The World Changes: Prepare your children for what will be

I have spent a great deal of time with older members of my hometown this week. Keep in mind, that this is a generation of retired miners, farmers, and generally Appalachian good ole’ boys who love their momma’s, Jesus, and trucks and I mean that in the most positive manner. These people who helped to shape who I am are honest, hardworking men and women who have never harmed another person. They are good people. They bring casseroles when someone dies and help to shovel each other’s driveways simply because they finished their own a bit faster. They sit with the sick and care for the young. I am super blessed to have been raised in a hometown that emphasized so many strong values in my upbringing. However, I am not here to be raised at this point. In fact, I am here having raised my own children and now helping to raise my grandchildren. I am now part of the older generation yet I see something that they cannot.

Having left home and traveled, I realize that not all communities are as frozen in time as is my hometown. They raise children to become mirror images of themselves which, regarding the basic concept of taking care of one another, is not the worst thing that one could say about Appalachian living. The issue is that these small communities are afraid of change. They sit around the table and try to find ways to prevent change but the fact is that we cannot. Change happens.

While discussing the differences between how I view the world and how I am “supposed” to view the world based on my childhood teachings, I quickly realized just how much I had learned after childhood. You see, people believe that they are to raise their children based strictly on the values that they had when they were children. Now, I am not speaking of religious values or ideologies but rather on the way that they assigned values to other people or objects in their environment. The problem with this philosophy is that our children, our grandchildren, will not grow up in the same society.

I always said that I was not raising children but rather that I was raising adults who would function in the world outside of their childhood. In order to do this, I had to anticipate what that world would look like. Slang words or stereotypes that may have been acceptable in my grandparents’ young adulthood were certainly not acceptable during mine and the same would be true for my children and grandchildren. We are not raising children who need to survive in OUR society but rather who must survive in THEIRS.

I realize that we are parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. I realize that this means that we are likely not psychics! We cannot know exactly what their society will look like but we can be certain that it will be different from our own and that this is okay. This is expected. This will be their time! So, instead of teaching children what your grandparents thought of same-sex marriages, teach your children tolerance and acceptance. Instead of telling your grandchildren about the racial division in your high school days, talk to them about the importance of unity. Instead of highlighting all of the negative characteristics that you were taught about a certain gender, ethnicity, or even socioeconomic status, teach about lifting up one another and the importance of all members of society succeeding.

We do not have to teach these things with a specific characteristic in mind. In fact, it is better than we do not. We do not have to remove history but rather focus on the future. We do not have to teach through words but rather we should speak through actions because, if we are lucky, we will still be around to watch our children and grandchildren flourish in their society and know that we gave them the foundation to do so.

We do not design the world for our children. We prepare our children for their world.

“Gigi”

 

Peculiar: Things Never Noticed Before Our CPS Case

This storm and process of evacuating Florida to avoid Irma’s fury toting four toddlers have made it difficult to concentrate on blogging and, for that, I apologize. I remember thinking, during our case, that I could not believe that the rest of the world could keep turning while my family was in ruins. I could not imagine that people were cooking turkeys or worrying about graduations when MY family was under attack. Of course, I think back now and realize that I was fighting to be able to enjoy those things in complete oblivion once again. I wanted to focus on the larger picture and be able to concern myself with the problems of others rather than singularly thinking of my own family.

Then the case was won and my family was returned. But, I could not go back to oblivion. I could not only focus on jumping back into the life of the Jones’. My eyes have been opened and every thing that has happened to us is also happening to others. So, thus the apology. Yes, I can get distracted but I should not get so distracted that I lose contact with those who are struggling as we did. Those who are out there who want to be concerned with this large storm and the safety of others but can only concentrate on the fact that their own family is hurting. Please know, that your job right now is to do what you are doing.

Your worry should not turn to ours but rather ours should turn to yours.

You are in a battle that affects all of our lives. I felt like less of a person, disconnected from the world. We who have overcome this obstacle to happiness should not allow you to feel those emotions. Instead, we should always let you know that you are not alone and that you are doing everything that you can. The destruction that I may find at home following the storm is nothing compared to the destruction that your family is going through and I know that this realization has not been properly portrayed through my absence this weekend.

