Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Fear driven

Yesterday morning, following dropping off Teddy and Maddy at school, I drove over to the office for the aftercare center to meet with the director. Greeting all the staff, I found the director immediately ushering me into her office and closing the door so we could speak. Calmly, I restated everything that was in my email, emphasizing how traumatic all of this must be for her and her staff.

In the middle of this conversation, the director's phone rang and on the other line was the mother of the child who bit Teddy. Immediately she began screaming, claiming that Teddy had been harassing her child for weeks, had forced his entire hand inside her child's mouth, that her child was defending himself and that the teachers had completely failed to stop any of this. She claimed that her child never behaved aggressively, screaming that they needed to kick Teddy out of aftercare. Taken aback, the director calmly stated that she would be investigating, but also how out of character this accusation was both for Teddy as well as her staff. She emphasized that biting was never an acceptable form of defense and that the mother would not only be billed for Teddy's medical expenses, but that CPS would likely be involved. As this mother attempted to escalate, the director responded as calmly as she could, promising to investigate and report back to all involved.

By noon, I learned the mother had lied. The teachers told an entirely different story about this child, how he had been picking on Teddy and how quickly he attacked him. How this child was battling with classmates at school, having already been called to the principle's office due to bullying behavior. How the mother had changed her story within 12 hours, initially admitting fault as she had counseled her son to fight back whenever he felt threatened instead of finding a teacher (completely in contrast to school and aftercare policy).

To say the teachers and director are pissed is an understatement. Given that this woman made accusations that called into question their competence, impacting their jobs and center licensing, there's been a lot of stress. To have all of it be untrue has brought an element of urgency for dealing with this family that most ultimately never want to experience.

All of this calls into question why would this woman lie as well as why she is also teaching her child to lie (which is something all involved have been witnessing).

I've been reflecting on this situation as well as generally on why people are less-than honest for a few weeks now. With my current work situation, I'm facing a boss who I don't trust to be truthful with me, meaning I'm documenting all my work as well as hunting for a new job. I'm also remembering an incident I encountered years ago while working at Teddy's and Maddy's first daycare. There was a parent who escalated follow his 5 year old daughter exposing herself to her classmates, resulting in the other children teasing her. What the investigation revealed was that there was abuse happening at home, with the parent escalating further and further until it became clear that the authorities needed to be brought in. What immediately comes to mind is in all cases, there's fear of discovery underlying the behavior. Just like throwing sand in someone's eyes, the goal of escalating or blaming is to distract from what problem is currently being examined.

There's a lot to be said about fear and how it has impacted my own life. It's true that fear can be a good thing, protecting us from dangers that would otherwise be devastating. But fear has also been destructive. Fear of being an outcast has driven me to behave in ways I haven't always been proud of. Fear of failure resulted in my pushing myself past breaking-points, scared of asking for help either because of rejection or told that I needed to stop. Fear has also resulted in my being less than truthful, both with those around me as well as with myself.

The problem with fear-driven behavior is it doesn't solve the problem and often can make a situation a lot worse. Failed experiments repeated time and again out of fear would later reveal that something else was actually happening (that often was far more interesting). Fear of being an outcast kept me in circles with others who didn't really care about me as an individual. And fear of being labeled stifled seeking help, finding resolution through different paths and roads that I couldn't find on my own.

As odd as this sounds, this current situation has left me feeling sad. Speaking with social services and the county public health department yesterday, I learned that there's reason so many are frightened by these agencies given that their investigations are meant to be thorough. Thankfully Grey and I won't be investigated, but we have passed on all the details of this incident to the aftercare program as it's clear they are preparing to file a report against this child and the mother. Involving entities that have removed children from their homes is something most would like to avoid and I can image how scared this mother is now, especially as I now know that a meeting has been scheduled for Friday.

For his part, outside of the initial trauma from being bit, Teddy has been taking all of this in stride, exercising kindness and happily accepting special treatment from his teachers as his thumb heals. For my part I've been working hard to address the residual anger I feel towards this family, focusing on modeling forgiveness and healing and being sure to thank all the teachers for all their hard work.

But I'd also be lying if I didn't confess the fear I've been fighting that about potential retaliation and further harm to both Teddy and Maddy over this. That I'm fighting my gut reaction to pull them from school entirely, allowing the bully to win as I try to protect my kids. And I'd be lying if I didn't confess that I need help countering the negative thoughts in my head. Even though I know it's all based on fear and that ultimately it's not the road to healing and growing.


  1. OMG. What a stressful situation made so much worse by deceptive behaviour. Agree, so much more going on than meets the eye.

    I am really thinking about your statement that people escalate a situation to distract. I think there’s a lot of truth there and I will add it to my toolkit for understanding human behaviour.

    Take care of each other!

  2. You've been through a traumatic situation. I wonder if you would consider getting some counseling around it? Maybe that could help you sort out the complex emotions swirling in you.

    And amen to this: "The problem with fear-driven behavior is it doesn't solve the problem and often can make a situation a lot worse."


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