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Monday, July 4, 2011

"I don't know why she hitted me"

For those of you who aren't narcoleptic, I have a question: do you ever have trouble sleeping? I do. Last night, as I listened to Matt snore away, I struggled to try to rid my brain of the words of young girl who was being examined because of large bruises covering her back. Throughout the exam she chattered away happily with the doctor and nurse, but all the while insisting she didn't know how she got the injuries.

Then, spontaneously, she looked up with a frown and stated simply "I don't know why she hitted me".

A little background: I participate on a board that reviews the cases of kids in foster care. Once a month I receive a stack of case histories to study prior to meeting with the other board members, parents, a representative of DHS, and lots of lawyers. It would not be hyperbole to say that many of these children's life stories are absolutely heartbreaking. I've been doing this on and off for about 6 years, but that fact never changes.

"I don't know why she hitted me": The statement of a little girl just trying to figure it out.

I don't know why her mom "hitted" her either. By all accounts, this mom loves her kids. She's been offered and has engaged in treatment (including anger management and parenting classes) but continues to remain totally invested in an abusive "disciplinary" style. We aren't talking gentle pats on the bottom here. There are allegations this mom had actually stomped on her daughter's back.

I imagine that this positively sickens you to think about. I know it does me.

Thank God I have never been so out of control that I harmed any of my children physically. Nor have I suffered such severe physical abuse. However, I can point to many times in my life when I have allowed myself to take a course of action that I knew was destructive to myself and/or to my children.

There were years when I absolutely could not be in the same room with their father without feeling so angry that I was constantly on the verge of losing control. And lose control I often did.

I knew without doubt that standing witness to me fighting with their dad was unhealthy and destructive for my kids, but I repeatedly gave in to the negative feelings and acted on them. Most of the time I honestly felt completely unable to stop this cycle. Heck, it remains a struggle for me sometimes even now, despite years of prayers and talk therapy.

Despite the fact that I love my kids more than life itself, I have repeatedly failed to act in their best interests.

No, I'm not suggesting that my actions (or inactions) were as blatantly destructive as those of the mother of this child. I am just "wondering aloud" at the overwhelming power my emotions had over my actions.

As humans, we like to think we are relatively "evolved". But those baser instincts, evidenced by the overriding of cognition by more primitive, "emotional" parts of our brains, suggest we still have a lot of work to do.

I know I do.

More later -- until then, stay safe. And if you have an opportunity to make a foster child's life even the teeniest bit better, please do so :o)