But For Video: Parents Doing Stupid Things Edition

An acquaintance posted this video on social media today, asking parents for comment. Go ahead and watch it, then answer the following question:

Do the parents deserve punishment for this video? 

It’s perfectly natural for your first, visceral reaction to condemn the parents and feel horribly for the kids. On first viewing it’s hard to make it past the youngest child openly bawling, professing his innocence.

But what to do about it? Do you call for government intervention? Is your first instinct to call for the Department of Children’s Services? Many people, well intentioned parents included, saw the video and demanded the family’s local DCS hotlines get flooded until something happened.

This reaction leads me two two fundamental assumptions about those who call for DCS intervention over a stupid video:

  1. If you’re calling for DCS intervention, you’re most likely not a parent.
  2. If you’re calling for DCS intervention, you’ve most likely never interacted with DCS.

If you’re serious about the Department, Child Protective Services, or the family’s local equivalent getting involved after viewing that video, this is what you’re asking for that family:

You’re asking for a bunch of social workers, most likely flanked by police, to tell the kids to put their clothes and a few comfort items in a trash bag while the parents loudly protest their removal and tell the kids they love them. You’re asking for the kids to ride in the back of a car to a foster home together, if they’re lucky. Most likely they’ll get split up into several foster homes. Worse yet, there’s a good potential for the children as a unit to head to a group home where they will be assaulted by staff, neglected, or mistreated in some fashion.

These kids will next see their parents after Mom and Dad appear in court, flanked by attorneys that are most likely court-appointed. They will have to relive their “prank” video as evidence presented by the State that probable cause exists for the children to remain outside their home. Mom and Dad will have to submit to and pay for drug testing. Most likely, they’ll both get urine tested and hair follicle tested.

Attorneys will call the children as witnesses. The kids will have to relive the entire experience again, and this time get cross-examined over any inconsistencies in their testimony. If the family is lucky, the juvenile judge or magistrate judge will find by clear and convincing evidence the parents didn’t neglect the children or commit child abuse with their prank video.

If the judge or magistrate finds otherwise, the parents will be placed on a “permanency plan” designed by well meaning social workers to put them back on the “right” path. Steps may include weekly drug testing, maintaining a stable source of legal income, and completion of an anger management course. All of which will be paid for by the parents.

It’s going to be really hard for the parents if either of them works with or around kids, too. There’s a good shot they’ll get “indicated” for potential child abuse and placed on a registry of people who were actually found guilty by a judge of committing child abuse long before they reach trial over this video. That means when either parent goes to work, they might be out of a job. Getting off a registry like that takes substantial time, energy, and luck. And money.
Back to the permanency plan. If the Department’s workers don’t find within a year the parents have “substantially complied” with the permanency plan, there’s a good chance the Department will file to have the parents’ rights terminated. This is critical mass. At this point the State throws everything at the parents to prove them completely unfit to parent, and will pressure them into signing “surrender” documents that allow the kids to find their biological parents once they become adults.

If a judge finds by clear and convincing evidence the parents’ rights should be terminated, the family is severed forever. The kids will then be put up for adoption.

Now that you’ve read the entire hypothetical of what happens when you involve DCS, CPS, or any similar government agency, go back and reevaluate your answer to the original question.

Do the parents deserve punishment for this video? 

Not comfortable answering that? Let me rephrase the question.

Does this family deserve to be forever torn apart for this video?

The parents did something stupid and put it on the Internet. The world is already calling them vile and mean spirited. They will probably suffer social consequences for their actions. They’ve suffered enough. Destroying the entire family by calling in DCS doesn’t help.

 

Proof God Exists, Three Years Ago

I got conclusive proof three years ago God exists.  That proof came to me at 6:55 AM in a hospital in West Knoxville, the day my daughter came into the world.  I sit here with her by my side now that she’s three years old and can’t imagine a life without being a Dad.  And fatherhood makes the world a better place, as long as you’re willing to put in the time.

I still remember the day I found out I was going to have a kid.  I was in a state of surprise and total shock at the same time.  Mrs. S. and I’d talked about it, but that soon?  The day after my birthday I find out I’m going to be a Dad?  I had no idea what the hell I was going to do.  I’d represented the worst of the worst during my time in Juvenile Court.  Would I get to that point?

