Saturday, September 17, 2016

Because Life Isn't Always Sunshine and Rainbows.

It’s been a while since I blogged.  Every time I want to blog about a series of funny events in our house…I am reminded about the last blog that I wrote, but didn’t post.

I pride myself in being an open book, so it felt odd to me to post about a series of funny events, when a really not-so-funny event happened to my family…and that was the last blog that I wrote, but didn’t post.

As you may or may not know, when we moved back to St. Pete from NJ, Jack started going to an in home daycare.

Well, in February 2016 – that in home daycare owner called Child Protective Services on Matt and I for child neglect.

Yes.  That’s right.  Child neglect.  These are the people who can remove your child from your home, folks.

This issue boils down to trust.  It takes a long time to earn it and only seconds to lose it.

With me, once it’s gone…it’s gone forever.

Or maybe this boils down to sanity..?  Maybe she’s just insane.  Maybe we are insane for staying as long as we did?  We talked about leaving this daycare 100s of times.  We looked and researched and begged for openings at other places...because while this place was the right place for many kids/families that we knew and loved, it wasn't the right place for us.  There were literally NO other openings in St. Pete. In the end, even if we didn't like the situation, we knew our kids were safe here...so we endured...until it completely fell apart on us in a BIG way.

Either way, I don’t think I’m above many things, but I am ABOVE child neglect and I won’t stand by and allow you to make that sort of allegation against Matt and I. 

Here’s how the story goes:

When Jack arrived at this particular in home daycare when he was 18 months old, I could tell that she didn’t care for Jack much.  Jack wasn’t “hers.”  She told me on more than one occasion that Jack was missing critical skills that “all” 18 month olds had – especially her kids – like holding a spoon or using crayons.

Using crayons?  Let’s come back to that.

I could tell that she treated Jack differently.  She was more excited to see the other kids when they arrived.  She was colder to Matt and I.  I’m not sure why – our money was just as good as everyone else’s. 

I chalked up the offense that I took to being a sensitive new parent.  Even if I had been a parent for 18 months, he was still my first ever 18 month old.

Then Jack turned two.  I think I’ve confessed to you already that this is when all hell broke loose for us.  The year between 2 and 3 was tough in ways I can’t describe.  We were dealing with a bonafide bi-polar terrorist in a toddler sized body.  We struggled with how to discipline him….re-directing, time outs, taking things away, popping him, etc.   Then he developed a hitting issue.  So, we backed off of any popping until he understood the difference between us popping him in the form of discipline and him smacking another kid in the face.  The difference is subtle, I know.

She struggled with Jack too in that year.  She told me he needed Ritalin because he was so energetic.  It was an issue a day for us … Every day when I’d pick up Jack.  He accidently slammed another little boy’s fingers in a chest.  She took care of the little boy (who wasn’t injured, but very rightfully upset).  She described this to me in such a way that you would think Jack was a complete monster child.  She didn’t even bother to console Jack who had no idea what occurred.  She told me that Jack had no empathy and that empathy wasn’t something you could teach… that you either had it or you didn’t.  This made her worry about Jack as a human being.  She even called him demonic.
Imagine how this made me feel about my sweet, cautious, loving Jack…

One day, when I arrived – Jack came running to me and yelling that she hit him.  She immediately confessed that she did pop him and it was out of anger because she couldn’t get his attention.  She apologized.  Jack was crying.  I was pissed off.  We left. 

Let’s come back to that.

She then told me that “everyone here talks about how you don’t discipline Jack.”  I thought “oh really?  I didn’t know my kid’s issues were everyone else’s concerns.”  I mean, Matt and I don’t discuss the children who are biting everyone….or the kid that pushes other kids.  We trusted that those parents were working with her on those specific issues.  It was none of our business. 
My mom and mother in law helped me to figure out that if Jack (my sweet busy body baby boy) had a task or something to do outside, that he was well behaved and slept better.  That’s just who he was (and still is).

