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Smacking Part 2.

January 20, 2012

I left work immediately – my manager called BN at work using my mobile as I just couldn’t even speak. I remember shaking badly and walking around my office and trying to press buttons on my mobile and that she took it from my hand.

I met him from work and we went straight to the school where we were met by a ‘family liaison officer’ and shown to the family room. Her name was Clare and it was really evident to us very quickly that she was new. I didn’t need anyone to tell me that she had no clue what she was doing.

I was really upset, BN was more questioning. We asked to see the girls, we were refused, we asked where they were and what was happening and we were told that they were in the school and being looked after and that we were waiting for Police and Children’s Services to arrive and that they should be here very shortly. We got there about 3.20pm I would say, and they didn’t even get there until after 4pm. The girls’ belongings were in the room which was incredibly distressing and I immediately spotted a note on the top of their things written in pencil by Ella’s form tutor, ET.

It said

‘what shall I say to the girls’ child minder when she arrives?’

or words to that effect. It was signed by her and of course what this told us straight away was that this had been going on for hours. We hadn’t been called, notified or contacted in any way. Clare saw me find & read the note, I showed it to her, I think she acknowledged that it was unfortunate that it was there and tried to take it. I resisted and eventually she gave up and let me take it – I told her I was keeping it and put it in my hand bag. It was an uncomfortable moment but to be honest I wasn’t really bothered about what she thought.

Before the Police Officer, Dave, and the Social Worker, Anna, got there, I asked Clare what were the potential outcomes of what was happening. I was clearly pregnant, clearly distressed and she said ‘the worst case scenario is that the girls will be placed in alternative care for the night, ideally they like to place them with family though.’ Her tone and demeanor? She may as well have said – well usually we like to give children vanilla ice cream but if we don’t have any we offer them chocolate.

I heaved really sharply and was almost sick, she fetched a washing up bowl from the sink.

I can’t even begin to tell you how her words affected me. And then she left. She was supposed to be our family liaison officer. And she left the room. She left us. She was clearly out of her depth – she was unsure how to handle us, she didn’t calm us down in the slightest, she offered no concrete process or facts to reassure us or help. She was transparent platitudes and incompetence wrapped up in an unsure bow of inexperience. And it was painfully obvious.

I started making calls immediately. I called my mum and found that she was literally moments away from stepping onto the Eurostar to go on a 3 week holiday. My dad now lives in Egypt and my sister was newly pregnant. All of BN’s family either live just outside North London area or in New Zealand. My brother is in Australia. I was frantic. I was starting to think that if they were to be placed elsewhere then who would they send them to if we had no family?? I thought of a close friend we have who the girls know really well and I could think of my child minder and that was it. Would it even be our choice if we had no family available?? My mind was racing.

I rang one of my oldest friends. It suddenly occurred to me that my good, good friend, C, worked in Children’s Services for a County Council elsewhere in the country. And to be honest, if it weren’t for her and her contacts and knowledge not just then but through the entire ordeal …. then I really, honestly don’t know what would have happened differently.

She was amazing.

I called her – and first of all she reassured me that the likelihood of the girls being placed in alternative care was basically zero. She calmed us down wonderfully and gave us great advice about how to communicate with the Police when they arrived and the Social Worker. By the time I finished talking to her I did feel a lot better. One of my many criticisms of the whole event was that it just shouldn’t have been her responsibility.

When Dave and Anna finally arrived they made it very clear that from a Police perspective they did not want my version of the events from the morning. Dave needed to talk to the girls first and foremost. Get their story, independently from one another. My children were interviewed by Police and Children’s Services. I still can’t get over that.

Dave reassured us that it was very straight forward and that they should be back with us within about 10-15 minutes. He talked us through potential outcomes. In some cases, families have to visit the local hospital to be seen by a Dr. he said and that seeing as he hadn’t seen Ella’s injury as yet, he didn’t want to make a call about it. Again he told us not to worry. He understood it was difficult and so on. He was perfunctory but nice.