For some reason I remember the first thing I did on finding out I’d be a Dad was take a full day and watch “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.”  I don’t know why this was therapy for finding out I’d be a father soon.  I guess in my heart of hearts Sugar Bear was the epitome of everything I despised about all the parents I’d seen pass through the system, and I wanted to make sure that I never had a chance in hell of ending up like that.  It was strangely cathartic.

The next thing I remember were the tests.  There’s a bit of a streak in our family tree for certain genetic issues to pop up, and we wanted to at least assess the possibility of our child coming into the world with one or more of those issues.  That was a weird bit of business, going to a hospital and getting my mouth swabbed while nurses stumbled to draw blood from my wife.

Next came the classes.  Sweet Christmas the “classes,” which told you everything from the appropriate baby-wearing device of the minute right down to graphic footage of live births both naturally and via C-section.  I’ve watched some graphically violent horror films in my day; I still enjoy one on occasion when my kids aren’t around.  I can tell you I averted my eyes when the nurse putting the films on that day grinned and said “This can get a little graphic for the guys in the room.”

I remember the day the tests came back.  No issues with any of the predetermined genetic markers, though we’d resigned ourselves to love the kid no matter what if they did come up.  That was issue number one.  The second was the child’s gender.  “Do you want to know?” asked the geneticist.  “Yes,” we both exclaimed loudly.

“You’re having a girl.”

Those words made me jump up and do a victory lap around the room for some reason.  I don’t know why; two years later we’d welcome our son and that was a touch more emotional of a moment for me.  In any event, next came the “baby showers” where we’d get every gadget, gizmo, and gewgaw known to mankind for kids.  And diapers.  So many diapers, I didn’t even begin to fathom we’d need them all, and yet we certainly did.

Then came the big day.  I remember it fondly, because we’d done everything absolutely right up to that point.  Mrs. S.’s family was in town, and we’d just had lunch at a nice steakhouse next to Compound West.  She was tired, and wanted a nap.  I went to lay down on the couch and fiddle with some iPad game, when the magic words hit: “My water broke.  It’s time.”

That statement sent a bolt of lighting through my brain and kicked my adrenaline into overdrive.  I grabbed the bags, got the car ready, and off we went to the hospital of choice.  I remember most of the details of the next half-day, but I won’t go into detail here.  All I can tell you is that at 6:55 AM that day in July, I became a father to a lovely baby girl.  That moment, I knew that God existed, because when I saw her, my world changed.

I knew what it was like to see a human being I’d helped create.  I knew she would need me, and I’d always be there for her.  I knew that I’d be in for a long, probably bumpy road going forward, but I didn’t care.  I was a father at that point, and I was determined to give her the best life possible.

Today, three years later, I’d like to think I’ve got a good handle on everything Dad-related.  I can tell you right now that’s a delusion.  Every time I think I’ve got the “father figure” role sorted out, my kids give me a good dose of humility and remind me I know a lot less than I think I do.  Getting a chance to play with my kids on the weekends and weekday evenings, making them breakfast every morning, all of it’s worth every second I get.

Being a father really does make the world a better place.

Rant in D Minor.

This will have no substantive value.  It is a rant for your own pleasure and entertainment.  Right now I’m getting this shit off my chest, and I’ll use my platform to deal with it.  I call it “Adventures in Parenting With Unrepentant Fuckwits,” or “What Happens When You Make Me Go Full Gorilla At 6 PM For Stupid Shit.”

As an homage to Bill Hicks, let’s shorten it to “Rant in D Minor.”*

One reason I relish being a solo practitioner and my own boss is because I love my kids and want to be there for them when a crisis situation occurs. About 10:15 this morning one of those crises moments happened.  My wife rings my cell phone.  It’s her vet tech, and she puts me on speaker.

“Your son is running a 101.9 degree fever.  You need to go get him.”

Cursing like crazy at this point, I hop in the car and dash off to the day care.  They’ve got rules there, rules I can’t complain about for protection of children against contagious diseases, and one of them is if your kid has a fever running over 100 degrees then they have to be without fever for 24 hours, pain medication and fever reducer free.  I’m just glad it’s the son though, and not both the kids, because if it’s both then I’m getting nothing done besides telling my daughter it’s not okay to lick the television.

We get back to the house and I give my son some Motrin.  His fever goes down immediately, and I get a strong suspicion he’s teething again.  Every single time he’s cut a tooth he gets a fever, and this was no different in my head.  He ate well, took a good nap, and I got some work done until he got up (Including three, yes three posts at Fault Lines you’ll be able to read tomorrow).

