One of my favorite family pics of almost all of us a few years ago!

Monday, March 3, 2014

CASTING BLAME: There, but for the Grace of God, Go I."

Yesterday, I posted the story of God waking me up from a deep sleep prompting me to think about the possibility of accidentally leaving one of my little ones in the car by making me think I had forgotten my 5-year-old in the car the night before!  I hadn’t actually left him, but within 2 hours of being jolted awake with that feeling, my visiting 4-year-old granddaughter was actually forgotten for a few moments in the car after a quick trip to school for drop off. 

God knows me well.  If it had been a vague feeling about something that might happen in the future, I probably would have dismissed it as my thought. 

If I had actually left a child in the car, I like to think that I would have been prompted much sooner! But by making me stop, process and think about what I had done it was at the forefront of my busy mind.

When my son wasn’t at breakfast (which actually isn’t unusual), it made me ask for more detail and gave me the chance to talk to the kids.

So, because I was so checked into this crazy feeling, when it actually happened within a few hours, God had prepared me to act.
The truth is, even if she had been left longer, it was neither too hot nor too cold to cause any long-term damage to her body.  But it would have messed with her emotions. And it would have been terribly scary.

But God protected her.  If it had just been me or my husband, we could have forgotten her for longer.  I could have thought she was back upstairs in the playroom playing with her cousin’s Barbies.

When new factors are introduced - a grandchild that isn’t usually with us on a school morning and normally doesn’t ride along for the trip to school – it is easy to go into rote action mode, not really thinking about what you are doing, but just doing it.

Likewise, when you do the same thing over and over again, sometimes you actually think that you have done something, when actually you did it yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that, but NOT today.

But your brain can play tricks on you.  And so can the Enemy. 

It’s not always about caring or not caring. 

It’s not always about loving or not loving.

It’s not always about selfishness or selflessness.

It’s not always too many children or not enough experience.

It’s not always about work or something else being more important.

It’s not about anything other than humanity.

When tragedy strikes a family, I cringe when people are critical of the parent(s). I can’t stand to see the daggars come out as people try to find someone to blame, as if that will solve the problem. 

Although it is certainly possible for some of these situations to be the result of abuse or neglect, the result of drugs or alcohol, truthfully, that isn’t the norm.

I know what abuse and neglect looks like.  I live with the consequences every day.

I also know what it means to be human.  To be overwhelmed.  To be lost in your own thoughts.  To make a mistake. 

And who is going to suffer more than the parent who makes this mistake?

The people casting judgment will forget the incident.

They will forget the name of the one who is now gone.

Their lives will move on as if nothing ever happened. 

Some of these people feel, “It can’t happen to me.”

“I would never let that happen to my child.”

“How could you forget your child?”

 How can you think that you dropped off your child at daycare when you didn’t?"

And it is these people that scare me.  The ones who actually believe they could never make this kind of tragic mistake.

I am an educated woman who has voluntarily dedicated most of my adult life to helping children.  I have more experience than most people.  I have more education and knowledge than many.  Yet, I could easily make a mistake that harms someone else.  And that scares me enough to be hyper vigilant and to listen to the promptings and intuitions that I am given.  

But if I ever did make this kind of tragic mistake, I would hope that people would consider my humanity and the bigger picture and not cast immediate judgment on me.

For the record, I’m not above reproach on the judgment problem.  I confess that on the same evening all this happened, I read about the Sommer Wilford, a Birmingham woman who supposedly watched her child burn in a car fire following an accident without telling the police or firemen her son was in the car.  They found his body after the fire was out.

The article clearly implied this she knowingly let him die.  It even mentioned charges of reckless murder.  And possible drug use.  Her wild hair and what looked like a smirk in her mug shot didn’t help her case.  Admittedly, I went in the precise direction that the author of the article intended.  Casting blame on the mom for ruthlessly watching her beautiful son die in the fire.  I even repeated the story to my husband.

But thankfully, I make it a habit not to comment publicly before I’ve done my own research. Out of curiosity, I checked out her young fiance’s Facebook page and found family portraits of a large extended family together with his handsome blonde-haired little boy. 

And this was his last entry.

People look if someone has shit to talk its (deleted his address) where I am I mean you people are clueless she didn't let him die she would never do that that baby was our world and it got taken from ous all of you saying dope was involve I can assure you there was no dope involved no one knows what happened bc guess why no one seen what happened but them and god So before you make all these horrible assumptions stop have some respect and dignity this news thing has taking it way to far and I will personally be putting a stop to it But no matter what is said done etc. nothing can bring my precious baby back he will dearly be missed and please All I am asking for is for everyone to stop until you find out the true story bc I don't even know yet but she was my better half and either of us would have done anything to stop this anything and yes No Matter what I will stand behind her till the end please pray for my family and stop the nonsense

Suddenly, Sommer Wilford wasn’t an object of blame.  She was a human.  With a story.  And a fiancĂ© who believed in her. 

