Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Best Intentions

Submitted by Jessica
http://everydayrebel.blogspot.com/
About Jessica:
I challenge everything. It is important to me that I understand why I do what I do and I'll challenge everyone else too because that is how I learn. Christ-follower, student, teacher, artist, musician, mother of 5, wife, daughter, friend, home-schooler, doula, home-birther, knitter, abuse survivor, advocate of women, children, families and peace, I value relationships more than anything in this life. I know I don't have all the answers and I'm willing to listen, I don't argue for the sake of arguing or to win but I am passionate and opinionated while being open to change. Wrap all that up and then some and serve it with a cup of coffee, a glass of wine and some chocolate and that's a little bit of who I am.

I don’t think she meant to hurt us. It never was as sinister as that. Though I can’t be sure, I expect that she berated herself every time it happened, she loathed that she would loose control and I wouldn’t be surprised if she promised herself that next time, next time it would be different. Sometimes it was. Often it wasn’t. While I can’t say that my mom was a victim of the spankings she doled out on us kids, I do believe she was a victim and trapped by a combination of her past experience with an abusive father, others telling her spanking was right, a desire to “raise us right,” being burnt out, and simply not knowing what else to do. These factors all merged to create a version of herself that I grew to fear and eventually, despise. But I don’t believe it was intentional.

The early years have long since left my memory. Vague impressions of me running around in Wonder Woman Underoos with a towel tied as a cape as I skated across hard-wood floors in socks and using left-over frosting and my mom’s cake decorating tips to create colorful designs on Tupperware lids to be eaten later as bits of candy are about all I remember from before 1st grade. Like most mothers and fathers, my parents wanted the best for their children. They didn’t have the greatest childhoods themselves but they set about doing what they could to give us more than that. So I have no idea when it became more than “just” spankings. No idea when my mom started loosing control and the punishments would get out of hand but I do remember there being a gradual shift before my parents made a monumental decision about discipline. I can’t tell you how I felt about it before, if there really was a before. If I ever was able to differentiate between “discipline” and “abuse” and if I felt any different about them. What I do have are memories of feelings. I know I hated spankings. I know I would lie to avoid them. I remember being afraid. Mostly I remember being humiliated, shame that cut me deeply. I don’t remember the sting of getting hit or if it left a mark. The only real memory I do have from a spanking from when I was young, maybe 5, isn’t much of a memory of the actual one or two hits on my rear or of what I did but of hiding in my play kitchen set by the closet of the room my sister and I shared. In my memory I was sitting on the floor, holding my knees, crying and saying over and over again “I hate you.” Oddly enough, I don’t know who I was talking to, my mother or myself.

In search of the best thing for their family my parents began to research and study, talking with other parents about what was best for the family leading them through a gradual shift to a decision. The decision my parents made was one of justification. Before she could justify hitting us my mom would apologize when she spanked us and definitely when she lost her temper and it went too far. It didn’t happen every time, she and my dad both worked hard to not spank us out of anger but it happened and when it did it wasn’t pretty. Even though I was young, I knew when she didn’t approve of the punishment she bestowed upon us in a fit of rage. When things changed though there were more clear guidelines as to what was acceptable punishment, which sounds like it could be a good thing but my young mind saw those guidelines as permission to do more. In the name of God, my father fashioned a paddle from a 2x4 with Proverbs 23:3 engraved on it. This became the rod. It was through a fundamental Christian homeschool organization now called ATI or Advanced Training Institute (back then it was ATIA: Advanced Training Institute of America) that my parents were educated in how to discipline us according to the Bible. After joining this group, the rod was the primary means of administering spankings, replacing belts and wooden spoons, which sometimes broke on our back-sides or the table when used for emphasis in the pre-spanking lecture. The number of hits from the rod were limited, I can’t remember the cut off but it was more than a few and could be administered with significant force. Usually we had welts following a beating, occasionally bruises. But the marks were always hidden and I doubt my parents even realized they were there as most of the time the punishments were administered with our clothes on, only once in a while was an offense horrible enough to have us drop our drawers. Some 20 years later the humiliation from those times still burns my cheeks even just in memory.