I begged the day care owner to let him go outside during the day.  She would tell me that it was too hot or too cold or too windy or there were too many bugs or that the babies wouldn’t have anywhere to sit/lay. 

Let’s come back to that too.

She had me convinced that he was some sort of demon child….and that we were bad parents because 
Jack wouldn’t sit and do art/color with crayons.  (CRAYONS?)  She went so far as to say that Jack would hurt baby Beau when he arrived.  She told us that Jack had no regard for anyone else.

You think?  HE’S TWO.

Needless to say, this caused more than one bad interaction between me/her or Matt/her. 

Fast forward….Beau has arrived and is now in daycare with Jack. (January 2015 – August 2015)
She wouldn’t help us get Jack potty trained claiming that she didn’t have time/capacity to deal with what was needed.  We were trying to get him potty trained to go to preschool in August 2015.  I remember sending him in a pull up just to give him a way to get his pants down….and he’d come home in a diaper and embarrassed.  Again, I chalked this up to me being a new parent trying to (unsuccessfully) potty train my child while he was in daycare. 

Some days, I would arrive to pick them up….and she’d be nowhere to be found – but all the kids would be staring at me through the locked glass door…Jack in a diaper, again. 

Most days, there was an issue with Jack…but Beau…oh, Beau was her baby.  She loved him.  I couldn’t blame her.

Beau got bitten a lot by another little boy that was about a year older than him.  We didn’t think much of it because, well, all kids have something going on…this kid bites.  Our kids hit/push/wrestle.

It happened a lot, though. Let’s come back to that, too….I won’t leave you hanging….I promise.

A few days later, a friend’s older kids were at the daycare when Matt picked up Beau.  Matt spoke to them “heeeyyy, long time no see, what are you guys doing here?”

She jumped all over Matt that he couldn’t ask them any questions … and that she wasn’t watching them, but they were “just visiting.”  Matt joked with her that he wasn’t going to turn her in for her provide-to-child ratio being off.  She didn’t like that either and threatened to force us to find another daycare.

A couple of Fridays after that, as I’m getting Beau undressed for his bath….I notice a bite mark on his arm.  I noted to Matt that he needs to tell her when he drops off Beau on the following Monday.  Given that Beau now has three bite marks that have bruised over….I feel like a tiny bit more supervision is needed on the biter. 

So, Matt makes that request.  Her response:  “Well, the biter is probably just retaliating against Beau because Beau is a bully.”

Pardon me?

Did you say a 17 month old baby is a BULLY?  ….a bully to the 2.5 year old? 

Then she corrects herself and says that those aren’t bite marks and that they are bruises from rough play at home.

DUDE.  GET OUT OF TOWN!

So, Matt – who’s a better person than me – lets it go.

The following Wednesday rolls around….and she has a liability waiver that she wants Matt to sign.  It contains a hand written narrative about how Beau’s bruises weren’t from her care and that they were from “unsupervised rough play at home with his older brother.”

OK.  WAIT.  WHAT?!  Nope.  Not signing that.

Two hours later….Matt gets a knock at our door.  It’s the Pinellas County Sherrif’s Dept with Child Protective Services to investigate “Beau Schneider’s neglect.”

I happened to be on an airplane on the way home….and that turned out to be a good thing, because I may have let my crazy out for good.

The (very nice) investigator did her job… She interviewed Matt.  (Do you do drugs?  Were you neglected as a child? Do you hit your children? Etc.)

She interviewed Jack…and it fucking breaks my heart to tell you the kinds of questions that she asked him.  Who lives here with you?  Is Mommy gone sometimes? (“yeah, she flies the plane to Detroit sometimes”) Do mommy or daddy hit you? (“no”) Do mommy/daddy tell you that they love you? (“yes”)  Did you like going to daycare where Beau goes to daycare? (“no”) Do you play rough with Beau (“we wrestle”) Do you know how Beau got the bruises on him (“probably at daycare”)
She did a full body examination of Beau…after seeing his ONE bruise, her response was “that’s it?”

