Free of the usual afternoon chaos, I went to my office and jumped on a webinar about illustrating children’s books while Katie colored. Halfway through the one-hour class, my phone rang. A few minutes later, my cell phone rang. Then Pam, our current Program Specialist, texted. When Pam breaks down and texts, I know it’s practically an emergency.
Trying to reach you, it said.
I texted back: I’m on a call. Free at 2.
At 1:50, my phone rang again. I gave up on the course and answered. Pam told me that she had Caroline and Jennifer, the district’s behaviorist, in her office. Did I mind having them on speaker?
No, I said. But I have no idea what we’re talking about.
A long pause. Than Pam informed me that the district was filing a report with Child Protective Services (CPS) and wanted to give me a heads up.
Katie was clamoring for food so I thought I hadn’t heard her. “Excuse me?”
She repeated her statement and told me not to take it personally.
“It’s not a judgement on your parenting. We need to protect Caroline’s job.”
So I was supposed to take one for the team?
“We know you were in a bad spot this morning. We respect you as a parent. We don’t think you are abusive. But we need to protect Caroline’s job. She a mandatory reporter.”
“I’m aware of that.” Was this some kind of joke? They needed to protect Caroline, the one who was a trained behaviorist yet left the room due to thumb tacks. And if I wasn’t abusive, then what were they reporting to CPS? Dirty floors? Failure to properly clean up blood?
“It’s nothing personal.”
“You keep saying that, but it sure feels personal to me.”
No, Pam and Jennifer assured me, it wasn’t. Just protecting Caroline’s job.
Why was Caroline’s job suddenly so damn important?
Pam offered to read me the report. It was fairly short and claimed that I had “pulled Katie’s hair” and “punched her in the shoulder.” I hadn’t done either, and told them that. I also found it interesting that the report failed to mention the broken glass, spilled water, and thumb tacks. Or the fact that Caroline had left the room, and later, the house.
They told me once again not to take it personally. They were just protecting Caroline’s job.
I got off the phone and dialed Nate, but couldn’t reach him. I paced the house. Why were they doing this? I’ll admit it might have looked as if I was pulling Katie’s hair when I yanked off the headphones. Especially from outside. With a table and kitchen cabinets blocking Caroline’s view. Maybe it looked like I punched Katie when I was blocking her aggression against me. Or had I punched her and couldn’t remember? I was sure I hadn’t, but none of this made sense.
I started to worry CPS would come and take my child. All because I was trying to help Caroline clean up a mess.
I continued to pace, imagining the worst. Something about this situation bothered me, but I couldn’t pin it down. Then it hit me. I had threatened to fire Caroline just the day before and now I was being reported to CPS. Was it me or did this reek of retaliation?
When Nate finally called, he thought it did. I sent an email to three good friends who teach in non-local school districts. I explained what had happened and they each responded separately that it felt the same to them. I wasn’t imagining it.
They advised me to add dates to my list of broken items, which I did. I consolidated my notes too. Then I waited to see what would happen….
To be continued…
Until next time,