My brother and sister and I rarely discussed our parents’ measures to discipline us accept to warn each other what would be coming if we weren’t careful. We all knew which parent we’d rather get in trouble with and were grateful when mom would defer to “when your father comes home” as he tended to be a little more soft regarding discipline. At some point I realized that most of my friends were no longer getting spankings and that they had stopped when they were pretty young. The few times I dared to speak of my punishment experiences with my peers that were more mainstream I discovered that what was happening in my home was not considered normal. There were a few other families in ATI that we socialized with that had similar home lives including discipline. One of my friends shared how in her family you couldn’t be hit more than 39 times because that was the maximum allowed in the Bible. I was terrified. God said we could be hit 39 times? It wasn’t until I was much older and no longer living at home that I realized that this arbitrary number came from the Roman laws at the time governing how many times a convicted criminal could be lashed with the cat of nine tails to ensure they prisoner didn’t die from the whipping. This was not God’s law regarding the discipline of children but rather a twisted interpretation to justify abuse. To be honest, I don’t remember the number of hits my parents limited themselves to, it could have been the same, it could have been much lower. I never really wanted to think about how many times they would allow themselves to hit us. Sometimes things got out of control and the rules didn’t matter anyway. After joining ATI my parents tried to stick to using only the approved methods of discipline but there were instances where my mother would punch someone in the face, dump chlorine on the child that didn’t do the pool care correctly, or somebody’s head met the wall when the paddle wasn’t handy enough. When those unapproved moments happened a tearful apology would happen with a confession that I now know' revealed a mother at the end of her rope. She didn’t know what else to do but she didn’t like that version of herself. The turmoil of the anguish caused from hitting us and not knowing what else to do left both of my parents frustrated. Able to see that in them I played to it once I understood that their mode of chastisement was not encouraged in society and I threatened to report my own parents to CPS. Because I loved them and feared being removed from my home and the stories I had heard about foster homes I never did and instead received harsher punishments.

The physical abuse wasn’t the only means of discipline my parents, specifically my mother, employed. Sticks and stones may break my bones but words... cut deeply and last a life-time. When my sister was around 10 or 12 she cut her bangs on her own and they were far from straight. While fixing them, mom alternated slapping my sister’s face with her hand and slapping my sister’s spirit by saying she looked like an ugly, stupid whore. I stood in the hall outside the bathroom crying and begging her to stop, my words earning me a fat lip. Name calling and manipulation were par for the course and what my mom fell back on if she was trying to reduce the amount of physical discipline she distributed. To this day I remember some of the things she opinionated about me and struggle against their meaning, refusing to allow myself to be defined by what my mom said.

I never doubted my parents’ love, I knew and still know they love me and my siblings. The intent to give us the best is actually what fueled what became the abuse they bestowed upon us. As soon as I could, I left home. At age 17 I had to get away from that love because I hated it. In my mind, it would be better to live without love than to continue enduring the conflict constantly present in knowing they loved me but not feeling that love. It wasn’t until 2 years after I left home when I broke free from the emotional control my mother continued to hold over me that I could actually feel their love. The measures they choose to use to punish me overshadowed what I knew to be true and instead of feeling love I was often overcome with bitterness, self-loathing, fear, humiliation, sadness, anger and depression. Today my relationship with my parents is far from perfect and not what I desire it to be but I have a relationship with them and I cherish them. When I became a mother I didn’t trust myself and I didn’t trust my parents either. For a time I fell back on what I knew but with strict guidelines for myself so I wouldn’t go “too far.” As time went on, however, I realized I couldn’t be comfortable with any form of hitting my children and I found it to be ineffective anyway. Instead of working as consequences, spanking, even very limited controlled spankings, worked only to produce bitterness, humiliation and fear in my children. Feelings I could identify with all to well myself. Now, as a parent, I can see how easy it can be to be fighting exhaustion, burn-out and one’s past and simply not know what else to do. I understand how in a desire to help my children be the best people they can be I could loose sight of what I know to be true. In fact, I know that though I deeply love my children I could make the same choice my mother did, I have it in me and I think everyone does. We can be misguided. We can loose control. Even reaching for spanking as a last resort in times of desperation can seem to make sense when you’re at the end of your rope. But those aren’t good enough reasons for me to trust myself or to believe that hitting a child is somehow the best choice for discipline. The only way for me to avoid going down the same path is to educate myself, surround myself with people that value non-violent and non-punitive parenting methods, and to constantly reevaluate my choices. I am choosing to stop the cycle of abuse with my children. This isn’t easy, this isn’t even simple and certainly not something I can do alone but I’m bound and determined to do it differently. I don’t have it figured out but I know one thing: it ends here.