Keep in mind…this woman has seen the scum of the Earth…you know like people who put their cigarettes out on their kids or lock them in closets for days with no food.

But, she’s investigating us now.

Thanks to this daycare owner that simply didn’t like my husband and my oldest son and the fact that I traveled for my job.

The investigator does a walk thru of our home.  We explain why Jack has two twin beds in his room (“in case he wants to have a buddy stay over”).

So, Matt asks her…  “After seeing all of this and even watching the boys play/wrestle – what is your assessment??”

She shakes her head and looks at the ground.  She can’t comment because she hasn’t talked to me yet…  “the mom who travels.”

You can imagine my response when I get home shortly after she leaves. 

Complete HYSTERICS.

On the phone, the investigator tells me that everything is going to be ok…and that I should calm down.

CALM DOWN?  I get worked up over FAR LESS than this on a daily basis, lady….you have no idea who you are dealing with.  She couldn’t talk to me over the phone because she couldn’t verify my identity.

As it turns out, she was right, though.  I needed to calm down.

But I didn’t sleep.  Not one wink of sleep.  Got out of bed at 6 am….drug myself to the office, gave a presentation to a roomful of clients, managed to not let one tear fall down my cheek…and then I left the office and waited for her call.

She calls and I go to her office at 4:00 pm. 

When I get angry – I cry.  When I feel attacked, I get angry – I cry.  So, I was already about to cry.
The investigator asked me the same questions as Matt. 

She asked me to describe Jack and Beau in three words:

Jack:  Energetic, Inquisitive, Sensitive.
Beau:  Beauzilla, Independent, Tough.

She told me that I lit up when I talked about them.  She told me that she could tell that I loved and cared for them deeply and that I was appalled by this allegation.

I was.  APPALLED was the only word that I could find that was remotely strong enough to describe my emotion.

She told me that she felt the claim was a bit ridiculous after seeing our home, my husband in action at dinner time with the boys, the boys playing together…and now seeing me – a grown, professional, successful woman who volunteers at the YMCA, brings her kids to do community projects around Snell Isle and does chats on women’s professional growth on her own time to local businesses.  We are a family that goes to neighborhood watch meetings, we bike downtown, support our community, shop locally and attend “Mayor Chats” to make our city better…

And this is who we are investigating for child neglect?

She could not confirm who made the claim, but we both knew that I knew – without a doubt.

She asked me for 3 references that could verify my character and my parenting.

I opened my phone to the contacts….where there are 1500+ contacts.  I slid it across the table to her and asked her to scroll through the list and pick any name.  She laughed.  I didn’t.  I told her that she may pick a name of a person who doesn’t care for me as a person (ex friends, old clients, whatever) – but ALL of them will tell you that I’m a good parent and that I don’t neglect my kids.

I told her that if she wanted to know who we were to visit my facebook page, my Instagram account, my blog.

Her response:  “I did.”

She continued...“I know who you are, which is why I told you on the phone to calm down.  CPS doesn’t care that you travel.  Lots of people travel for their jobs.  All we care about is that while you are away, your kids are cared for.  We know that they are.”

She told me that the claim/allegation technically said that “because the mom travels, the boys are not supervised well by the dad…and the big brother hurts the baby.”

I told her that if she wanted to know who Jack really was to talk to his teacher at school.  His teacher will tell you that he’s helpful, thoughtful and well behaved.  He’s handsy…just like his 4 year old buddies, but he’s not malicious nor mean nor “demonic” as the daycare owner would suggest.

The investigator told me that she could see all she needed to know about Jack by watching him play and wrestle with Beau when she visited our home.  She said “I could tell that he was being gentle with Beau.  He was making sure that he wasn’t hurting Beau and that Beau wasn’t hurting himself.”
She then asked me to tell her about the daycare, in my own words/experiences.