In a loss for words and a tired mind, I turned to a daily prompt provided by a fellow blogger and found the word “peculiar.”  I couldn’t find the connection between my need to connect with you and this word. Strange, different, directly associated with…Discussing CPS is not considered peculiar to those of us who have encountered them and those who have not encountered this injustice would not understand any metaphorical connections that I might make. So I nearly closed up my laptop and went to check in on the little ones before turning in for the night. But I still felt like I was missing something that might keep my mind awake through the night. Then it hit me, there are things that I once thought were normal but now I see them as peculiar to the child protective system that has destroyed so many lives and families. So, these are my thoughts on the oblivion that CPS stole from us all:

  1. The Oblivion: I once saw two people having a discussion about maybe a reunion whereas one of the friends brought their laptop to save the plans and the other one could not get a baby sitter for the day so they had to bring their children alone. The friend with the children may seem a bit distracted but the friend with the laptop was clearly inspired as she typed away and checked for any messages that were perhaps from other friends engaged in the planning.
  2. The Reality: These are not casual meetings and they are not friends. The individual with the laptop is a supervised visitation provider and the distracted individual is trying to both interact with her children and appear engaged with the provider. I want to call out to her and tell her to truly be in the moment . I want to ask the children if they are okay. I want to tell the provider to put herself in the parent’s shoes. I see the drain in their eyes. I see the fear and the sadness. I no longer think of a planned reunion but rather of a plan to prevent reunification.

 

  1. The Oblivion: I saw those billboards asking for foster parents and I envisioned families reaching out and putting aside their own needs to help children who had maybe became orphans or their parents were getting treatment. I saw good in a system where people would willingly open their homes just to make certain these children are not alone while their family mends. I saw the billboards and saw hope.
  2. The Reality: I can no longer feel hopeful driving down the interstate and looking up at these billboards. In fact, I cannot even look. I see people who will stop at nothing to replace the family bonds with those that will program the children into what the government wants them to be. I see the foster families as carefully selected computer programmers and the children as pawns to be bartered or sold to bring revenue for this mission. I see the parties who were involved in our heartache and those who are involved in yours. I see a loss of hope and fear that others feel the same.

 

  1. The Oblivion: All families are happy on the holidays. Or so I thought. I lived in a world where I understood financial struggles but I also knew that the holidays always worked themselves out. We made silly boxes of Christmas Eve necessities. We made peanut butter bonbons. We held the grandchildren up to the tree to hang the star. I believed, and loved the idea, that all families were doing the same thing at the same time.
  2. The Reality: Every happiness can be ripped away at no fault of our own and this means that many families are not doing these things. Many families are unable to put up a tree or bake cookies because of their sadness and loss. Many families are struggling to open up their social networks to reach out for help because they will immediately see the family photos with Santa that will surely flood their news feed. Not everyone is happy and not everyone is ready to deck the halls.

Do not get me wrong, there are so many other moments and situations that I would never have found to be peculiar during my previous state of oblivion but these are just a few that my tired mind can recollect. At times, I would like to go back to feeling hope for all of the society and believing the best in every situation. But, if I were to do so, then I could not reach out to others and try to help to guide them through the maze that is CPS. And quite frankly, I am afraid to be oblivious now as we can never let our guard down.

So, when you feel that your whole world has changed because of this, know that you are not alone. But also know that we can change the whole world because they have changed ours.

Please let others know that oblivion is a dangerous place to live,

“Gigi”

 

 

 

via Daily Prompt: Peculiar

You Cannot Impress CPS with Expensive Clothes (In fact, you may make your case worse)

Know your case like you know your child! Leave nothing to chance!

“Gigi”

When I was researching what to wear to CPS court (you can read more about that research here) I expected to find that name brand and fancy attire would help to show the judge that you had the financial means to support your child and that you paid close attention to every detail. After all, we are all aware that CPS is a money racket and that they often target members of the lower socioeconomic status group in order to minimize the ability of their opponent to fight them in a legal battle. Being poor somehow gives them the impression, or ability to make the impression, that a person cannot be stable enough, smart enough, or caring enough to raise a child. So, I thought that it would make sense to show them through my attire that we were not poor.

Granted, by no means do we typically wear expensive clothing. I have even bragged about our thrift store shopping. However, when it comes to my grandchildren, if I thought it would help, I would have found the means to do so. However, as I read deeper into the research, expensive clothing is considered offensive to many of the workers and, at times, even the judges. I found that this is due to three reasons:

  1. They already know your finances and can view your dress as a mockery.
  2. They may not be able to afford such attire and therefore you come across as a show-off.
  3. They may find that you spend more money on your own clothing than on your children.