They left us and judging by his explanation we looked at the clock and expected them back somewhere around 4.40pm. By the time it got to almost 5pm I was once again frantic. I was pacing, crying, looking through the glass panel in the door into the corridor… pacing, crying. I could see Rowan’s reception teacher from the year before in an opposite room…. and she saw me looking and gave the flat mouth detached sympathy face – like oh dear that poor woman – not poor Rowan’s mum who I *know* but just – that woman. I felt utterly alone. We were alone and I was even more desolate. This wasn’t aimed at BN it was aimed at me.

They didn’t trust me. Me. I was suspected. Not BN. Me. Just me. And it was incredibly lonely.

Finally they returned about 5.10pm and things took an even more unexpected turn.

They gave us the details of the girls’ interviews. Ella had candidly told them she had never been smacked before – which actually isn’t true but I thought that at least showed that it is part of their discipline so infrequently that she couldn’t even remember it happening before. She told them that she had been naughty and that I had told her off, smacked her hand etc.

In Rowan’s interview though – bless Rowan with her dramatics – she told them that I had lost my temper and shouted at Ella and that she hadn’t deserved it. She told them that I threw Ella on the sofa (a fact that Ella disagreed with in her interview when asked) and that I had smacked her hand. Dave and Anna then apparently asked her if anything else had happened that morning that she thought they should know. Rowan told them that I had made the baby cry and wouldn’t let her make him feel better.

Now this was something totally separate. And frustratingly I probably could have avoided this added extra stress at this point if I had taken a bit more time to explain to Rowan in the morning why I didn’t want her to make Kit feel better when I had told him off.

Around 6am – BN had gone to the bathroom – Our morning routine was that we would do whatever with Kit at whatever time he woke up and that around 6 or so BN would go the bathroom first and get showered and ready. He would then come back to our room about 6.30 and all of them would go downstairs whilst I took a shower. Whilst BN was in the bathroom, Kit had been sitting on the bed, crawling around etc. and the girls were watching TV. He was occasionally occupied by telly but at 11 months if any of you are familiar, they tend to watch a bit and then generally mooch, cry, giggle, get tickled, try to kill themselves by leaping off the bed in the direction of the floor, head first usually in Kit’s case.

I had been looking at my mobile and the room was fairly dim, I put it back on the bedside table and I was still very reclined in bed. Just my head and shoulders propped up on pillows and 5 months pregnant. Kit was a big boy. He was over the 100th percentile in development and at 11 months he was wearing clothes sized for 12-18 months old. He was a hefty boy. But obviously not walking yet or being very stable, he was a bit of a lump. He saw the light from my mobile and suddenly launched himself across my body. I think for the phone. Instinctively I grabbed him, I caught him by his hips and pulled him back over my body and put him back on the bed. He would have landed head first on the floor. There’s no doubt in my mind. Beds are soft and infinitely less likely to cause injury to heads. Could I have put him down softer on the bed? I’m not sure really. I was trying to stop him hurting himself and he was very heavy. I had to pull him back hard to resist his falling weight. And he landed on the bed with the force of his own bodyweight I would say is the only way I can articulate it. He was cross – he didn’t like that I wouldn’t let him have the phone and he did a grumpy strop. You know babies, right? A shouty scream at me and clenched fisty type of strop. He was very capable of telling me that he wasn’t happy. Clearly he had no clue that he would have landed on his head on the floor. I told him no, sternly, and then it was time to get up. Rowan went to give him a hug – she’s very motherly which is adorable and wonderful and to be honest? I mostly take it as a tremendous compliment to my own mothering. I think that’s allowed. She loves to hug babies, sooth them, cuddle them, help change them, carry them, help with nappies, mother them and generally be in charge. It’s only that bit that can get in the way sometimes. I snapped a bit I should think. It was 6.30 ish in the morning. We’d already been up for 2 hours. I told her not to make him feel better (because he was in trouble) but I didn’t explain that to her and I probably should have. Could have. It had all happened in an instant and she hadn’t seen it I don’t think so I just…. didn’t.

