New Zealand has one of the highest rates of child abuse in the developed world.
On May the 16th 2007 The Anti Smacking Bill was passed by the New Zealand government( not without public protest). This was to enable the system to have a black and white law that could actually have some pull with child abusers. If you are not allowed to smack your child by law..then you have NO EXCUSE as to why your child is battered, bruised, brain-damaged or Dead. YOU MAY NOT SMACK YOUR CHILD. PERIOD! If you are found to be abusing a child…your sorry ass is going to be charged and punished appropriately because the justice system has finally been set up to do so.
Recently I received a phone call from New Zealand’s Child Welfare Dept. Aka: CYFS. Having recieved third party information a notification had been put through to them by someone who was concerned for my children. CYFS followed this up and felt that although they are not concerned for my children, I will need to go through a process with them, most likely resulting in my doing a parenting course. I yell at my children. I swear in front of them. But the biggie is that I have used soap in their mouths. I don’t hold them down and ram a giant bar of sunlight soap in their gob. I give them a choice. Either you do it yourself or I will do it for you. They always choose to do it themselves and I am always satisfied that after they have licked the bar , I have bought another 3 mths of non potty mouth.I was not aware that this is considered abuse.
In the eyes of the law I have abused my children. For this, I feel a great sense of shame and inadequacy. If this country has any chance of getting the people who abuse children horrifically, then this law needs to be in place. What I want to raise is what happens for those of us that get caught in the crossfire?. Where is the line and why don’t we know about it?
As a Mum I have done many things I am ashamed of. There are days it all gets too much. I remember one day Toru was just at me with screaming and tantrums. I had endured days of it. I was done. In mid tantrum one day I snapped. He was standing at one end of the hallway and I boiled at the other. Before I could even think about it I was charging him like a bull. I stopped in front of him put my face in his and ROARED like an angry as fuck Lioness. Everyone stopped. I felt much better.
I am forever beating myself for not handling my boys better. For not being more patient with my high maintenance Tahi. For yelling more than I would like to.The more I have shared my current situation with people these last few days, the more I have learned that I am the normal story. SOOO many of my peers are guilty of the same things. Feeling the same shames and frustrations and often just as overwhelmed. Always comparing themselves to the parents they think are doing just great.Turns out a good few of us have resorted to the soap bar. I am the common Mum.
I have heard a few stories of people getting caught up in the system. Sometimes during a messy separation. Sometimes by an angry and vengeful teenage child.Sometimes by a witness who have only seen half the story. But a good few stories of people like me. People who are by no means perfect. People who should not be slapped with the label of ‘Child Abuser’.
When the anti-smacking bill was passed Tahi was 1. He was just a baby and I didn’t spare much thought for what was being passed. I knew that I disagreed with it but I just didn’t GET IT. From what I remember and understand of it there were many protests by many parents who feared that it would be exactly as it is. Now …I GET IT!! I wonder how it is that this bill was passed without the support of a nation? I wonder how much money this bill has cost the nation in investigations and compulsory Parental Courses for those of us that were just being parents in a moment of weakness.. I wonder, what would it be like, had the Government decided to put a nationwide survey out looking for the common grounds in the reality of parenting. Had they asked as a nation what WE thought abuse was. What we thought was a realistic legal expectation of us as parents. From there could the laws have been made? Could we have supported parents by setting up courses, seminars, TV campaigns, ANYTHING to help educate them on the new expectations that have suddenly changed thousands of years disciplinary habits and give them the tools to do so? It may have cost a lot in time and money. But would it have saved us all in the long run? Would it not have created a national dialogue about what good functional parenting is. Warts and all. A place where we can share our reasonable shortfalls as parents with each other and not fear it may put us in trouble with the powers that be. Create the village that raises the children rather than the village that pretends they have it all under control while behind closed doors they are forever beating themselves up because today they broke the law.?
Sometimes I think we treat our kids like they will always be children. That they are fragile and will be forever more. They are not. They are resilient. They are hopeful. And they will one day look at their childhood through the eyes of an adult that gets it.How many people do you know that say “Man, I pushed Mum to the limit when I was a kid. She broke a total of 3 wooden spoons on my ass over the years. She was always frazzled but took no shit. I love my Mum. She is awesome!” Is my asking them to lick soap really going to change the course of their life? Are the school mornings littered with my yelling ” For fuck sake Tahi, clean your teeth! For the love of god put the toy down and go and clean your bloody TEETH!!” going to make him a meek and afraid of the world…or worse…a career criminal? I wonder where the middle ground is? Can we find a place to continue protecting our children as well as protect our parents and support them while they do the most challenging and relentless job known to man?