(Pictures in article are not actual representations of family members. Pictures are from http://www.sxc.hu/)
Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Daycare

Daycare Submitted by- Kirstin

When my daughter was about 2 months old I was fortunate to find an opening at a highly recommended child care center. The woman, Sheila* that ran the center was amazing. Talk about a tight ship! Every parent received a copy of the facilities mission statement, discipline policies and curriculum for the class room their child would be in, even infant rooms. Meals were relatively nutritious, a mix of in bulk foods, baked from scratch items and fresh seasonal fruits and veggies. The child/staff ratio was low, super clean facilities (all of the toys and classrooms were sanitized every night) and reasonable rates. Most important, was the staff and the scheduling. Every staff person I dealt with seemed to truly enjoy their job. Most were either trained in Early Childhood Education, former teachers or were currently studying one or the other. They were scheduled in such a way, that they were able to review curriculum, develop lesson plans, request supplies and take regular breaks. It was wonderful. Everyday I received a report that included times and amounts of what my daughter ate, activities she had participated in and any other notes the staff wanted to share with me; concerns, accomplishments, heads up on messy art projects, etc. Her diaper was checked every hour and the report even included whether or not she was wet or poopy or both. My daughter went for over a year and I was never disappointed by anything I saw or heard about the center.

One day, I was introduced to the owner’s daughter, Jodi*. Sheila was retiring and her daughter was taking over. They assured me they were doing everything possible to make the transition a smooth one and I had no reason to doubt that. A couple of months went by without any significant changes. Then, one day, everything changed. Suddenly, the cook was gone and instead the staff was sharing the responsibility of preparing snacks and lunches. Then the staff started disappearing some of whom were never replaced. The replacements that did appear looked like they had recently been released from a correctional facility. And then their boyfriends and friends started ‘hanging out’, an equally unsavory bunch all stinking of cigarettes and some of booze. I cringed every time I picked my daughter up or dropped her off and Jodi’s creepy husband was there, smiling and commenting on what a cutie she was. I assumed he did not work because he seemed to always be there. Suddenly, there were signs of wear and tear in the building and on the playground. I stopped getting daily reports. I no longer witnessed staff cleaning their class rooms or sanitizing toys when I came to pick my child up and often the children had runny noses, dirty hands and tidbits from lunch still on their clothes. There was a change in my daughter too. She was no longer excited about seeing her friends or her teacher at daycare. She wasn’t making as much progress learning her ABC’s and numbers like she had before. She was getting diaper rashes more frequently and her eczema seemed to flare up more often and take longer to heal. Potty training came to a complete halt. None of what she was learning at home was being reinforced at day care. I started quietly looking for a new place for my little girl.

While shopping, I ran into a former employee. Stacey* had been in the infant room when I first started taking my daughter there. I told her how disappointed I was in many of the changes that had taken place in that last month. Stacey told me that she had mentioned some of her concerns to Jodi and within a week she was fired for not showing up for her scheduled shift (a shift she had never worked before and was not on her schedule when she checked it). Stacey tried to contact as many of the parents whose numbers she knew or could find about her concerns. She told me that all of the changes were to make the business more profitable. Jodi fired or pushed out nearly all of the old staff and hired people who didn’t expect to make more than minimum wage. None of them were trained in early childhood development and most of them didn’t know CPR. The children were put in time-out for extended periods of time. Some of the workers were even raising their voices and swearing. Infants with respiratory issues were being handled by employees who were moments before, smoking just outside the building. The meals and snacks were now comprised of prepackaged, over processed crap that gets thrown in a microwave day after day. The staff was no longer paid for their planning periods, breaks or clean up and she’d done away with the cleaning service that came once a month to do the major cleaning (windows, duct work, ovens, etc.) Stacey had even taken her concerns to Sheila, who confided in her that she had retired due to illness. She had trusted her daughter to run the business the way she had and when she tried to approach Jodi about the changes she was making, Jodi ignored her. Stacey and I felt so strongly about what was happening we decided to try and get other former staff members and parents involved. We got in contact with as many as we could and tried to come up with a plan. Unfortunately, none of the changes Jodi had made were illegal so the state would not pull her license.