And that’s when I had to recognize that I was judging without all the facts. Perhaps she was under the influence. Maybe the tragedy itself caused her to go into a state of shock that caused her to dissociate from reality.  Or she could be an evil person who wanted her son to die. 

I have no idea what the truth will turn out to be.  And I’m not going to try to figure it out.

Instead, I will pray.  God the Father, wrap your arms around this family and their friends.  Reveal yourself to them during this tragedy.  Let their minds be filled with joy.  Protect them from the comments and people’s opinions.  If drugs or alcohol are involved, I ask that you remove addictions.  Keep the family focused on what is important.  Heal their wounds and surround them with others that will lead them to you.  


Saturday, March 1, 2014

"Thank God: I Can't Do This Parenting Thing Alone."

"Thank God: I Just Can't Do This Parenting Thing Alone"
By Anna Giattina Lee

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and my brain goes from 0 to sixty in 0.4 seconds.   

Yesterday, I woke up an hour earlier than normal with a panicked feeling that I had left my 5-year-old asleep in the freezing cold car overnight. 

I had driven home from church last night in our 15-passenger van filled with children that fell asleep during the ½ hour ride home.  I am fairly cautious because I am not dumb enough to believe that I would never get distracted or change my routine, accidentally forgetting a child in the car.

But after a mental playback in my head, I distinctly recalled giving him my ipad for his nightly video ritual.  I also knew that I had made a visual check of the many sleeping kids in the car when we got home from church and that with only one remaining, I saw my husband unbuckle the baby and out of an abundance of caution, I reminded him to make a visual check of all the seats one more time before closing the doors. 

Persuaded that this was not one of “those” times when I was specifically being called to act immediately, I was able to go back to sleep for another hour. 

As soon as I woke up, I went straight to the kitchen to begin making breakfast. I noticed that my 5 –year-old wasn’t in the kitchen.  So I asked where he was.  My husband said, “He’s still in bed.”

Unconvinced, I said, “Have you personally seen him because I woke up with the feeling that I had left him in the car.”

Pausing for just a moment, he says with confidence, “He is definitely in his bed.” A few others joined in claiming that dad was right and I believed them.

Realizing I had a teachable moment, I talked to the kids, including my 4-year-old granddaughter who had spent the night with us.  We talked briefly about watching out for each other to be sure that we all get out of the car. 

My 10–year-old asked, “What do we do if the doors are locked?” 

Almost in disbelief, I look at her and say, “You reach over and unlock the door. “

She laughed saying, “I’ve never thought about that before.”

At that moment I realized that the technology had skewed her understanding.  She always waited for me to unlock the doors and it didn’t occur to her that you could do it another way. 

My husband was not in the room during this conversation. It was a short conversation – more of a reminder than anything else.  

But my brain was clearly fixed on this idea.  Images of a child left in the car by her mother or father reeled in my mind.  I have done it myself  more than once – although for just minutes. I know one person who endured this heart-wrenching loss.  And as an attorney, I am always thinking about what is reasonably foreseeable.

Fast forward 30 minutes.  It is time for my husband to take the kids to school.  My granddaughter Ava asks if she can ride along. Five kids get into the car for the 2-minute ride to school.

Less than 10 minutes later, my husband walks into the house while I’m folding the laundry and comes directly to where I am. Without any thought, my first question is “Where’s Ava?” 

With a somewhat stunned expression, I see his brain trying to process what I’m saying.  I shout, “She’s in the car.  She’s locked in the car.  Run.  Run.  She is going to be terrified. “

My husband bolts to the parking pad, unlocking the doors with the remote and running to open the door.  Inside is our granddaughter, tiny tears just beginning to stream down her cheeks.  We grab her and hold her tightly, apologizing for leaving her behind. 

When she gets back inside, I rock her and tell her that everything is fine and that God has protected her by prompting me. 

The entire incident from locking her in to retrieving her occurred in less than 2 minutes.  But it was that two minutes that convinced me that God is looking out for his children far better than me or my husband are capable of doing. 

With the memory still fresh, we talk about why she didn’t get out of the car.  In her tiny little voice, she squeaks, “I tried, but Papa locked the door with the remote.”

I know that she had just heard us talk about this exact situation, but it was too abstract for her.  So we took her back to the car and showed her how to unlock the car from the inside.  And how, if the child locks were on, she could always get out through the driver's door.  Confident and with a smile, she came back inside realizing that she could escape if it ever happened again.

The whole situation is so predictable.  There was a change in my husband’s routine. The one he has followed for years.  An extra child.  Young.  Unusually quiet.  And one who didn’t know how to unlock the doors from the inside.

I don’t blame my husband.  And no one should.  There, but for the grace of God, go I. 

And I hope you know that is not the point.  Rather, it is to say, that this episode is one of many that persuade me that I can’t do this parenting thing without God.  It is simply too hard.  Too many things can go wrong. 

But he’s got my back. 

This isn’t the first time I have been awakened from a deep sleep by a compelling feeling.  And I’ve learned to listen.  I must.  Or I’m an idiot.