Okay, so I may have not agreed with B on this list but I suppose we do not know everyone’s financial circumstances. So, I continued to read and found that modest clothing that is neat and clean is far more appropriate. We purchased new clothing for each court appearance but made certain that no labels were showing, the clothing was neatly pressed, and we were confident yet comfortable in what we were wearing. This helped to show that we felt ourselves in this type of clothing and prevented the court from assuming that we were being phony to gain favor.

 

I continue to note that every single detail of your case will make a difference in the outcome. So many people will tell you that it is an impossible battle and, without a careful strategy, that is exactly what it is. But, if you continue to pay attention to the details and refuse to fail, then your children will come home to you where they belong. You did not put yourself into this situation but you can find your way out of it!

 

Know your case like you know your child! Leave nothing to chance!

“Gigi”

Beyond the Anger: Emotional Stages of CPS

Leaving the courtroom that day, I moved to a stage that I had not anticipated. Embarrassment. I walked out of that small-town courtroom and passed people that I had once worked with. I saw the faces of others who were so worn down and seemingly alone. I did not pick up my phone to call anyone. I did not tell my father, my best friend, no one.

At first, you will be angry. Of course, that stage does not leave you. It does not leave you throughout the case and, as we are learning, it does not leave you after the last court date. You are angry because of the lies. You are angry because you cannot believe that this could happen. Let’s face it, this list could go on and on. But there are other emotions and reactions in play that affect others that we often forget.

For me, the first of these was shock. How could this happen? Surely this will resolve quickly. The department is just making sure. That lasted until the preliminary hearing when the judge appeared to be drifting off and the first of the lies surfaced inside a courtroom.

Leaving the courtroom that day, I moved to a stage that I had not anticipated. Embarrassment. I walked out of that small-town courtroom and passed people that I had once worked with. I saw the faces of others who were so worn down and seemingly alone. I did not pick up my phone to call anyone. I did not tell my father, my best friend, no one.

You see, I was known as that go getter Mother and Gigi. My college advisor once gave me a postage stamp with the image of Atticus Finch. Her statement was that my relationship with my children reminded her of how the character allowed his children to figure out the world but always stood close by to offer gentle guidance. To me, this was the greatest compliment that I could receive; someone complimenting my parenting! I attended every prenatal visit possible, stood in the room as each of my grandchildren were born, helped to select Gloria’s therapists, helped pick out names, and bragged nonstop about my growing family.

But, as we all do, I have a past and many of the things in my past I am not proud of. I just knew that this small town would echo my younger days and that everyone who now knew me as a grandmother would believe these lies based on who I once was. I was afraid they would look at me differently. After all, they all had the assumptions that I discussed here earlier (5 Things I thought I knew about CPS), so why would they think anything else? I knew everyone would turn their back on me so I turned mine first.

When I finally began to speak, I spoke ill to those who I was most embarrassed to tell. I wanted to push everyone away so that I could be alone in my misery. I knew that I was being judged by the state but I could not take being judged by those who actually knew me.

Following embarrassment, I found myself in isolation. Only my children and my mother were allowed into my world at this point. Once you reach isolation, then you have two choices Depression or Survival. I chose the latter. I used all of my now free time from others to focus solely on the case. I not only turned my back on all others outside of the case but also on all responsibilities other than the basic survival needs.

ALL OF MY ENERGY WAS ON SURVIVING THIS AS A FAMILY!

As I stated before in Prisoners of War: Bringing our Children Home from CPS Captivity, I did not make it out of this case without any regrets but I made it out regardless. It does not matter how you make it. You may need to lean on others. You may need to isolate. You may even need to take a moment of depression to allow your brain to reboot. But you DO NOT need to feel embarrassed. You did not deserve this. You do not have to feel regret because, although we are all here for you in this war, this is YOUR battle and it is your knowledge of your family that will help you to choose the best way to come through. All that I ask, is that you remember that YOU WILL!

 

May your outcomes be worth your regrets,

“Gigi”

Missing You Comes In Waves. 


Military relationships are some of the most rewarding, heartbreaking, stressful, love filled relationships out there. And no one understands unless they have been through it. That’s why it is so important to find a friend in all of this. Someone who understands what you’re going through, so when the waves hit, you have someone to lean on when you can’t lean on your SO.

We always miss them. Every second they’re away. Some days are just worse than others. It comes with the territory. It’s the down side of the lifestyle.
Some days seem so ‘normal’. We go about our routines, text when we can, tell each other about our day on FaceTime at the end of the night before we fall asleep together.

Some days I don’t stress constantly over the “what-ifs”.

Some days I’m not scared.

But then there are the in between days.