When my son awakens he’s not in the best of moods, but it’s to be expected.  Temperature’s still low, though.  By dinner he’s lethargic, not willing to eat, his fever’s gone back up, and I’m starting to get worried.  My wife, who is home by this point, confirms our son is teething.  It’s not just any teething, it’s a molar, which means it’s painful as all hell for him.  Fortunately, there’s a remedy for such things, but I have to go get it from a place called “Bohemian Baby.”  It’s an all natural teething oil called “Punkin’ Butt,” and the stuff works wonders.  My wife says she can either go or I can go get it.  I opt for the latter decision because of a couple reasons.

The first is that when it gets to a certain time of night and my kids are tired, they turn into the pint sized equivalents of drunks at the bar on last call.  My daughter is the one white girl who doesn’t want to leave and is protesting loudly because she’s just downed her twelfth shot of Jager and “Pour Some Sugar On Me.”  My son is the bro who’s ready to fight anyone over anything, and protesting loudly because he just lost his last game of Beer Pong or Flip Cup.  Reason two is that “Bohemian Baby” is about two miles away,  I just ordered Chinese food, and I figure I can get the oil, be back in time for the kids to go to bed, and nothing go wrong.

I make it to “Bohemian Baby” and there’s a sign on the door that they’ve moved locations.  However there’s people inside this store, and it looks stocked.  A lady opens the door and asks what’s going on.  I ask if I can purchase a container of “Punkin Butt.”  The lady, who is lit brighter than a Christmas tree and smells as though she’s just stepped out of a Colorado dispensary, says “We have that, but like, we can’t sell it to you here.”

“Why?”

“Because this is like our online distribution store now, you know?  You want to buy it in town, you have to go to the West Town Mall location.  That’s our…what do you call it…um…yeah man…”physical location.”

I politely explain my situation and ask if I can make an “online purchase” somehow at this store.  She declines, and tells me the place to go is “Next to Sears, so you don’t have to worry about going in the whole mall, man.  I mean that’s a good thing, right?  At least I wouldn’t go near one of those mass commercialism centers.”

I thank the young lady, and turn to leave.  She says “Wait.  You’re going to want to go to the…wait…is it the first Sears entrance or the second Sears entrance?  I’m….wait….I think it’s the first Sears entrance.”  None of this exchange meant a damn thing.  There’s no telling what this stoner meant by “first” or “second” entrance, and there’s no telling even if she knows what planet she’s on.  I thank her and drive to Sears.

When I get to the entrance of Sears that leads into the mall proper, “Bohemian Baby” is nowhere to be found.  I ask at least three store owners if they’ve heard of “Bohemian Baby” and where the location is.  None of them know where this store is, if it’s open, or what it’s about.  If you know me, by this point you know it’s an exercise in restraint for me to continue keeping my cool.

One store owner, the guy running a place called “Wireless Toyz,” points to a mall cop and says “Hey man!  The Mall Dick will know where the place is!”  Thankful for finally sensing a useful function of a Paul Blart, I ask the guy where Bohemian Baby is located and if he can point me in their direction.

They’re on the other side of the fucking mall, and closing in twenty minutes.

I used to train Parkour regularly.  I do cardio regularly as a morning routine, if it’s walks, runs, cycling, or otherwise.  I can tell you with absolute certainty the next few moments consisted of me running for Bohemian Baby faster and more nimbly than David Belle’s iconic chase scene from District B-13.

I make it to the store as they’re slamming their gates shut.  My foot lands in the door of the store.

“I’m sorry sir, we’re closing.”

“No, you’re making one more sale tonight.”

I’ve been told in moments of sheer anger I’ve developed a certain penchant for a “thousand yard stare.”  It worked tonight, as the young lady planning on shutting down her shop asked what I desired most.

“One container Punkin’ Butt, please.”

“Will that be all?”

“Yes.”

“Are you a member of our rewar…”

“No.”

“Do you…”

“No.”

I hand her my card, sign off on the dotted line, and leave.  My kids are in bed asleep now, and we got our Chinese Food this evening and wine.

If I ever see that fuckwit from the “online distribution center” again, even if it’s in my office on an emergency matter, right now I’ll refer her happy ass out the door to someone else.

These are the things you do when you’re a dad.  You deal with the fuckwits of the world, and you do your best to protect your kids from them.  Soon I’ll write a post about the three kinds of Dads I’ve encountered in family law.  I just hope I do my father justice by setting an example for my kids.

*D is for Dad, in case you were still puzzled.