Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Pool Pass, CPS, and the Enterprise Walk into A Bar.

The summer I turned 14, my grandparents purchased a family pool pass for me, my brothers and my cousin. It was a great summer. I spent most of it babysitting at the pool, but we were outside and I had a different group of friends to spend time with, so it was a nice change of pace right before I entered high school.

The hard part about being almost 14, and babysitting while trying to transition from a class of 17 to a class of nearly 300, is everything. Everything is hard. That summer, I had an awful taste of how crappy people can treat one another.

We would typically get rides to and from the pool every day (except for the day we had to walk home when a floater was discovered) from my grandpa. AKA, the absolute best grandpa to ever walk this earth. Our parents worked during the day, so that meant I was in charge at the pool. One day, my youngest brother (he would have been about seven at the time) had not played by the rules that morning, so I told him that he needed to sit out of the pool for a bit once we arrived. In typical little brother/big sister fashion, he didn't like that idea and I didn't like that he didn't like it. We argued for a little while and when he tried to run away from me and into the pool, I tried to stop him by grabbing his arm. I don't recall if I succeeded or not, but it would have been over and done with just as quick as it was to type up the story. Enter the lifeguard.

The pool would break for a bit every day, and everyone had to clear out. This usually meant lines at the concession stand or trips over to the playground. I was standing over by the concession stand with my brothers and a few friends, laughing, when A High School Girl Lifeguard (who I later found out was an only child) stormed into the middle of the circle. She was pointing her fingers in my face, yelling "I heard what you did, you piece of shit. I will be calling the police and CPS on you just as soon as I get to the phone." I immediately burst into tears as I tried to ask her what I did wrong, and she alluded to the arm grabbing incident from that morning. I tried to explain the situation, but I really was so destroyed at the thought of not ever getting to see my brother(s) again, that I ran to a pay phone in the park and called for a ride home.

I told my grandpa what happened when he got there, and I really have no idea what happened when he went back in to speak to the guards, but I do not remember ever seeing him so upset.

My adult self remembers this story, and knows where my 14 year old self went wrong. At the time though, I was just trying to assert my authority and get a handle on a sibling argument, not intentionally harm my brother. All the same, those feelings of panic wash over me every time I see or hear someone joking about calling CPS on a caregiver or parent. It has happened to me probably a dozen times on Facebook: one of the crazies is learning to walk and has a nasty bruise. One of the crazies is seen in close proximity to a Bumbo chair. A picture shows off the less than graceful nature of a toddler. Your kid poses with a pirate and a parrot.

"You would really let your child that close to a parrot or a stranger?"

I can take a joke. I can snark with the best of them and my sense of humor is warped like the Enterprise. It is difficult to feel anything but panic when someone mentions calling CPS on you for normal childhood experiences if you have seen children taken from homes for not having dressers. Can we give moms a break here? Next time you think it might be a funny joke to suggest you plan to call an agency that takes children from their homes, and requires you to go through legal means to get them back, maybe you could just say, "I love how adventurous your child is!"

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