Thursday, August 29, 2013

a confession, part II, or, that time they accused me of kidnapping my own child

... SO. yesterday. picked colby jean up from daycare, then headed over to the preschool to fetch jackson jay. the kids were on the playground out in the back, but i went through his classroom to grab his lunchbox, and check his cubby. then i walked out to the playground, holding C on my hip. as soon as J spotted me, he cracked a big grin, called out "Mama!" and walked over to hug my legs. then he stepped back and said, "Mama, look, I got an OWIE! LOOK!" it looked like he had gotten a little sliver. he said it was from a tree, and that he'd even gotten a bandaid (if you achieve bandaid status, that owie is LEGIT ;)) i made the proper fuss as we headed over to the sign-out sheet. his arm was tangled in my skirt the whole time, and he nattered on about his day, that they'd read the Three Little Pigs, he'd "POOPED AT 'KOOL," and get this, WIPED HIS OWN BUTT (allegedly. i never did investigate skid mark status. what happened next kind of derailed the rest of my evening).

as i was almost to the table with the sign-out sheets, a teacher or playground monitor or whoever she was steps in front of me and says, "excuse me. i don't know you. i'm going to need to see some I.D." for a few seconds i just stared at her, stupidly smiling. i thought she was joking or something, it was so strange and surreal. (keep in mind, you have to have a security fob to even enter the building, which i was holding in my hand. also keep in mind that, while we are only a week and a half into the new school year, i have been there to pick him up 6 of the last 8 days, same place, same time, same little orphan annie in tow). then i started to feel very very small. like an underage kid trying to sneak into a club and getting caught by the bouncer. why i felt like this, i do not know, because i was not doing a thing wrong.

i said to her, "oh no! i didn't bring my ID in. but i have my security fob right here? see?"

her: "mmmmhmmm. that's nice. i need to see ID."

what the??? "ummm, well, like i said, i don't have it on me... but... i was just speaking with his teacher Olivia in Room 103. she knows me. could we just go over and ask her to verify that i'm Jack's mom?"

"no. school policy. i need to see your identification. now."

"okay, well, it's in my purse in the car." (what if it hadn't been?! what if it had been lost or stolen, as DM's recently was??? would they have just kept him?! as a ward of the YMCA?! until i got a DMV appointment in, like, DECEMBER?????)

"well then i guess you better go get it."

okay. pause. listen you guys. i am a lawyer. i only mention that because it is probably the profession packed with the highest asshats per capita on the planet. (well except maybe politicians. but most of those are just lawyers who are seeking advanced degrees in dickery. literally and figuratively. anthony weiner, i'm lookin' at you.) as such, i will tell you, i have come across more than my fair share of TERRIBLE people in my life. and yet. this lady takes the cake. i cannot convey in words the level of derission and disrespect that dripped from the handful of words she spoke, but, for the record, this was the SMUGGEST BITCH i have encountered, ever.

anyway. i replied, "okay, i will go get it, but, what happens with J? do i have to just leave him here?"

her: "yes. he's not going anywhere until i see your ID. we'll wait." (she said this last in that tone that your seventh grade science teacher used when you came to class late and were making a commotion getting settled and she felt it necessary to drive home your tardiness with some age old public shaming tactics.)

needless to say, my sensitive son LOST HIS F*CKING SHIT. he was basically like, "i'm sorry, what? i have to stay locked outside this glass security door with this stranger while my mom carries my sister out of the building and i have no freaking clue what in the hell is going on? thanks but i'll PASS!" he starts screaming bloody murder while i am trying to keep my cool. even though my hands are shaking and my vision is blurred i do not want to make matters any worse than they already are. i crouch down and try to soothe him and say "i PROMISE i will be RIGHT BACK, lovey. i SWEAR to you, my sweet sweet boy, i will be back as quick as a bunny. i just have to hop-hop-hop to my car and grab my purse really fast because i forgot it and i need it so i can show this lady i am your mama." this has the effect of calming him -3%. he responds, wailing, BUT YOU ARE MY MAMA! MAMA! MAMAAAAA! PLEASE DON'T LEAVE ME!!!!!" UGH. SO heartwrenchingly awful i cannot even explain. but what choice do i have?

so. i stalk out to the car (there may have been actual steam coming out of my ears), grab my purse, and basically run back inside. at this point one of the administrators caught on to the fact that something was amiss so she follows me back out to the playground. i am shaking and i don't speak a word as i hand the girl my driver's license. i couldn't have spoken if i'd tried. she grabs my ID, looks at it for a second, and says, "Your names don't match." i take a breath and respond, "No. They don't. I did not take my husband's last name when we married." her: "Well. That's going to be an issue." me, exasperated, on the verge of tears: "Oh my God. Are you kidding me? Is this a joke? I don't have the same last name as my husband and kids. I'm sorry. It's two thousand and thirteen." Still trying to hold it together for the sake of the kids but the lid's about to come off.

at this point the administrator steps in and tries to unruffle some tailfeathers. she apologizes. THE FIRST TIME ANYONE HAS DONE SO. she says "I am so sorry for the inconvenience." she says, "I understand how frustating this must be, but this is the school-wide policy." she claims, "the teachers have been trained." the teachers have been trained to what?! Be A$$HOLES??? UGH!!! i tell her that i understand the policy and that i appreciate their concern for my son's safety, but that i hope they understand how upsetting it is for my son, and for me, to be handled so carelessly in what is obviously a delicate situation. she says yes, she completely understands, and apologizes again. i have no beef with this woman.