Between the twenty or so parents and staff members we began a parenting ‘co-op’ of sorts. Many of us had varied schedules and found that, with a little juggling and the help of some very supportive employers, we were all able to make other arrangements for our children. The shake up in our usual routines took some getting used to but we were all grateful to have our children back in the hands of people we really trusted.
There are a lot of really terrific people, like Sheila, with great child care facilities, in home or not. Unfortunately, the state does not discern between ‘great’ and ‘passable’ so it behooves us as parents to do some serious investigating and to take action when we see or even suspect something that seems off. We later learned that the ‘creepy husband’ was a registered sex offender. It took nearly a year and new legislation that made the sex offender registry viewable by the public to get the state to pull the day care’s license. By that time, it was near closure anyway having lost the majority of the kids who had attended, some from infancy through pre-k.

Our kids deserve GREAT places to go when Mommies and Daddies have to work!

*The names have been changed.

There comes a time

There comes a time in every person's life where they must make difficult choices. Every person is set to the demands of the world. Money (sadly) equals power, and those without money suffer.

But there is another thing more powerful than money that can and does equal happiness, Love!
To love yourself and your family will make you the richest person on earth.

To love, What is love?

Love is defined in many ways by many people, but mostly, love should not hurt! Let me clarify this, and my point. To truly love someone you must love them for everything they are. For example:

My daughter is a strong willed 3 year old. She LOVES to play and also to cuddle with Mommy and Daddy. She has her days of temper and whining, but on those days I try to show her more just what it is she means to me!

The days that someone is suffering through their turmoils is when they need you the most. Children are no different and should be treated with the same respect that you would run to your best friend's aid.
Do you beat on your friend for her saddness? Do you beat on your friend for the mistakes he made?
Well, no, I would hope not, and if you did you are probably reading this from Jail!
To hit an adult is assault. But to hit a child is discipline? To me, that makes no sense.

So let me rewind. Let's picture a time back to the worst of days. You're tired, your child is really getting on your nerves... Put your switch or rod away. Throw it in the garbage. Instead, take your child in your arms, Tell them that you love them. MEAN IT!

It takes a lifetime of "I love you's" and praise to erase one bad moment between a child and a parent. Can you imagine how long it would take to erase thousands of spankings, or beatings or ill words? These things cannot BE erased. And though you may think you are doing what's best for your child by physically harming them, you are not!

Again, today, make a change, get rid of the past mistakes and move on, learn a new way to love your child. A way that doesn't include harming them. A way that includes nothing but love from you to them.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Treatment

