Disclaimer: This post is a discussion on a difficult issue that is near and dear to my heart. It is personal and serious. If you feel the need to comment, please keep negative thoughts to yourself.
I have something rather painful to admit and discuss with you today. Though I feel that I have done my best to raise Zachary in a manner that is loving and supportive, I have been through three custody battles and been investigated by government authorities to determine my fitness as a parent twice. I know a couple of friends have gone through similar ordeals. It is…heart wrenching to be accused of various forms of neglect and abuse by people who are supposed to know you well enough to know that you would never, ever hurt your child.
I can only speculate on why two such individuals have accused me on numerous occasions of being a bad parent. Truth be told, the two are not the only ones who have ever questioned my parenting skills. Who among us goes without being told they are a bad mother or father a few times? Normally it’s the type of thing we vent to our friends about and then brush off because the accusers are just “crazy” or “mean” or something along those lines. But there are some accusations too hurtful to brush off, too traumatic to attribute to just mean-spiritedness.
Most recently, I had a government official visit my home on Valentine’s Day. I spent the day that is supposed to be all about love and stuffed animals and chocolates as a big ball of nerves. I could not believe this was happening. Again. I was angry, hurt, shocked, and somewhat jaded by the accusations made by a family member. The government official sat with me and we discussed the accusations made against me. Then she looked around my house, saw that my son’s needs were being met and the house was clean and sanitary enough for a child to live in, and determined – once again – that I am a fit parent.
At this point in the game, after nine years of being a parent and actually retaining custody of Zachary, I really don’t understand the motivation behind making wild accusations that I am hurting or not properly caring for him. I don’t claim to be a perfect parent. I have moved around too much, couch surfed more often than I would have liked, and definitely had a bit of an unstable job history.
But I have always tried to be my son’s best advocate. Friends told me for years before Zachary started school that he was probably ADHD because he was so hyperactive, but I argued with them all. My son was perfect, I told them all…until he reached kindergarten and had trouble sitting still in class. Here was a child who was getting straight A’s, was very affectionate and creative, and who was so much wiser than most six year olds in my opinion. Yet his teacher kept sending home notes and pulling me aside saying that he was very wiggly, overly talkative, and sometimes even treated the furniture in her classroom as climbing structures in a playground. So I took him to a psychologist and a psychiatrist in order for him to be evaluated for ADHD.
I did what I believed was best for my child when he needed it the most. Once diagnosed, he was put on a low dose of Concerta, a commonly prescribed ADHD medication. For the rest of kindergarten, he was the perfect student. He still got straight A’s and his behavior improved dramatically. Sure, it was an adjustment knowing that my child had a disorder that is actually listed on the Americans with Disabilities Act. But the diagnosis helped him get through the school day, and he learned to love school. It motivated me to research the best possible methods for parenting my child and meeting him at his need. I feel like allowing him to be labeled, something I had fought for fear that people would judge him or me, made us a stronger little family.
Again, I’m not at all saying I am a perfect parent. I am just trying to illustrate how I have tried my best to always do what is best for my sweet, beautiful boy. I have sought out the best possible job to support him and raise him well, quit jobs when I was faced with having inadequate childcare or he was going through something that required my time and attention, sought the financial backing of family members whom I thought I could trust, and moved when I believed it would be the best thing for him. Yes, I made mistakes. More than I would have liked, of course. But all I have ever wanted is to raise my son in peace, and to teach him how to be a good man in the process.
Easier said than done, considering I am a single mother whose longest relationship lasted all of six months and I was raised without a father myself. But I am trying my little heart out. I try to teach my son to be compassionate, confident, and strong. I have hopes and dreams for him that include college, the “right” career for him, hobbies, marriage to the “right” person for him, faith, and friends. I think Zachary is a downright awesome kid, and believe he deserves the best that life has to offer him.
As for being accused on multiple occasions of being an unfit parent, I just want – as I said – to raise my child in place. I have some very strong opinions about the way things are done in this country regarding custody. I think there needs to be a better system in place for investigating potential harmful situations to children. I also feel that there should be a stronger screening system for accusations made against parents. Previous accusations and investigations should be taken into account, in my opinion.
Yet, this Valentine’s Day when I asked the government official if she could look into the last time a particular individual accused me of hurting and neglecting Zachary, I was told that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to get a copy of the previous investigation from a different state. That makes no sense to me. I gave the lady concrete proof showing who had made the accusations against me. It was the same person who made completely different accusations against me in 2004 and 2009. Apparently this person cannot be stopped from making accusations against me in the future. I was advised to keep communication with this person cut off so that I would not have to go through this again. I wish I could explain to that particular government official that does not matter if I never speak to my accuser again. I fully believe I will go through this again more than once before Zachary is 18. All I can do is continue to raise him to the best of my ability, with love and conviction. I just hate that my sweet son has been hurt by someone who was supposed to be a loving, trusted adult.
As I said before, feel free to comment on this post. Just keep negative thoughts and opinions to yourself. As a matter of fact, if your comment is too nasty, I will delete it. So don’t bother. 😉