Saturday, September 08, 2007

Happy Birthday Mother!


Anonymous said...

The painting of our MOTHER Mary prompted me to use this post as an opportunity to address a concern about a mother in my neighborhood. This seemed like it could be a place to ask for answers to some sad questions. I am truly confused about what to do.

A family moved in across the street from us about a year ago. We live in a neighborhood where residents are well educated, conservative, financially stable, and mostly Catholic. People here generally don't demonstrate severe emotional outbursts.

There are four children in the family and they attend parochial school. The parents seem unstable, though they look normal.
The father isn't home alot (I think he travels for his work), but when he is at home he often seems angry much of the time and yells at the children, once in awhile even swearing at them. They have many, many pets (inc. 5 large unruly dogs) which they do not seem to know how to care for, and which they do not appear to like. From the yelling we hear, it's clear the animals are a source of frustration to the adults.

The family stays to itself, not getting acquainted with any neighbors. Other people never come to their home and they don't often leave the house. I haven't noticed the children having friends over.

The mother seems to be very angry and has regular screaming fits with threatening overtones. Yesterday she outdid herself. I was doing yardwork and she burst out of her back door, where I could hear her verbally attacking their youngest child whose age I estimate to be 7 or 8. It seemed he had gone out into the breezeway when he was supposed to be indoors. I could not see them beause of privacy barricades. She yelled abusive remarks at the boy in a tone of hatred, which was alarming, and he cried, then I heard alot of thumping and bumping but don't know what the cause of it was. She told the child to go inside and went with him, slamming the back door hard, then I heard thumping from inside the house, louder and louder out-of-control screaming by the mother, through closed doors and windows, and sounds of glass shattering 3 or 4 times. Over the next five or ten minutes the screaming came from several places in the house, indicating there was a wide-ranging rampage going on.

I was absolutely horrified, but did nothing as my response to sudden shocks has always been to get sort of be paralyzed, not knowing what to do. My options were several - had I gone over to intervene, I knew this would make the mother even angrier and she would take out her wrath on the children under the assumption that "they got her in trouble". Another choice would be to call Children's Services - but like most people I've heard the terrible stories about the trauma of children who are taken into custody, given to foster parents where they are further abused, and separated from their siblings who are the only comfort they know.
Calling the police could possibly
end up with the same consequences as the above two options. I honestly did not and do not know what to do.

Perhaps in some neighborhoods this behavior would pass as normal, but I am not used to it, so it sounded frightening and ominous to me. The mother was clearly out of control, for reasons unknown to me. Her 7 or 8 yr old child being outside the house did not seem like a much provocation for her total meltdown.

When this happens I don't know if the children are used to it themselves and brush it off, like, "There goes Mom again, run for the hills!" or if it means that the parent's mental problem will escalate to serious physical harm to the child, or what. I have no experience with this and do not understand what it really means. The incidents of the mother's bad temper and loss of control are horrifying to me, but do children in a situation like this develop callouses on their emotions and somehow dissociate from it or know when to hide or defuse the situation?

Is there a way that a pastor or a Catholic agency deals with such parents? I know there's something called Catholic Social Services but I think they deal with things like food and shelter. Am not sure.

Some of my friends have said, "Mind your own business. Stay out of it." I don't know if I'm over-reacting to the situation or if it sounds worse than it is?

I keep worrying about these people, as it is impossible not to with them directly across the street. I have never meddled in others' business before and do not in any way have a desire to. But I keep worrying about the children, and yes, the pets too.

Any suggestions would be welcome.
I already commend the family to the loving care of our Blessed Mother.

Anonymous said...


As a school counselor who is, sadly, used to hearing of and seeing such displays, I would encourage you to prayerfully make the report to Children's Protective Services. In my state, it is called DHS. You may be the only one who intervenes for these children. Regardless of what the children's take is on this abuse, it affects their entire future. Although hesitant to say it, it may impact their coming to an untimely demise. Domestic violence has a profound impact on the emotional health of all involved. Who knows what happens behind closed doors?

When I must make such a report, I pray first that the Lord will send a Christian, with a heart of love, to protect his child. I pray to the child's guardian angel. Then, I put it in God's hands through the appropriate agency.

Once, I felt fairly certain that a child's life was in imminent danger and needed to be removed from the home for protection. I prayed before I called the Police (which is required in my state to remove a child from his or her home). The officer who responded was as gentle as any one would hope to find, even clad in full uniform and weapons. Calm voice, assuring demeanor...I thanked God for sending this angel of a man.

The officer and I told each other we thought we had met before. Unsure of the circumstance, we just let it go.

When I went to RCIA that evening, that police officer (now in plain clothes) and I recognized one another in that setting. We had had no idea of one another's professions. As our eyes met, there was instant recognition. He and I were both attending the class, to become in full communion with the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church! I can't tell you how that felt!

Indeed, the Lord works in mysterious ways. I found you through a link from Danielle Bean's (Catholic mom) blog. She referred to your blog on Confession. I enjoyed it so much that I started reading past posts and found this one.

God is the one who has given you a concern for this family. Please help their "angel." I am praying for your strength and wisdom.

Peace be with you,