the thing is... my heart aches.
it always seems that all psychopaths come from Texas, it should have come as no
surprise that two of the most horrific news stories of the past two weeks
involved two Texas mothers who had harmed their children. The first was the woman who shut her eight-year-old into a
closet for, oh, at least four months and apparently systematically starved her
almost to death. When the child was
found, she weighed twenty-five pounds. And
the second story made the cover of Newsweek: the psychotically depressed Houston
mother who drowned her five children.
think I was more horrified and haunted by the first story.
The first news reports quoted the man who called the authorities --a
volunteer fire fighter who had befriended and socialized with the couple.
The thing that got me was where he said "When I think of how I sat
at their kitchen table and played cards all those times and all the while, that
child was there in that closet..." Child
abuse crosses all socio-economic boundaries and this made me realize that I
could be walking past a house or a child every single day who needs real help.
That's what keeps me awake at night --the thought that as I am peacefully
sleeping, someone, somewhere, is systematically abusing a child.
I can almost understand an act of anger where a parent snaps.
I can't even begin to understand how a mother reaches a point of
deliberately torturing her own child over many months.
you know, the sheer maliciousness of shutting a child into a closet and keeping
her there is sickening. I look at
the bright faces of my girls, the enormous potential and thirst for knowledge
and love that dwells there and I simply can't imagine such an act. In my mind, I
see those bright faces as a door swings shut, keeping them in darkness and
filth. How can that happen in this
world? Why did that little girl not
have even one advocate who missed her presence?
What recourse has any child when the person she looks to for protection
and guidance and love does something so unspeakable?
And how far into psychosis does a woman have to be to do that to a being
she carried and nurtured in her womb?
will admit that Ana has made me more angry this week than I have EVER been at
her (Isn't it amazing how programmed we are to care for the most defenseless of
our family, even when it's our own beloved older child who is guilty of the
crime of bonking her sister on the head?), but it never occurred to me to even
SPANK her. I did send her to her
room once to think about why it wasn't a good idea to kick a ball right at an
eight-month-old. She thought about
it. For about two minutes, after
which she came contritely out of her room. Some children aren't so lucky.
interesting that the second story REALLY affected my husband. He said he
couldn't remember being more upset by a news story.
I had all kinds of theories as to why that was. I thought it might be
that he identified a little with the husband, who went off to work every day to
his job, supporting his large family. I
do know that there is a sort of covenant between my husband and me --he goes off
to work every day slaying dragons and I stay home and kill monsters under the
bed. We trust that the other is
upholding his or her end of the deal and that if there are problems outside of
the normal ones, we will make sure the other is fully aware of all facts.
his reasons are, as always, straightforward and clearly articulated. He says he keeps imagining those kids staring up at her face
as she killed them and wondering why the person they loved best was hurting
them. And the other thing that
really upsets him is this unshakeable feeling that the father of those children
had a responsibility to see how serious the situation was and not to leave his
wife alone with them. Since Andrea
Yates had tried to commit suicide only a few months before, and since she was
taking such strong anti-psychotic medication, and since she'd so recently given
birth to yet another child, her husband had a responsibility to stop ignoring
the situation and to at least consider some sort of birth control (or
abstinence, since his religious beliefs dictated otherwise) so his wife could
have some time to recover. (I
agree. It's hard enough to try to
parent five kids under the age of seven even if you are NOT under psychiatric
thought the drowning case was horrible, too, but not for the same reasons. I'm so struck by the WASTE --all that potential just wiped
out. By all accounts, those kids
had great lives up until that day. Andrea
Yates did the kinds of things as a mom that I and most of my friends do.
She was actively involved in every aspect of their lives and she was
concerned about their educations enough to home-school (which is no easy thing
under Texas law) and she gave them tangible tokens of her love, like the little
coupon books for hugs and kisses she gave them for Valentine's Day.
How is it possible that no one saw this coming?
And how is it possible to get to a point of thinking your children are
better off dead than with a parent like you?
can't comprehend it. I can
understand being so depressed that you consider harming YOURSELF but I just
can't fathom harming a child --ANY child, not just my own.
I think that once I became a mother, I just sort of assumed that we moms
were all kind of on the same page as far as our kids are concerned. That we all felt that children are sacred.
That motherhood drives us all to be better people than we were, to reach
for the best within us. I love my
children so much that I would die for them --without ever thinking twice about
it. And I don't think I would want
to live in a world without them. They have propelled me onto a higher plane of consciousness
--where my own life isn't so important and where my job of protecting and loving
and GROWING them is the highest calling.
the same way that "each manís death diminishes me," I feel like each
appalling act against a child diminishes us ALL.
And while I can bemoan the fact that even with a large support network,
Andrea Yates still cracked and killed her children, and that the little girl in
the closet was so insignificant that no one even missed her for four months, in
the end, I can only do what all moms do. I
can learn to take action when I see another mom struggling, instead of assuming
if I am needed, she'll let me know. I
can teach myself to ask for help when I am overwhelmed.
I can reach out to those moms I meet, in hopes that I might find that we
really are all in this together. I
can hold my children a little tighter and I can pray that they will live their
lives and never come in contact with that kind of evil and brutality.
my heart can ache for the little lost ones.
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Barbara Cooper 2001