These are the days that I wake up and sit on my bed staring off into space, wishing you were there beside me.

These are the days that everything seems to be going wrong, and he isn’t there to hold me.

These are the days my chest hurts and I feel like I can’t breath because I miss him so much.

These are the days I have to remind myself that my love for him is stronger than the stress that distance puts on our relationship.
But there are so many great things about loving someone in the military. Like having your first kiss over and over. Or pride you feel talking to someone about him/her.  Or love that just grows stronger by the day. Hell, just sitting beside them when they finally come home is one of the most beautiful things.
On days you feel hopeless, on days when you feel more alone than you have ever felt, try to remember why you’re going through this. Try to remember why you fell in love with them in the first place. Try to remember (however long ago it was) the last time he hugged you.

Hold on to the ups. They will carry you through when you need it the most.

-A.

Understanding Gender: Toddler Talk

We do not separate “boy toys” or “girl toys.” We do dress the children according to gender but we don’t really emphasize it. We do put pretty little bows on the girls when we go out but do not freak out at home if the boys come through with one of the girl’s headbands. I guess we just do not make a big deal out of it. But, for whatever reason, in the mind of a child, differences are based on the person and NOT their gender.

Earlier today, my mother and I had the four grandchildren on the back porch playing on the water blob (this thing is great by the way) when Clarabelle informed us that she needs 11 baby sisters and 10 baby brothers. We asked her why and she really did not have an answer but just continued counting her “future” siblings. She then called Braxton her baby sister. When we asked why her male cousin was now her baby sister, she says “he just is.” When we told her sisters are girls, she, of course, asked: “why.” We explained that they just are and she went on about her business. Later, when the boys were raiding her lunch plate while saving theirs for later, I jokingly stated: “boys sure eat a lot, don’t they?”

This seemed to offend her as she exclaimed,

“So do girls.”

Well, I said, boys are more rotten and again, she did not like this.

“Girls are rotten too”

I was on a roll! Boys are icky.

“Girls are icky too” she chuckled.

Well, boys do things differently, don’t they?

“No, boys and girls are the same.”

Now, she is almost three and she understands that boys can get away with not wearing a shirt but girls cannot. We are on full blown Potty Training Times Three so she knows there are obvious differences but the point she was making was that boys and girls do not do things differently, act differently, or like different things. She knows that she does not like raisins and the other three do so people can like different things but this is not because they are a boy or a girl it is just because of the individual.

We do not separate “boy toys” or “girl toys.” We do dress the children according to gender but we don’t really emphasize it. We do put pretty little bows on the girls when we go out but do not freak out at home if the boys come through with one of the girl’s headbands. I guess we just do not make a big deal out of it. But, for whatever reason, in the mind of a child, differences are based on the person and NOT their gender.

At some point in life, we are taught to categorize everyone and assume their likes, behaviors, and roles.  We do this based on gender, skin color, ethnicity, religion, and a number of “othering” characteristics when really, WE ARE ALL THE SAME with individual likes and choices that do not justify such categories for the whole.

Appreciate each other as individuals!

“Gigi”

Custodial Rights: If you know a child CPS could ruin your life

Even if you are Not a Parent, CPS Corruption can Ruin your Life!

Custodial rights is a term used by CPS to include nonparent parties in the CPS claim and further alienate the children from the life and people that they know. This can include parties that live in the same home or have spent any considerable amount of time with the children (ie babysitters, aunts, uncles, grandparents, significant others of family members, etc.). Once the party is placed as a respondent with custodial rights (different than parental rights) the party will be placed on the child abuse and neglect registry. (As our case was dismissed, we are working on the grievance to have our names removed from the registry).

One of the first questions that everyone asked when they removed my grandchildren was why didn’t I have custody. Now, as many of you know, family placement is a rarity anyway but our case was a bit different because my daughter’s family lived in a separated section of my home. The state considered my now late fiance and me in the same household and therefore respondents on the case as the state said that we had custodial rights over the children. My mother (who also lived in the home) was not a respondent and there was no concern that we had harmed the children as (A) there was a confession and (B) they did not remove my minor son from the home. However, due to the close relationship that I had with my granddaughter, who we had a complete body scan of which showed no signs of abuse, they knew that the only way to keep from placing the children with me was to place me as a respondent in the case.

I couldn’t understand how I had no legal rights over the children but now I was a “custodial guardian” because I lived in the same home. I began to investigate this and found that living in the household was not the only way that they can claim custodial rights. Babysitters and extended family members are also placed at risk if they have a close enough relationship that would indicate the need to consider them for placement.

