Monday, April 7, 2008

Tossing and turning…unsuspected child maltreatment?

Try to be absolutely honest
In your thinking for one minute.
Judson Smith
to Marcia Brown in Lotus Seeds

Can't help wondering...
what you're wondering about?

I'm wondering about honesty within ourselves... that unknown to others honesty we sometimes call personal integrity...that honest that burdens us for many years, for lack of telling to a trusted friend.

After tossing and turning for too many sleepless hours I decided I might as well just get up and write this down. Yesterday a friend shared a deep dark secret that went off in my head like a roadside bomb, with a blinding light that cast shadows of naked truth every where behind my suddenly closed eyes.

From out of nowhere she blurted, "I hope its okay but I have to tell you something I never told anyone. I hope you won't hate me for it." Open eyes, open heart, I think, but still I am not prepared to hear something so simple that it makes clear something so obvious I wonder how it has never crossed my mind.
"I was only eleven," she said. "Old enough to know better, I guess, but I didn't think I was doing anything wrong." I'd watched Dad do it, and even though Mom always said, "don't do that, you might hurt her," he only laughed and threw my baby sister higher. "Don't be silly, she's liking it," he'd say, and wink at me like he always did when he wanted me to agree Mom was just being a spoil sport.

So when we were alone I decided to throw the baby up and catch her. I thought it would be fun to throw her high. I must have thrown her crooked or something because she didn't come straight down. Before I could catch her she hit the edge of the sofa. As she slid toward the floor I caught her. The baby was screaming and I was scared to death. I bounced her around and laughed like we were playing until she stopped crying." My friend looked at me, eyes wide and sad. "I guess it didn't hurt her?"

I smiled. "Well we sure can hope not, can't we?" She smiled back, do doubt as relieved as she looked. But inside my head memories where flashing like emergency lights. My young brother throwing a kitten high up to see if it would land on all fours, and crying about nine lives as Dad smashed its head to put it out of its pain. Me giving a baby left-over sour milk and being screamed at for "trying to kill him," and ten or twelve years of hell, believing somehow I must have been responsible when he died several months later. A toddler once throwing a can of tuna in a bassinet on an infant's head…his favorite food, maybe the crying baby might like it, too? Who knows what goes on in the minds of kids?

Recently a neighbors' children put a puppy on the trampoline and then all jumped as hard as they could so the poor puppy would bounce higher and higher. Then a few days later, an infant got the same "fun" until I screamed out the window for them to stop. Other people shared similar stories over the years, many of them. Children don't know as much as they often think they do. And ten to twelve year olds with more strength than safety demands for brains not yet developed, and minds that think they know everything, do a lot of things that somehow go wrong.

As my mind was putting two and two together, the answer wasn't one I wanted to see at all. How many adults swearing they don't know how an infants' bones were broken might be telling the truth? Maybe they didn't when so often the newspaper accounts explain that CPS placed the other children in foster homes? How many unexplained SIDs? How many shaken babies? Dropped babies? Suffocated babies? Babies wacked on heads with any number of lethal objects? Heaven only knows what happens to babies when children aren't supervised adequately… and that is a thought that now will never leave me.

A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee

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