Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Rebuilding the wall

I apologize for taking so long to let everyone know we are okay. Initially we were thrown back into crisis management. Fortunately we have an awesome team to go to for help, and the experiences with CPS, etc. were very positive and reassuring as you will see below. Life has settled back down for us. I had abdominal surgery last week, which meant I spent the week before preparing to be out of work for a month and doing what I could to get things ready at home. My parents came to help out and I was able to spend a few days with them before the surgery. I promise a blog post about the surgery soon. I started writing this post two weeks ago and am finally tonight finishing it.  

It's taken me a few weeks to decide if I was going to write more about my last post. In part because there is more than just me involved. In part because of the lingering memory of my mother pounding it into me that we don't air our dirty laundry in public.

But here's the thing. Years ago when I started this blog I started writing about our journey. I wanted it to be honest and real. As our life got messy and we struggled I shared not only because it helped me to put it in writing, but because I hoped that someday it might help another family to see they aren't alone. And it has helped others. The truth is, bad stuff happens to good families. Just because a child struggles doesn't mean the parents are bad. It's important to me to share that message, because too many good parents feel they have to hide in shame.

A couple months ago I read Beth's (from Five Kids is a lot of Kids) blog post about Naked Breakfast and her post script at the end where she questions how much of herself should she share on her blog, and she says "I’ve decided I’d rather be me out loud." That statement resonated with me. In the real world I'm pretty shy, but I don't hide our life because it's an opportunity to educate people. On my blog I'm far more open because it's much easier for me to write.

Beth's post helped me realized that that is what I'm doing, especially here. I'm being me out loud. There are times when I've let outside influences stop me for a while, but I keep coming back.

I've made it a point the last few years to tell only my story. This means that what I write is how I'm feeling, what I experienced, what I saw, what I said, what I heard. I will not speak for another person.

After thinking about it, I decided I'm not going to stop now. I'm going to continue to be me out loud. So I'm going to share more about what happened a few weeks ago. However, I am going to do this carefully, because there is another family involved and despite how dismayed I am at how they have handled this, I will respect their privacy as much as I can. That doesn't mean however, that I won't call them out on their questionable and hurtful behavior towards us.

Something happened that night. It wasn't great, but it also wasn't the end of the world. Far from it actually. Unfortunately, what started metaphorically as a small kitchen fire that could have easily been put out with a fire extinguisher was turned into the World Trade Center bombings.

There was a lot of drama that night. A LOT of drama. Adult drama. Parental drama. It was a freak out. All because two six year old boys did something when left for a somewhat lengthy period of time unsupervised, that surprised us adults. Something that after talking with the professionals I realize is not such a big deal.

I fully admit that initially I freaked out too. Fortunately, because of Noah I have a team of people to  reach out to for guidance.

Because I called one of our therapists to ask for advice on how to handle it with Kiel and how to handle the other family, and because of a misremembered conversation from several months ago, and how he has seen Noah and Kiel interact at times, he was concerned enough to feel that as a mandated reporter he needed to report the incident. That is how CPS became involved. Initially I was freaked out, but I understood that he was doing what he thought was right.

In the first few days after the incident, the other family contacted us several times via text and phone. They asked for "open, honest, raw communication." They said the boys were still ok together as long as they were supervised.  They kept the communication going for four days, then it suddenly stopped. No warning, no explanation. I realized we had been blocked on Facebook. They would not look at us. They turned their head away if they drove by us. They drove the LONG way around the block presumably so they wouldn't have to see us at the bus stop. Sometimes their child is left completely unsupervised at the bus stop, again, presumably, so they don't have to see us.

Kiel has come home from school several times telling me that the other boy told him he is not allowed to play or talk to him, and that the other mom hates him. Kiel has been having nightmares about the other mom trying to get him. That makes me incredibly sad. Both for Kiel and for the other mom, because I think if she knew that she would be upset. I don't think she is a bad person, she was my friend after all. 