I believe that the daycare owner loves the children she watches.  I believe that she loves some of them more than others because some kids are easier to care for….and some parents/kids dote on her.  We didn’t.  Jack didn’t.  Jack knew from the beginning that he was an outsider.  By the time Jack was three, he fully noticed.  “Shelly loves the other kids.  She likes Jack.”  He’s little, but that doesn’t mean he was unaware.  My belief is that if I paid you to watch my kids, then I don’t need to also kiss your ass every time I drop them off to get the best level of care.  It was exhausting.

So, folks, I told her about the daycare owner’s insinuations about Jack’s behavior (“demonic”), about not ever going outside unless it was perfect weather, about her popping Jack out of anger, about her and Matt’s communication issues, about the biting of Beau, about never documenting the bites, about the simple request for additional supervision of the biter, about how…..the owner followed the daycare licensing rules when they were convenient for her, but the SECOND that we stepped out of line and challenged the way she thought we should be disciplining our kids, she called CPS. 

She called CPS to cover her own ass.  We asked for more supervision and when we didn’t get it, she thought we were going to call the licensing board….so she beat us to the punch.

She called CPS because she doesn’t like Matt.  She doesn’t like how Matt takes care of the boys.  She doesn’t like that I travel.  She doesn’t like Jack’s energy and rough/tough play.  She doesn’t agree with our parenting.

The investigator said she’d be marking our case “no action” and closing it …. And that it would never come up in any background/financial/work history searches done on my name.    (I bet she didn’t think I’d tell you all about it anyway on this blog.)  She told me all about the law in FL that protects the people who report child neglect.  There's no repercussion...there's no penalty for false claims.  We just have to get over it.  We have to move on.  It has  taken me 7 months...and I'm neither over it nor have I moved on.  I've prayed for forgiveness in my heart, but I'm not there yet either.

The investigator told me that she’d be filing a complaint herself on the daycare.  Hitting a child is against the law for any licensed daycare provider in Florida.  She also must provide at least 15 minutes of outdoor time daily, weather permitting.  I’m sure there’s a loophole there, somewhere.
The investigator encouraged me to also file a complaint.

Let it be known that we NEVER intended to do anything that extreme.  In fact, all we ever discussed was switching daycares.  And, we would have done so if anything else had been available.  

It was THAT EASY, Shelly.  You could have just asked us to leave.  You didn’t have to put us through that.

But you did.  

You were so busy sweeping our front porch that you forgot to sweep your own.

Jack is still doing amazingly well at his school.  He misses his teacher from last year, but he comes home happy and engaged and full of new questions (and answers).  He's helpful to the teachers...a leader.

Beau is thriving in his new daycare.  His teachers love his energy and his squish.  He’s their Beauzilla too.  He counts to 5 and tells everyone his name: "I Beau!"

The boys still wrestle, play rough and have legs full of bruises.  They also take care of each other and love each other.


If you have to ask yourself if we neglect our children, please remove me from Facebook, Instagram and life.

2 comments:

  1. Dondi, you and Matt are the parents I enjoy most on FB--engaged, loving, even sharing the lunch boxes you prepare for your kids. I'm glad you shared this, glad you had an intuitive investigator. For parents who read this, there are real-life lessons. We all tend to share the best of our lives on FB, but we all know each of has struggles, lots. You expressed your vulnerability and your child-rearing pains, showed us all you're real, and the sharing is also more therapeutic than you realize. You will revisit this incident in your mind a thousand times over and agonize over the injustice of it, but if I know you, you will heal and also be an even better parent for it--more aware, taking nothing for granted, more grateful, stronger.

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  2. Dondi (and Matt).. This is not on you.. This is on a sick individual that has no business being anywhere close to kids.. You both are wonderful parents and clearly very graceful under immense pressure. My prayers for everybody involved especially for the person that chose to put you and your boys through all this.

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