That's right Lucy we don't hit. We have gentle hands. Hitting isn't kind."
and then--

Lucy: "Mommy hits me."

Ruth: silent
Me: "Lucy, that's not nice to say."
Lucy: "Mommy hits me."
Me: (now slightly irritated) "I hit you? Really?"
Lucy: "Mommy hits Lucy."
Me: "Oh really? Where did I hit you?"
Lucy: "In the face."

Ruth: still silent

Me: (now slightly worried) "Lucy, Are you telling the truth or are you telling a fib?"
Lucy: "Mommy hits Lucy in the face."
Me: "Lucy, okay, Lucy, are you telling the truth or are you telling a fib?"
Lucy: (laughing and smiling) "I telling a FIB." 
Me: (head in hands.) "I cannot wait to tell my social worker brother what Lucy just said in front of you."
Ruth: "I didn't believe her for a minute."
Me: "And I appreciate that because I know it's your job to believe her."
Ruth: (to Lucy) "Your mom is never going to let you forget that you just told me that story."

and so, my daughter's first big whopper was about me hitting her.. in the face, and she told the story to... a social worker. 


We finished signing papers and had a lovely conversation about how I was never hit as a child, so I never had to think about whether this was a particular strategy I would use with my own children, since it was not part of my family's repertoire, nor was it part of my husband's discipline growing up. We talked about understanding that if someone did not have  my particular resources: great husband, food in the pantry, running car, money to pay the mortgage on the house we own (at least for now!), healthy children, a reliable babysitter, these things make my life easier, and that someone else who didn't have these supports might feel like they were at their wit's end with a child like Jake (or LUCY!) and not have any other resource to rely on.  

And so for now, no one has come to take my children away. 

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