they proceed to bring out a ginormous three ring binder of registration papers and start flipping through it page by page. i ask again if we can talk to Olivia, J's teacher, to settle this mess, or Jane, the other administrator. they tell me both have gone home for the day. J is still crying, though more quietly at this point. he asks why i took Sister when i "left him all alone." i look the girl in the eyes and (snarkily) reply, "the school is only worried about the legal ramifications of me kidnapping you. they don't care if i kidnap your sister." more flipping of pages. i suggest that we go look at the scrapbook we provided per the school's request, the first two pages of which are pasted with family photos, including pictures of ME, the interloper. but no. they need to find the "official paperwork." after about twenty thousand minutes, or maybe three, they realize it's not in the first binder, so they haul out another one, equally thick, and start flipping through that at a glacial pace. finally, FINALLY, they find whatever piece of paper contains sufficient proof that i am not some crazy child-napper. the girl hands me back my ID and says, "There, see? Was that so hard?"

.....

i put that space there to delineate the pause that i took at this point. to breathe. to grasp desperately at the last shreds of my cool. because that is what i do in real life. so that I do not PUNCH HER IN HER EVER LOVIN' HEAD.

i think to myself, YES, you SMUGLY B, that WAS so hard. but i say nothing out loud. she continues, "Well, now we know who you are, so we won't have to do this again." All I can manage is, "No. This will not, ever, happen again."

as we walked out, my cheeks still burned. with rage. and with shame. why? because there were other parents and children around to witness this insanity? no. honestly, i was so upset i had tunnel vision and i could not say with any authority if there was a single other human being around. no. i felt shame because in a few short sentences, she had chopped my sense of self, my sense of worth as a mother, down at the knees. i mean, this lady sees tons of moms, day in, day out. obviously she ought to recognize a mom when she sees one, right? am i defective? am i not "mom material"? was my son's reaction to my arrival lacking the requisite joy reserved for "good moms"? can she tell that both of my kids prefer their daddy? that there was a genetic mutation in whatever chromosome makes some moms love their jobs 24/7? did i have "fraud" stamped across my forehead? maybe (probably) i'm being dramatic. maybe (probably) i'm overreacting. but i was shaking for an hour after this happened. my eyes are still tearing up and my heart is beating audibly in my ears as i write this, reliving that feeling of the instantaneous destruction of a little sliver of my soul. i cannot remember a time when someone has made me feel so small.

my first thought after i had time to process the situation was, there is no way that person has children, because no mother would treat another mother that way. someone with children of her own would know that essentially accusing someone of trying to kidnap her own child is a dangerous, painful accusation to make. okay, i get it, you have a hundred little people to keep track of and it's your job to keep them safe and you gotta do what you gotta do. this is your "policy," and it's probably an okay one given all the crazies in the world. but it is a very sticky situation that requires the utmost deference, tact, and respect. how about start with, "i am SO sorry, i know this is a huge inconvenience and i truly apologize, but, it's only the second week of school, and we are still learning everyone's names and faces, and i'm sorry but i don't recognize yours, so may I please just take a peek at your driver's license just to make extra sure? better safe than sorry!" how about that, instead of an agressive "i need to see some ID," which automatically tears someone down and puts them on the defensive.

maybe she does have kids, she just had a terrible day and i was the straw the broke the camel's back. (maybe i had a terrible day and this was just what pushed me over the edge.) or maybe she can't have kids and working with beautiful smiling/crazy crying children every day is driving her slowly out of her mind. maybe some poor child was abducted on her watch and she will never ever forgive herself, and is spending the rest of her life being hypervigilant, on edge, making sure it never ever happens again. maybe i wronged her in a past life. or maybe she's just a dick. i don't know. all i know is, sticks and stones my ass, her words cut me to the bone.

to bring it full circle. my second (not so) rational thought was, "i'm changing my last name tomorrow." but then, as i started to think about it some more, i was like, No. Because, F.U., YMCA. "Mack N. Cheese" does have a nice lil' ring to it. but. i've gotten this far. i am 33 years old. i have been married for over 5 years. i have been a mother for 3 years. we have been on a dozen plane flights with the kids. i have travelled with them alone. we have left the state. we have left the country. all with our mismatched names and no big hullabaloo. like i said, it's 2013, people! we live in the United States of America, and in California, to boot. thirty five percent of women in their 20s and 30s don't take their husband's name when they marry. it's not like i'm being joan of f*cking arc here. with the continued rise of gay marriage, second (and third and fourth) marriages, blended families, and revised notions of what the "marital union" entails, i believe at some point, sooner rather than later, we're going to have to start coming up with more creative approaches to "the name game." i don't believe i need to have the same last name as my son to be a bona fide mom. i already have my name. my son has his own. my husband and my daughter, too. and they don't always have to match.

**blood is thicker than water, but, not as thick as the name registered
with the county department of health and human services.
or the california department of motor vehicles.
and also the social security administration**

2 comments:

  1. I flew internationally with a child who wasn't mine (I was her nanny). I had my passport, her passport, a written letter from her parents, copies of their passports, a copy of her birth certificate, and a copy of their marriage license.

    At customs, the dude looked at her passport and mine (normal), read the letter, and ignored the rest of the paperwork. No problem.

    So I can't believe this woman was so rude to you about picking up your own child from school. Rules are rules, fine. But they can be enforced politely.

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    1. Agreed, Brita! I always bring approximately 19 pieces of identification including birth certificates and passports and the works when we travel, and most of the time they don't even look at it! so I could smuggle a random child across state lines, but not pick up my own from preschool. Sometimes people .... I was going to say sometimes people think they're doing the right thing... but, sometimes people can be just plain shitty ;)

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