Something wasn’t right.
That’s when I saw the peeled long stick at her mother’s side. The girl moved, and like lightening, it shot out from the mother’s side and caught her legs.
Her tiny little legs.
She was no more than four years old. Her legs were marked up and down with red marks.
My heart hammered. Everyone in the fast food restaurant was quiet, watching.
“See,” the mother said. “Look at what you did. You made everyone stare at us.”
I expected people to stand and speak out, but they suddenly became interested in the food. I can’t say that I knew what to do any better. The woman had three children with her, and a large, towering man.
When the mother’s back was turned, the oldest boy pushed the little girl in the corner and made a face as if to say, “I got you.”
My husband put his hand on my knee. “Think before you react,” he said.
You see, he knows me. My first reaction would be to grab the stick out of her hand.
So, I slipped out, watching in dismay as she struck the little girl two more times in quick succession, then grabbed a slightly older sibling by the back of his hair and yanked it hard.
I stepped outside and called 911. They said it wasn’t an emergency.
I had watched them climb out of the car, so I took down the tag number, as I searched for other numbers to call. I called a local police station and asked them what I could do. They switched me to a child welfare department, where I explained the situation for the third time, praying that the family wouldn’t leave the restaurant before I could find answers.
The lady in the welfare department listened patiently, asking questions. I could tell they had heard so much worse. My story of a mom carrying a stick, beating a child in public, an older boy who pushed her in the corner, was far from the worst she had recorded. I heard the clickety-clack of her fingers on the keyboard as she asked questions.
We were assured by the welfare agency that a policeman was on the way, and that the agency would follow up based on their recommendation, and then I was given a case number where I could follow up.
Later when I called I discovered nothing happened. The police showed up, gave her a warning, and then left.
There’s a warrior mom in me that says that little girls should be safe. They should be loved. They should giggle in public, and be safe in their momma or daddy’s arms. They should not feel that adults will just look the other way when they have red marks up and down their tiny legs.
Sadly, this little girl is only one of many who endure abuse, or who are sexually molested, or neglected. It goes beyond a parent who loses her temper (we all have) or who is tired and needs a break.
•A report of child abuse is made every ten seconds in the U.S.
•More than five children die every day as a result of child abuse.
•Approximately 80% of children that die from abuse are under the age of 4.
•More than 90% of juvenile sexual abuse victims know their perpetrator in some way.
•Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education.
•About 30% of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children, continuing the cycle of abuse.
While I have always believed in encouraging and strengthening our families, more than ever we need a generation of warrior moms to rise up and become advocates for those little ones who cannot defend themselves. But also to love families who are in crisis.
Where might we begin?
We care. We have to see beyond our safe bubble. Within a radius of your home there are families ill prepared, or in crisis, or addicted, or in poverty. . . and children are affected.
We can’t offer excuses, like, “They should know better” or “I don’t want to get involved” or “that’ doesn’t happen in my neighborhood.”
We pray. As you call out your children’s name in prayer, do you call out a neighbor child’s name as well?
We open our homes. Yes, it creates mess and it’s noisy, but when you love your children’s friends, you create a safe haven. Maybe it’s one night a month where all the friends can hang out. Or it’s play dates in the park with a neighborhood mom. Perhaps it’s ping pong and snacks for your teen’s friends after church or a ball game.
We do something. We act, rather than react with words or condemnation.
That might be coming alongside a mom who needs help, because not all cases are abuse; sometimes it’s just not having support. There are many moms who wake up in the night to care for a child, go all day, and rarely have a break.
Maybe it’s working with a church or community group that helps a mom or dad with parenting skills. Not every person is raised in a caring family, and how can you be a good mom if no one showed you how, or if you were abused and it’s all too familiar?
Perhaps it’s caring about moms and families even when yours are grown. Your experience and encouragement are so much more valuable than you know. It could be giving a new mom two hours of blissful sleep or a meal.
And it’s reporting abuse when you are confronted with abuse. We can’t ignore it.
But Suzie, nothing happened when you did it.
To this day that causes me sadness, but I have been assured that her name is in the system now, and maybe another person — a grandmother, a neighbor, a teacher — will do the same thing and action will be taken.
Just because the results were not what I hoped doesn’t mean that I stop responding to abuse.
Are you a warrior mom?
What step will you take today to love a child whose not your own?
How can you love a mom who needs encouragement, and who feels she’s just on the edge of losing it?
What organizations in your community or church are helping families or children in crisis?
What would would have helped you (as a child or as a parent)?
Here are some helpful resources
Today I pray that you’ll join me at Moms Together, a group of over 16,000 moms from 29 countries on Facebook. We are there to encourage each other, to be a community. To be warrior moms for each other, because motherhood is amazing, but it’s also tough sometimes.
Each day at Moms Together we offer something of value to our moms — great guests with helpful tips and encouragement; giveaways; practical information, prayer, and friendship. We need each other!
We’ll be talking about this topic today, taking it deeper on Moms Together.
Would you invest in this resource for her? The Mom I Want to Be: Rising Above Your Past to Give Your Kids a Great Future — this tool is for those who may have not received the nurturing they hoped, but who want to give their child something greater. It’s practical.
Transforming. It’s packed with tools to help you grow and tons of encouragement that you can become the mom you want to be.
And if you know a mom of teens, or a community or church that works with teens? Real Issues, Real Teens: What Every Parent Needs to Know – This book offers insight from teens around the nation who share what they are facing, what they don’t tell you but wish you knew, why they might not talk and how to open the doors of communication, and so much more practical information and tools that can help you parent your teenager, but also relate with your teen’s friends or teens in your neighborhood