All they told me was that Rowan had relayed an event from the morning involving the baby and that they felt he should be seen. At first I was gobsmacked and incredulous. I didn’t even remember any event from the morning. Kit leaping off the bed was a ‘nothing’. It must happen at least ten times a day when you have a very young, trying to toddle infant. I felt my jaw drop. ‘Nothing has happened to the baby’ I spluttered. I was wracking my brains trying to think where Rowan was getting it from – I fleetingly wondered if she was making stuff up. There’s no doubt that Rowan loves attention. She particularly loves adult attention and she’s very articulate so I wondered if perhaps she had just embellished something because she (obviously not understanding the seriousness of the situation) just loved that she had two adults simply hanging on her every word….

Dave then described what Rowan had told them. That I made the baby cry, shoved him on the bed and wouldn’t let her make him feel better. It all dawned on me, I tried to explain, he wouldn’t let me. They felt this warranted a trip to the local hospital so the children could be examined by a paediatrician.

A short while later, the girls were brought back to the family room and ET was with them (writer of the note from earlier, Ella’s form tutor). She had her head bowed, made no eye contact with us at all, muttered that she was getting her bag and left the room. I felt utterly judged. Judged and found guilty.

The girls were thrilled to see us – they were full of stories and over excited. I asked them if they had been given tea. I had repeatedly asked if they were being fed throughout the time we had been there. They are used to a cooked meal at 4pm as they go home with the child minder – I really must think of a name for her. I can’t keep writing child minder. We had repeatedly been told in response that they were being well looked after.

They had been given a banana and a drink. The girls actually told us they had been given nothing. But we found out later they’d had a banana. I was livid.

I’d had to call the nursery several times as we usually collected Kit daily at around 5.15 and we were terribly late. Although they were open until 6pm we were never actually there that late. By the time we got there in separate cars – Dave had taken BN and girls to the children’s ward at the hospital and Anna was with me – it was around 6.10pm.

The one girl at the nursery that I didn’t particularly like was with Kit. Sarah just wasn’t on the ball as much as the others. She gave him standard crisps one day instead of infant low salt ones which annoyed me as I’d specifically told her. She wasn’t one of his detailed key-workers and I dunno – I just felt like she didn’t know him as well and I didn’t really feel that she paid attention as much. She was lovely, just a bit meek and mild and not as thorough I guess. The nursery was FAB and I loved it there. It was just Sarah. However, in a nursery when there are shifts and so on, she would occasionally be the one left with the remaining babies and that was the case this day. I asked how he was and she started detailing how clingy he’d been that day and how unlike his usual self he’d been. Well, yes, he’s teething I replied with the Social Worker standing behind me. I felt like Anna was just thinking – hmm clingy, not usual self, we’re going to find injuries. Totting up the evidence. It was just awful.

We put him in the car and made our way to the hospital to meet Dave and BN with the girls.

I thought I’d had the worst three hours of my life by this point. How wrong you can be.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. January 20, 2012 3:10 pm

    God. Even having known about this all these months I still cannot believe it is my sister writing this story. I am just so sick for you. So angry.

  2. Carly permalink
    January 20, 2012 4:38 pm

    Still can’t believe it. From the teachers side (halfway through a PGCE, anyway) … having done safeguarding training and child protection policies and whatnot… I still don’t understand. From a parent’s point of view… I am just angry. And I know you’ve told me it’s all sorted out but… angry. Unfair. Ridiculous. Unnecessary.

  3. January 20, 2012 8:55 pm

    Just catching up with this now and I just can’t believe it! So sorry you have had to go through all this xx

  4. mumof4 permalink
    January 22, 2012 6:59 am

    It is horrendous you had to go through all this. I mean I know WHY the system is in place and all but still…… like you are being judged on every single word etc.
    I am already gunning for the teachers who have not supported you even with their glances etc.
    I had been thinking about part 1 for days before part 2……
    and now…..


  1. Smacking, Discipline & Parenting | How I Grew Up | Home Educating the Puddle Chicks.

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