Treatment
by Kristen Gottlieb blogspot: http://poetswoods.blogspot.com
How we treat each other in this world means everything. And when we put our trust into others to take care of our children, it means here is a part of me- the most precious part- here is my child who I need daycare for. As a concerned parent, I write this for all the children being neglected or mistreated in daycares. I write to the parents of other children who are at the daycare and don’t know what is really happening. I trusted that our daycare understood that taking care of children was like taking care of someone's heart, and I assumed they would do it with gentleness and kindness and maybe even out of love for children.
There were times when I wondered how it could be that my child did not want to go to their center and would cry and complain and I thought my child was just a homebody and didn't like it anywhere but home. I thought my three-year old was exaggerating as sometimes children do. And when my child doesn't smile when I drop them off and hangs onto my leg extra long I wondered why but never imagined anything was wrong. Is my child the only one who did not want to be here?
I trusted them for several years and whenever I had a little doubt about how my child was being treated, I would make a lighthearted remark in hopes of hearing more about it but their response was mostly, everything is fine. So everytime I picked up my child and asked how they did that day, they always would say "they were perfect- they were great" but I thought that was unrealistic given that some days are harder than others so I kept expecting one day they would tell me something that happened...but whenever I asked, nothing ever happened.
Over the summer months a note was sent home to parents asking us to apply sunscreen and pack a water bottle when dropping them off at daycare. I was somewhat relieved to see the note because I always wondered in my heart why my child was always so thirsty when I picked them up from there. I always wondered why they needed food and drink instantly and drinking a lot in the car and then complaining when the container was finally empty. But my child was still thirsty even when I started packing a bottle. That can't be I would say to myself because I send them with a full bottle of water bottle every morning. But then one day I "popped" in for one reason or another and noticed the water bottle was still full and placed high on a shelf where little hands could not reach. Why are they up so high I wondered? And when I said it aloud my child said "she said No! " No- that could never be true...no one would ever really deny a child water..right?
Finally, I mentioned to the daycare provider that my child was always thirsty whenever I picked them up and the daycare provider smiled and pointed to the water dispenser in the room..."they can get water whenever they want" she said laughing...so I told myself there was no way that what I was doubting could be true because there was water right there. The provider always knew how to smooth over my worries and concerns and has the ability to do this well.
The daycare providers rates were very reasonable (for the first two years) compared with other daycares I had sought out, so I was not surprised at first when I noticed that the ratios for adults to children were way off. In the backyard, there are a couple of large areas that are completely fenced-in with great playsets for the kids so I often let it go that there was only one person watching all 20-30 kids in a fenced space. Once, I even saw the providers mother (who has Alzheimers and stays with her) watching about 20 kids in a outside fenced area all by herself. It was rare and only certain times of the day that there was more than one staff person in the room with all the children. There are a few times I can recall when the staff/child ratio numbers are correct too, but often times between shifts or when everyone is busy on other tasks, there is only one person to cover for hours. This happens very frequently in one of the older infant/toddler rooms where the same young woman is in charge. She seems to prefer working the toddler room by herself so things can go her way but sometimes there is someone else watching the kids with her and usually that person is a high-school staff member. When I first noticed how young some of the staff were, I thought the young energy was good for the kids and that they would be very attentive-- and some are- but I have noticed over the years their impatience with changing diapers and cleaning up messes (which is often done with a Yuck or a Eww) and it appears it is their inexperience with kids that they act that way.
The staff person who runs the older infant/toddler room is around 22 yrs old and often appears noticeably overwhelmed and irritated by all the chaos as she tries to watch so many children without help. It has become obvious that she has the shortest temper as she slams cabinets, complains constantly (something I have witnessed after popping in, and frowns at the kids putting them in time out and yelling at them when they start interacting in a way she doesnt like. Recently, her demeanor seems to be worsening and some days things didn't feel right in the room, but I thought that since there were security cameras in the room that all actions must be being recorded so she would never do anything inappropriate I thought at the time (but later I learned that these cameras do not record and are live and only useful for staff members so they can see outside the grounds to be prepared for when someone- like parents- are coming!) Because of her mood swings, most days the children are either afraid or are acting the opposite and pushing and purposely pulling at one another and being told by her to "STOP! Thats it! You are in time out!." It seemed lately that even just playing was now deserving of a time out.
Once when I dropped my child off, I asked why it was soo hot in the room and she said they don't turn on the air conditioning until all the parents leave because the door is wide open and it wastes the cold air....and I believed her thinking that sounded reasonable. What I learned later from a former employee was that she didn't want to work hard at being with the kids alone and the hotter it was the better it was for her because they wouldn't be as active. The worst part is that the woman who owns the daycare stands up for her and thinks she's great with the kids.
