There’s something that’s been bothering me for a long time now, and I think I just need to write about it and put it behind me once and for all.
On the morning of October 7th, 2017, my wife and I received a phone call from parents. Our son, who had spent the night, was crying and they couldn’t get him to stop. He had slipped and fallen in the bathroom, looking for his grandmother who was in the next room. My wife, J, quickly got dressed and drove over to check on him while I watched our youngest (luckily they live close) but unfortunately, she could not get him calmed down. He was complaining about his leg, but because he was so young, he couldn’t articulate exactly what the problem was. He was taken to the hospital by ambulance where after x-rays, we discovered he had fractured his right femur. He was then transported by ambulance to a different hospital that could cast his leg (apparently our local hospital can not do that for a young child).
It was 10 days before his 2nd birthday.
This, however, is only the beginning of the story.
My wife, J, and I were shocked. Stunned. Scared. We reached out on Facebook updating our son’s condition, asking for prayers. Our son was writhing and screaming in pain and there was absolutely nothing we could do. My in-laws, equally distraught, blamed themselves. What could they have done differently? Their grandson had run back the hall, as he had done a hundred times before (you can’t stop 23-month olds from runnings) and been fine. They were absolutely not to blame, J and I had no ill feelings toward them whatsoever, but the damage had been done. Any parent or grandparent knows it doesn’t matter if it was an accident or not. You will always blame yourself.
So too, it turns out, does Protective Services. You see, when your child is two years old and goes to a hospital for a severe injury, an investigation is automatically launched regardless of the reason. While we waited for the doctor who would be putting on our son’s cast, two strangers in street clothes marched into our hospital room, without manners or sympathy, and said they had to take a picture of our son “for the record.” My insides pulsed with rage. I wanted to tell them to get the hell out. But anger wouldn’t help. It was bad enough we were all being treated as guilty first, ask questions later. Even justified anger can be used against you. We knew who these people were; the local hospital had reported our son’s broken leg as potential child abuse case. They had to: it was their job.
As our son was not in our care at the time, the investigation was launched against my in-laws, who were labeled as “alleged perpetrators” in a letter we received from CPS, Child Protective Services. The investigation, as it was explained to us, had 2 potential outcomes: founded or unfounded. Unfounded was our best option: it meant there was no reason for CPS to believe that child abuse existed, but still it would remain on my in-laws’ record for a year before being expunged. But a year for nothing? It still didn’t seem right.
A home visit followed with a caseworker assigned by the county. She asked questions of us, which were honestly answered by all parties. After all, we had nothing to hide. Nothing about her questions surprised us, except for a piece of advice she gave us: don’t speak of these events on Social Media. Someone had seen our Facebook post asking for prayers, and reported it to the county as potential child abuse.
My eyes nearly dropped out of my head. My heart sank. And any anger I felt before towards the individuals taking pictures of my injured son were nothing compared to what I felt now. My wife and I were betrayed, at our weakest of moments, and we would never know by whom.
It could have been one of my “friends.” Or one of J’s “friends.” Or maybe it was a “friend” of a “friend” who just happened to see the post (You don’t always have to be “friends” with someone to see their posts). We would never know.
Here’s the thing: I understand that certain individuals are in professions where they have a duty to report such incidents. For examples, teachers are supposed to report such events if they would see it at school. But a)this was not in anyone’s professional setting and b)if you are in one of these professions, you should also be smart enough to know the hospital was going to report it anyway.
The move felt vengeful. Pointed. As someone who likes to believe in the good in people, I lost hope in that. I found myself becoming paranoid, making lists of who could have possibly done it. I also developed a healthy fear of social media. While I didn’t delete Facebook, I stopped posting almost altogether, and certainly no longer post about my children, including photos. And while I don’t find myself thinking about that incident much anymore, I guess I never really got over it. I still feel hurt. Angry.
To the coward who took our request for prayers and used it against us: I still can’t say I forgive you, even though God has taught me that’s exactly what I should do. Instead, I feel bad for you, that you feel what you did was acceptable, justifying as “what’s best for the child.” Because you clearly don’t know me, or my wife, or my in-laws. If you had reported and then talked to us, I would be angry, but less so. If you had come and talked to us about it before making some anonymous bullshit phone call, you would understand how much we love these kids. All of us. Instead, I see you as nothing but a malicious coward, whose objective was to tear down people you clearly don’t know. And for that reason, I feel bad for you. But at this point, I’m still hurt. And I don’t forgive you. Not yet, at least.
Luckily, my son made a full recovery. The case was labeled 3 weeks after the accident as Unfounded. And while it was a rough experience for all involved, we’re better for it. Closer, even, as a family. Our son is not afraid to run and be the curious boy he should be, nor will he ever remember that pain he was in, of which I am grateful. My wife and I get to see two happy, healthy carefree boys every day, and I thank God for that. And my in-laws remain two of the most loving, caring grandparents they were before. I worried the incident would change the kind of grandparents they were before, but I’m glad those worries were for nothing.
But posting pictures and updates about my kids on social media? That’s a thing of the past. Facebook isn’t worth it. Kids grew up happy and memories were made and shared before Facebook ever existed, and those same memories will be made and shared when Facebook eventually crumbles under its own weight.
For me? I just need to get back to writing. To believe in the good of most people. I don’t want to be bitter. I don’t want to be pessimistic. I want to rise above that. Maybe this blog post can be the first step in moving beyond that horrible incident. Maybe seven-and-a-half months of brooding is finally enough.
Until Next Time,