...Why I don't take parenting advice from well-meaning neighbors or family.
If you have followed me on Facebook, you may have read my soapbox about parental judgement. You may have even seen some shocking headlines about me! I had no idea that making a parenting decision that was best for my children and myself would have the repercussions that it had. Though those repercussions dropped our family into hell for a good 9 months, it also allowed for tremendous growth and healing, ending the year as a completely different parent, ready to speak out against the adversities that parents face. Okay, okay, I'll get to the quick version of the story!
One beautiful October late afternoon in the suburbs of Waco, TX, my three boys and I were driving home from karate class. It had been a particularly difficult afternoon for my oldest son, Aiden, who was almost 9 at the time. He has always struggled with afterschool meltdowns, and that day was no exception. After listening to screaming and trying to intervene when it got physical between Aiden and his younger brother, I decided to drop him off once we got near the front of our cookie-cutter neighborhood.
Now my son describes himself as, "a risk-taker". I'm pretty sure his goal is to scale the tallest mountain, and ya know what? I think he's going to do it! I was 100% confident in his ability to walk home...down the sidewalk next to a large field, turn right into the neighborhood, and down 4 streets, passing his friend's street at the front of the neighborhood that he often rides his bike to, along the way. I was confident that when he walked through the door, he would be calm and regulated, and we could either move on, or talk about what was upsetting him so much. However, a concerned citizen and an officer halted my goals.
As I was ordering pizza online, I heard a knock on the door. My youngest son answered the door and called for me. There standing at my door was a police officer. The officer asked me about what happened, why I had dropped him off, quizzed me about why my house was so messy (NEVER SAY THAT TO A MOM!!), and explained how sex trafficking could occur if he walked home alone. I was respectful, but I never agreed with him that my child was in danger of these perils that he spoke of. He arrested me right there on my porch for child endangerment.
After 3 hours of police and CPS questioning, all the while with my hands handcuffed behind me back, I was finally taken to jail for the night. That jail experience is a whole other story, but let's just say I would love to reform the prison system! That's for another day, though. :) I spent the night and the day in jail. Finally, at 2:30pm I was able to go home on bail.
Okay, okay I will speed up the story! I waited and waited. And waited some more, for word of my case. I finally received a letter stating that I was indicted for child endangerment, due to putting my child in imminent danger. (Pretty sure my son didn't come across sex traffickers or a car that hopped the sidewalk going straight towards him...) I waited and waited and waited some more... until April of the next year when I was offered a plea deal for a trial diversion program. Complete this program which entails 65 hours of community service, random drug tests (why??), and an 8-hour parenting course, and we will dismiss your charges. Don't take the deal, and trial is next, where if you lose you will face a 2-year MINIMUM jail sentence, but up to 20 years. Now I never thought I'd even get as far as an indictment, but it happened. So I couldn't risk going to trial. I chose the deal, which also meant I had to admit guilt, for something that I 110% did not agree with. But my family was not prepared at the time to fight. We were too far into trauma.
I completed the 6-month program, and my case was dismissed. However, I still had the arrest and dismissed case on my record, with CHILD ENDANGERMENT screaming from the page. I still have to pay at least $2000 to request to get my record expunged, and hope that there are no more uphill battles on that front.
I decided to speak out after the founder of Let Grow, an organization committed to fighting for a parent's right to allow childhood independence, offered to write an article about my experience... the interaction with the police officers, the ruled out CPS case, yet continued criminal case (dare I say "loophole"?), the humiliation of someone watching me pee in a cup for 6 months, and the therapy we went through so we could start our healing journey. I had no idea that the article (and this one) would affect SO MANY people- the older generations who remembered "back in the day", and parents of young children who now feared for their right to make decisions for their children. I have become more and more adamant that as a parent we know what is best for our children. We know what resonates with us when it comes to parenting values and philosophies. And that is a right that should not be taken away or even questioned.
And I now know.... sometimes you have to do things that are different than the norm. And that's okay. You will make a series of small choices that as a whole make up your parenting "mantra", I guess you could say. When I started my own sleep consulting and postpartum doula business in January, part of my commitment was to work with parents to find their own values in parenting, and to be true to them. I want to walk alongside these parents and support them, even if I do things differently in my home. That's part of a postpartum doula's job- to help parents discover what they believe about parenting. And that might not include sleep training, a passion of mine. Part of my job as a sleep consultant is to arm parents with the truth of what sleep training is and the science behind it, so that they can make an informed decision about next steps. I respect a parent's decision not to sleep train, as it might not fit into their family's value system. I empower the parents who do decide to sleep train with knowledge and tools for success. And one of my biggest focuses this year has been teaching parents of both sides of the spectrum how to release the guilt they feel about the parenting decisions that they make. Because no one can tell you how to parent except for your inner voice.
I am now working with an attorney with ParentsUSA, a non-profit organization that fights for a parent's right to make the best choices for their family. Turns out what happened to me has happened before across our country. It's time to fight to make sure that no family has to go through what mine went through.
It is your job to decide whether I am the best sleep consultant or postpartum doula for your family, and I respect whatever choice you make. Please reach out with any questions you may have about working with me and I will try my best to guide you through that decision-making process.