And what is happening behind closed doors and when the doors are open and when no one's parents are looking? What I learned from a former employee was astonishing. They had worked with the 22 yr old staff woman many times and told them that she hates changing diapers and cleaning up after the children and often waits for some other staff person to come in and tells them to do it. When I heard how she hates changing them, I knew the children were being neglected...sitting in a wet diaper or a poopy diaper for hours until she had to do something about it. Former employees also witnessed her turning up the heat and closing the windows even on hot days to make the children grow tired faster and that she only allows a dixie cup of water at lunchtime because she wants to change as few diapers as possible. The more water, the more wet diapers. Then I learned how this same staff member often smokes marijuana in the back of the building with another staff member before going into work.. Other employees have noticed the marijuana smell on their clothes after smoking but are too afraid to say anything. Going high to work with children. CHILDREN. Its frightening and she doesn't seem to see how horrific her effect is on children and how she is damaging their confidence and sense of self. This former employee also explained that the provider told the staff that they were not allowed to talk about certain things with parents- for one thing the staff were told not to talk about time outs to parents and not to talk about their child being naughty- or else they might be fired..The reason, the daycare provider gave them, was that it created too much conflict between the parents and the center.
In early August 2009, after the center was visited by the State, the daycare providers rates suddenly doubled and said they would be getting rid of some of their kids and that all of their after-school kids because they had too many children in the center. Not surprisingly, I later was told that the center was only licensed for 34 but actually had over 60 kids on a regular daily basis. I was surprised to see she kept some of her part timer children on after the State visit, and it seemed that she was only concerned about dollar signs. After the new increased daycare rates became effective, I assumed there would be more staff hired and more trained adults. I also thought they might start participating in the State Food program so that the kids would get balanced meals, but nothing changed. The lack of nutrition has always bothered me deeply in that the years I have been there I have only seen tater totts and French fries, saltine crackers, cheese puffs and microwaved waffles at mealtimes. The provider often jokes that she wings it at mealtime.
And all my doubts over the years over the things I would see were now confirmed: children with mucus coming out of their nose and no one to wipe it for them, children with lunch all over their face at the end of the day, children struggling to sit on a big potty with no one to help them, children in saggy soiled pants and diapers, there were alwasys same few mostly broken toys in the room. the room so full and crowded with so many little ones and often only one staff person in charge. Once I noticed a baby in the back corner of the room sitting sideways in a high chair alone- the provider publicly referred to this high chait as the "drunk high chair"- Oh thats the joke around here- its the drunk high chair. And the things that went on at home: that my children were no longer interested in vegetables or milk, they were suddenly afraid to use the potty and going poopy was now "eww gross!" and "yuck", they had stopped singing as much in the house and in the car,
The last day I walked into the place was the day before I learned what was going on- and the last time my children ever went to that daycare again. I walked in and every child was sitting up against the walls in the room. "What's going on? Are they all in timeout?" I asked jokingly.. "They weren't listening" she said with a chuckle but I saw her eyes glaring and the smile was then gone from my face. Is she serious? She isn't serious- no one would EVER do that to a child...right?
Imagine being a little child in a room under her care where whenever you start to play you are yelled at and when you ask for a drink of water- you are denied. Where everything depends on her mood that day- her attitude.
These are Children. Babies. Toddlers.
And it shocks me that anyone could become a daycare provider who is only in it for the money and/or is emotionally unstable and who has staff members who smoke weed before handling children and babies. It shocks me that they use their cameras only to show who is coming (parents etc). That's how this place gets away with so much...they see the parents cars coming as they turn into the lot and quickly make things look normal again. The children are suddenly taken out of time out just in time as their parent opens the door...
The other night I was talking to my child who said "Mama sometimes she was really naughty." "How honey, what did she do?" "She put kids in time out all day long." At this I started to cry. "All day?" I said, "Yes Mama" and I cried and held him apologizing for all the time he had spent there. I cried for all those children who were in timeout all day and whose diapers were then only changed because their parents were in the driveway.

Little ones do not have a voice . We as responsible parents need to be the ones who are asking questions and personally in touch with the daycare workers and develop relationships with them so that we can uncover the truth. We need to be their voice.  As my son said after I apologized to him for having him in that daycare for so long: “I proud of you Mama.” Let’s make our children proud by listening to them closely and being their voice.
Monday, March 8, 2010

Why Huggz Heal?

You may be wondering what this blog is all about. Huggz Heal is about helping parents learn what abuse does to children. Huggz Heal is also a place for people who have gone through abuse to share their stories with others, to heal and to help others learn.

All too long we have been sitting in silence, listening to news reports, reading news papers and seeing broadcasts online about innocent children suffering severe abuse at the hands of the people who should love them the MOST, their parents (or caregivers).

Why do people continue to sit quietly? I know when I read about these tragedies, my heart breaks, and I want to scream.

We can help parents understand what to do in moments of extreme frustration, instead of turning to violence, we can help parents understand that there are alternatives. There is always a place to go, there are always people who will listen when you're hurting the most.

Do you have a story that you are willing to share? If so please feel free to mail me at huggz@ymail.com

Love Shouldn't Hurt!

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