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?
Today I had my “Domestic Goddess” dress on. It was 8.30 am. Rua and Toru were dressed and frolicking outside in the late spring sun. I had the washing out, the kitchen cleaned and was getting stuck into the bathrooms. Now, as with everything in my life I had the music pumping to provide a soundtrack. I had plugged my MP3 player into the kitchen speakers and cranked it up. I had last loaded up a running playlist. I like running to rock mostly.So, I had the very motivating sounds of Iggy Pop, The Rolling Stones. Gorrillaz. Led Zeppelin ,The Black Keys and many more, filling my house with rock fuelled joy. Whilst scrubbing away at our delightfully filthy toilet, a song by a band called ‘Nine Inch Nails,’ named ‘Closer ‘ came on. For those of you that have not heard it….,it is a great little number with some very explicit lyrics.Contraversial. About addiction and power of a sexual nature. Words like “penetrate” ,”violate” and “desecrate” may or may not be in the waxing lyricals of this song.The chorus states that the singer might like to engage in coitus, much like an animal, with the object of his desire. Obviously , he says it in a much more “street like” fashion. Initially I just scrubbed the toilet bowl and pretended I knew the lyrics to the first verse, as I do. ( Really , for someone who loves music as much as I do, I must hang my head in shame. I never know lyrics outside of a chorus. I just sing the vowel sounds and then go nuts when the chorus hits, much to endless amusement of some of my more lyric savvy friends). So, as it was, I made appropriate vowel noises and then went nuts with Trent as we sung about what we wanted to do to eachother like animals. At this point it occurred to me that this song was not appropriate for the boys to hear and I should probably go out and turn it down whilst they frolicked outside on their tractors and freewheel bikes. I trotted off to the kitchen and found my 3 yr old ‘Toru’ dancing like a crazy man on a chair with one arm up thrashing out the beat. He saw me and with the biggest grin, he yelled “Mama, I LOVE this song!!!!”
Needless to say I danced the rest of the song with him.(You must NEVER turn off a song when someone is dancing to it ) Whenever the chorus came onI hid the shame of exposing my poor children to inappropraite song choices by singing as loudly as I could ” I WANNA LOVEYOU LIKE AN ANIMAL!!!” I think, actually, he was none the wiser and now he has a new favourite song.
Yesterday Tahi was diagnosed with ADHD. Yep. Gotta say…..no surprises there. No sir-ee. My little guy is a FIRECRACKER!!!! When he was in utero I had a midwife tell me I was gonna need “a big backyard for this one”. SHE WAS NOT KIDDING.! He was born 10 weeks early. Again….no surprises there. He was such a busy little baby. His plunket nurse to this day says that in all her 30 odd years of dealing with babies , she has never seen a baby that moved as much as Tahi. The only time he is EVER still, is when he is asleep. He talks a mile a minute if you let him. And even when you don’t. He gets distracted by his own shadow. He wanders around the lounge constantly whilst watching a movie. He is always fidgeting and making noise. He is loud. Has huge emotional outbursts and seems to have no real control of himself. It’s like living with an excitable Labrador puppy who’s got a bad cocaine habit. He is completely at the mercy of his impulses. Sometimes it can be very entertaining. Sometimes it can be dangerous. Especially for his little brothers. And sometimes it is just plain heartbreaking to watch your sensitive and loving child be so often misunderstood and so unable to interact with ease in the big bad world. To watch the best part of your genetics struggling to focus their genius at school. Before I met my son, I had no real clue as to what ADHD was like. It is E.X.H.A.U.S.T.I.N.G. R.E.L.E.N.T.L.E.S.S. O.V.E.R.W.H.E.L.M.I.N.G and very very very TRYING. And not just for him or me. His brothers too, have to live with it. Learn to manage him. And also learn to understand that the way their big brother behaves is NOT always how they should behave. How do you explain to a 4-year-old that his older brother is hardwired differently ? That what is good for the Goose, is not always good for the Gander.It is a constant juggle of time,management and energy.
I live in a town that believes the worlds problems can be fixed if we all just hugged one another, dreaded each others hair , danced around a Totara tree and then bathed in sea of Kawakawa and Patchouli. To be honest I would agree that we would have more chance at achieving world peace by doing this than shooting eachother….That is a whole other blog though.An I’m fairly confident that Rosehip and hugs won’t fix this. My point is…in this town……medicating your child for ADHD is a disgrace and a crime worse than eating McDonalds. Your child doesn’t need medication!! Your child needs more attention!!!! Well tell that to his brothers who are already fighting over the scraps of their solo mothers exhausted love and time that Tahi has not yet already consumed in his frenzy of just being.
I have heard horror stories about medication. “They were like a Zombie” ” It just wasn’t him any more. He was gone” ” You can’t medicate him for just being him! Why don’t you medicate yourself? See how YOU like it?!!” ” He just needs more time with YOU!!” I am finding it really hard to glean some good information about it all. The pro websites are really pro. The Con websites are really anti. Both parties have great arguments. It’s confusing. I so want the best for my boy. I want for him to make good friendships instead of being the kid that gets avoided unless the other cool kids aren’t at school that day. To not get growled at by his peers for always disrupting the class. To not be a thorn in the side of his teachers.To have a fighting chance at doing well in school and seeing it through.He is SUPER intelligent. Both me and his Father could be doing a lot better in life than we are, if we had made different choices. God if I’d only listened to the adults that used to tell me to “Say no to drugs and STAY IN SCHOOL!
Over the years I have heard a lot of strong opinions on this controversial topic. They all seem to be people who know someone who knows someone. I don’t want to hear from them. I don’t want opinions from people who have no REAL day-to-day experience with ADHD.I want to hear from people who have been diagnosed with it. Or people who have had to make choices for someone in their care with it. I want first hand experiences. I want the to hear the wisdom of hindsight. I want to do the right thing for my boy. So do tell me…….. How was it for YOU.? Please share this with people who may give me some insight. I need to have as much real information as I can so I can make an informed decision for one of the greatest loves in my life.
Edge Foundation helps North American students with ADHD reach their full academic, professional, and social potential. If you have ADHD, the Edge Foundation can support you with a personal coach. Our full blog page can be found at www.edgefoundation.org Phone (888) 718-8666 Email firstname.lastname@example.org Website www.edgefoundation.org/blog