Again, we were fortunate with many aspects of our case and I cannot speak for all cases involving CPS.  But I do ask you to realize how wide spread this issue truly is and join the fight for reform before you find yourself in the whirlwind that thousands have already experienced.

Stand together!

“Gigi”

 

Prisoners of War: Bringing our Children Home from CPS Captivity

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I will once again preempt this post by stating that everything on this site is intended to promote hope and bring awareness to obstacles that we have faced in our family. I understand that our tactics in working through the hell of CPS may not work for everyone and may come across as somewhat sheepish as we smiled through our tears, spoke politely, and held our tongues about our anger with the system. Regardless of these differences in approaches, the fact remains that my grandchildren are safe at home and we did not have to jump through mandated hoops. Our anger at the system, our shock that this could happen in a “free” country, was the same as so many others are feeling right now and all that we could find online was stories of TPRs and brutal war tactics. We chose to use war strategies that worked in our case.

However you fight your battle, know that it is possible to win. That was all that I wanted to hear the entire case. I wanted to know it was possible. I wanted to know that all of the stories online did not have to be MY story. I wanted to know that there was a way to bring my family home. Just as when two families have of Prisoners of War received the news that one has been freed, the other family then has hope that their soldier will come home, I wanted to hear that my grandchildren would be returned. Not being able to find this could have led me to a state of depression with no way to come out of it. Not being able to hear that there was a chance could have cost me my life as it has so many other broken parents. I WANTED TO LIVE THROUGH THIS! So, I decided that I would be that positive outcome at all cost and that when it was over, I would tell others that it is possible and that they must continue to fight every day.

The difference in how I tell my story is that I am not filled with hatred. I could be. I could wake up each day fueled with anger and go into attack mode. But (A) my grandchildren need my happy goofy self to play on the floor and I cannot do that if I only focus on the negative and (B) we did not win our case by coming off as being in attack mode. Yes, THIS IS WAR but WARS ARE NOT WON WITHOUT STRATEGY!

When you enter a war, you assess the situation. You learn as much about your enemy as possible. You find out what allies you have and who is still on the fence that may serve your cause with a little bit of influence. You find out who the actual enemy is and who is simply a soldier following orders. You can take out all the soldiers that you want but unless you go for the true enemy, then you only win a battle rather than the war.

When we watch the news, we often wonder why our military leaders make certain decisions that seem to be detrimental to the primary cause. Why do they appear to be diplomatic when there are clear threats to our safety, our freedoms, and our way of life? There is a bigger picture that the news does not cover. There are interactions that we may never know about. There are moments that even these leaders question their own tactics but move forward with confidence so as to not show weakness. But the fact remains that all tactics, all strategies, all methods of winning are justified when the outcome is favorable. One battle at a time. One soldier returned. One life saved. Every win serves to justify the choices of these leaders.

In the war against CPS, and trust me this is a war against the entire system, we have assessed the primary enemy. We are aware that we must stand together against the corruption of the system and this must be done with all of our emotions. When the military wages war, it does so with a primary goal of defeating the enemy. THIS IS THE PRIMARY GOAL and we cannot waver in our efforts. However, when a soldier is taken captive, we must first be diligent in bringing them home. Often times, we must use diplomacy rather than aggression.

OUR CHILDREN ARE PRISONERS OF THIS WAR!

Make no mistake, throughout our case, we were aware of the primary enemy. We knew that we would continue to fight once our battle was won. We knew that bringing home my grandchildren would not be the end of the war. But we were in that battle at that time and there was no one else that could fight it for us. We read all of the posts that told us to scream and yell and never be agreeable. For some, this tactic was working but for most, I watched their battle continue with devastating outcomes. I grieved as I watched prisoners of war essentially become casualties of war. I feared for my own family. I feared for the families of others. I spent countless nights watching and listening. I studied the battles of others and strategized accordingly just as military leaders review previous battles and adjust their tactics.

To some, we may have appeared weak and, even as we tell our story, our tactics are under scrutiny. In fact, many times we question ourselves. Some moments throughout the case are not without regret. But I will stand by our choices because, at the end of the day, we won our battle and came back up to continue to fight the war.

Our children did not enlist for this war. They did not come into this battle with an understanding that they could become prisoners. They are not trained to withstand the manipulation, the hardships, and the emotional distress of being taken a prisoner. They are depending on us to bring them home from their captivity at all costs.

When one tactic fails, do not give up, re-strategize!