This is a family that we were very close with. The boys were best friends. We did things together as families. Kiel was always welcome at their house just as their son was welcome at ours. We helped each other out when one of us was in a pinch. In fact, just the week before Rich had picked up their kids from daycare when neither of the parents thought they were going to make it in time. I really enjoyed having a family in the neighborhood that we could share with and count on. The boys played soccer and baseball together and Rich would often take both of them to practices since he was going to be there anyway. Kiel spent the night at their house several times. We took the other boy out with us when we went to the movies, and once to a  baseball game. While I wasn't comfortable having him spend the night at our house because I didn't want him to have to see one of Noah's meltdowns, I tried to make up for it by inviting him to go with us when we did family activities outside of the house. I was very honest with them about Noah and our struggles and why I was careful about when their son was at our house. I treated their son like he was one of mine, just as they did with Kiel.

As far as CPS becoming involved, it is something I have always feared. Yet I knew that it was inevitable. I just always thought it would be from something Noah did.

My fears came from horror stories from other families with special needs children and from my trauma momma network.  I truly feared that their involvement could lead to the boys being taken from us. Not necessarily a rational fear.

The truth is that from the first contact with CPS they have been wonderful and nothing but supportive. The social worker assigned to us, and her supervisor have both been kind and very complementary of how we are parenting the boys. When we met with the social worker for the home visit she said the case was being closed.

As an aside, I was very nervous about their home visit, again, from horror stories I've heard from other families in other parts of the country. I made Rich stay home and help me clean the house. I had no idea what they would look at and how critical they would be. It turns out she never went past the front part of our house.

Rich and I were never the focus of the investigation. The concern was if Noah was abusing Kiel in some way. Because of that Kiel had to undergo an interview with a child forensic interviewer. The process involves a team of professionals watching through one way glass, including an assistant district attorney and a local police detective. When I first heard that I was pretty freaked out. They had just told me what had happened was not a big deal, but then they were going to grill Kiel with the police and an ADA there?

Fortunately, it wasn't quite like that. While they were there, it is standard procedure, and done in case the child discloses that an adult is abusing them. I believe it has to do with hearing the disclosure first hand so it isn't hearsay and to do with the chain of custody of evidence since the interview is videotaped.

Kiel was a trooper during the process and I am so proud of him. He answered their questions and nothing he said concerned the team. They felt confident, as did we, that nothing inappropriate was happening with Noah. In fact, both the ADA and the detective told us that we had taken on far too much of the responsibility and guilt for the incident with his best friend. They made it very clear that what happened was under the (non)supervision of another family, that only the two six year old boys really know what happened, and that the way things were handled that night with the other child being grilled repeatedly by his parents, and that Kiel was basically refusing to talk, that what we "think" we know from the other boy can't necessarily be believed. The detective flat out said that kids do stupid stuff, and that we don't know what the other boy did, and we probably never will.

It was very reassuring. So was hearing that we can't take on the other families issues, that they were the ones not supervising the kids, and that their behavior has likely caused more harm for their son in the long run (okay, that part wasn't reassuring, I'm actually concerned about the other boy and how he is being traumatized by how his parents are acting).

The social worker told me later that after we left the team talked about it some more and that they were all shocked at how the other family was acting and that they felt sorry for us that we had to deal with them and how they have continued to behave. The detective told us that if we find out they are spreading rumors about us that we are to call him and let him know.

I am concerned that they may be saying things about Kiel or our family to people at school or in our neighborhood. So far I haven't heard anything, but given their strange behavior the last several weeks I do wonder.

Rich tried to talk to the other mom the other day and she refused, then she ran away from him into her house. She literally ran away from him.

Halloween night they had a party in their driveway with the families on our block. Except for us. It felt like a very public shunning. It hurt, a lot. And to be frank, I don't understand it. I can only speculate as to why they are acting this way since they won't talk to us. Perhaps their son disclosed a previous incident with someone else, or perhaps he admitted to being the instigator. I honestly have no idea. The problem with being cut off in such a way is that you can think a lot of different things.

Post script: Tonight I found out that the other parents went to the school and spoke to the principal about Kiel. I don't know what exactly was said, but I hope to talk with the principal soon about this. I'm seriously beside myself at how the other family is behaving towards us.