If I Didn't Inherently Know, Now I know
I found a bag of crushed crackers and a second plastic bag containing plain cooked pasta on the floor at the school playground upon arrival. I looked around to find the culprit but was sure they had already left. I spotted a middle aged woman, walked a few steps toward her and said " is this your trash?" with a nasty twisted look on my face. She replied "no I would never do that, it was the woman who left a few minutes earlier". I walked the 20 feet to the trash and threw out the plastic bags filled with snacks that could have killed my daughter had she gotten to them before I did. The woman approached me, eager to socialize, and said "I usually go to the park in XYZ (which has a very high religious population) and if you had ever approached any of the people there they would tell you to mind your own business. I laughed and replied "girlfriend, nobody tells me to mind my own business, this is where we play and I care that it is safe and maintained for local kids to play here" "secondly, god forbid my daughter had an allergic reaction because that woman feels she is better than everyone else, she might never see the light of day again". Yes, I kinda made a threat but it wasn't direct. There was a scared and upset mother behind those threats who's child's life flashed before her eyes.
She sensed my sarcasm and wit and we continued to talk and chat. The little kids she nannied for were 3 and 5 and she mentioned she had been with them for a while. The girl then hit the boy for no reason. She said to her "don't hit him, you know that upsets me." I thought nothing of what she said, because frankly hitting upsets me too, and like everyone who has a conscience. I stepped in, only because the little girl had connected with me and was chatting me up, and said "sweetie we only use our hands for hugging or high fiving others, do we use them to hurt our brother or our friends?" she quickly said "No" and gave him a hug. All five of the kids ran off playing (Jagger Quasi Modo crawled over with them) and we continued to talk. This woman was lovely, we got personal and she told me many of the horrors she has witnessed being a nanny. My jaw was nearly on the floor for most of the conversation. She mentioned that if the kids get out of hand or give her a hard time she just talks to them and shows them more love, she said the little girl was "damaged" by a previous nanny. I asked what she meant, she said the babysitter before her used to hit them. Did she really just say that. A person who'm these young kids parents hired to love on their kids and keep them safe while they were working beat their children. NO. JUST. NO. I couldn't believe what she was telling me and she went further in telling me that it happens more than I could imagine with the physical abuse coming from both parents and nanny's. We talked about how damaging hitting children is. She also told me a story of how she discovered two of the kids she was nannying for were being sexual abused by their father. The weight of this conversation is intense. I'm sorry for a minor buzz kill, but I want to share this with you.
Then she said "why do you think I am wearing sun glasses?" I was confused and was looking for her to finish what she was going to say. "My husband used to beat me back in Guyana, so I left him after 17 years of abuse and came here with my daughter." She proceeded to tell me that he would beat on her so badly in the face that her eyes are "crooked" which is why she wears the glasses. My heart went into my ass, I could never imagine being under a roof where the person who I trusted and vowed to love the rest of my life would use me as a punching bag. She continued to say that in Guyana the men often cheat, which was what he was doing, and if she questioned him she would get her ass kicked. I said to her "thank god you got out" she said "your right or I would have died if I stayed." A chill went through my bones. She then went back to telling me that if you hit your kids, they'll hit their wives and husbands, and their kids too. She said physical abuse was so ingrained in the culture in Guyana that women just accept that getting married and finding a mate comes with extreme physical, mental, and sexual abuse. At this point I was literally horrified. My kids were hungry and hers were done with the playground. We exchanged numbers and parted ways.
I have not stopped thinking about her and her story. How was she able to get out, how was she able to come here and start all over? Do nannies really beat on the kids they watch? How could a father ever ever ever touch his own children (boy and girl) like that? Literally in a 30 minute conversation my eyes were opened to the horrors this woman experienced and witnessed in her short life. I thought all afternoon about how I grew up. No one ever hit me, I was safe, I was loved, I had everything I needed and I was the apple of my parents eyes. I have never hit my kids, and I never would hit my kids. I can see how a child's delicate spirit could be broken with a raise of the hand. I know that you can raise a wonderful respectful child without ever hitting him/her. But some people don't. They think obedience and respect need to be "swatted" or "popped" (common words I hear being used to describe physical abuse by parents) into their little bodies. Here it is, right in front of me, the damage of physical abuse from a loved one. She told me " I hate men". I can only assume that the love and trust between you and your partner never could exist for her because her own husband betrayed her so deeply. All this woman knew was physical abuse, clearly this is something she probably witnessed as a child herself between her parents, I am assuming that based on the way she explained their culture in Guyana. Culture; hitting your spouse and your children are part of her culture. But it wasn't going to be the ending to her story and I am thankful to have met such a wonderful beautiful strong woman who shared a little of her life with me. She very clearly showed me from her own experience how damaging physical abuse is, yes its called physical abuse when you "swat" "pop" "beat" "whack" " smack" or "hit" your children whether you feel it is or not. Any time you hit your child or use something else to cause harm or fear into your child is abuse.
My head is everywhere tonight. I am happy to have a place such as this to be able to share my experiences and my feelings. Writing them down helps me to digest encounters with others. My entire life I have always been a person people flock to, especially in times of need. I love helping other people, I love being a sounding board for them, I enjoy helping process feelings and being there to guide others. Its just who I am and who I was born to be according to the moon and the stars. I would be lying if I said it isn't exhausting, it isn't emotionally taxing. I carry these stories with me and I have to process them and tuck them away deep where they need to go. Thanks for letting me share this with you.
Side note: She told me she was Hindu, and I could see that she had a nose ring. I asked her if she had any advice for my nose creature, to my surprise she did :).