“Gigi”

CPS Stole My Peace Of Mind. 


Have you ever had that weird feeling that you just can’t shake? Like someone is watching your every move?

We talk about how scary going through the process of a CPS case is. We discuss the feelings we had during the last year and a half of our lives. Supervised visits? Talk about someone breathing down your neck! Which is especially horrifying when you know you haven’t done anything wrong. When you can’t even change your child’s diaper without someone standing directly behind you, watching your every movement.. that’s enough to make you feel like the lowest person in the world.

But what happens after?

After the case is won.

When the “congratulations” slowly stop.

When the kids are tucked safely in their beds every night, one room over.

When you get to go back to making snack plates and cleaning up spilled cereal.

I’ll tell you what happens. At least for me. Every. Single. Fall, smashed finger, bump, bruise, or skinned knee, causes an overwhelming amount of fear and paranoia. Enough to make even someone with an iron stomach feel like throwing up.

Every time my children walk into the store with a bruise on their shin I find myself searching the crowd for wandering eyes. Anyone who could possibly notice (while it may be something so small that only I  can see) and report it.

Every time there is a knock at my door I am petrified to open it.

Every time I’m at the mall or take the kids to McDonald’s I can point out who is on a supervised visit and my heart aches for those families.

Not a day goes by that I’m not scared.

Not a day goes by that I’m not thankful to have my children home with me.

Not a day goes by that I don’t pray for the families going through what I did.

CPS stole my peace of mind. Because of this system, I can no longer feel 100% at ease in my own life. But the babies are home. And that’s all that really matters in my world.

-A.

Making Sense of Body Shaming: Toddler Talk

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Once again, Clarabelle has opened up my mind to the mind of a two year old. In fact, she has opened up the mind for many members of our family and we (nervously) await her doing the same for total strangers. While it is always a concern to wonder how others will react to a toddler’s logic, it is important to encourage them to see the world through their own innocent eyes and to encourage them to feel confident in expressing their discoveries.

As many of you know, my granddaughter Clarabelle spent a year in foster care. During one of our visits, she inquired about the different sizes of “boobs.” Of course, we could speculate as to how my two year old granddaughter came to know this term (believe me we did) but the findings suggest that different families speak in different ways and this is not always intended to be perverse. I state this to say that I do not believe (nor did any of specialists) that her interests in boobs came from anything of concern but rather an innocent moment of joking with her brother. Regardless, we had less than two hours to answer all of her questions in a way that would not make anyone uncomfortable.

Our answer was simple. Everyone grows and this means that all of our body parts grow. Some people grow in different ways but eating our food, sleeping well, being good, and listening to her mommy would all help her to grow exactly the way she is supposed to go.

That is as much as you can direct a child in a two hour visit. It was the best that we could think of and it seemed to stick. This inquiry occurred approximately 8 months ago and has not been discussed in detail since. Just over four months ago, my grandchildren came home. We continue to answer every question and make certain to not say anything that would make her feel insecure. Gradually, the extended family has been integrated into their lives and this means that, not only do the children have a lot of adjusting to do, the family has had to learn to adjust to the logical explanations that Clarabelle gives us about things that would normally make us uncomfortable. This is where our toddler talk begins today.

My mother, who was granted two hours every two weeks during the CPS case, never lost contact with the children which made her move towards a full time presence fairly simplistic. She stepped into the living room and Elliott ran to her laughing. As she lifted him up, she took a seat next to Clarabelle on the couch who hugged her and said, “Nanny, I am so proud of you. Your belly is big!” Mind you, my mother is a very healthy woman and has actually lost a great deal of weight over the last year that has allowed her to cease all but one of her regular medications and given her a boost of confidence that has taken years off of her appearance. Yet, based on what was just said, all she could hear was that her belly was big.

When a two year old gives you a compliment, it is pure and honest. Clarabelle knows that a person should eat, be nice, sleep well, and listen to their parents in order to grow. She looked at her great grandmother, not as a person who needed to be concerned about her weight, but rather as a person that she looked up to. Clarabelle saw someone who she wanted to be more like. Someone that she was proud of.

Fortunately, my mother was aware of the way that we speak to Clarabelle about these things. She recognized what the child was saying and responded accordingly. One can only imagine how Clarabelle will see herself the first time that someone tells her that she is wrong about what growing means. Perhaps the growing that we adults need to do has nothing to do with eating, sleeping, or listening but simply about being good and nice to others.

To grow, eat right, sleep well, listen, and above all, be nice!

“Gigi”