So, I was scrambling to get some work finished since it was the last day of school for all the kids and I wanted to have everything done so we could celebrate and enjoy our evening and weekend together. Because it was the last week of school, and there had been class parties and such, I had let some housework go, with plans to get caught up over the weekend.
And then I noticed I had a voice mail on my cell phone. The phone had not signaled me that I had gotten a call, so I checked the voice mail. It was a woman from our county's Department of Family and Children's Services. When she mentioned she needed me to call her right back, I naturally figured she wanted to talk with me to get information that would be helpful with another child's case--possibly one of the kids in the neighborhood or something.
I never expected to hear what she said when I returned her call. "Mrs. Hendrix, there has been a complaint filed against you and I need to come to your house as soon as possible." Time stopped. I was horrified and shocked. I couldn't imagine anything that could have prompted anyone to file a complaint against me. She offered to come the following Tuesday after the Memorial Day Weekend break, but my heart and mind couldn't handle that long of a wait to get things resolved. I asked her to come out that day. Her tone and her words sounded like I had already been accused even though I had not had a chance to find out (because she couldn't discuss it over the phone) what I had even been accused of doing.
She came out that day and said, "a complaint has been made about how you handle food in your home." What???
This went from being frightening to being really odd. She went on to explain, "We were told that you put food on certain shelves with your children's names on them, and if your children don't do their chores, they don't get any food. We were also told that you no longer cook meals for your children for dinner." All of a sudden, this was starting to make a little more sense...and when it sounded like this, it DID sound awful. So I simply told her what I could imagine happened:
"This came to you from Macey, right?"
"And she mentioned to someone that we have given each of the kids a shelf with snacks (food) on it and we put the food onto the shelves each week and they're only allowed to have those replenished once a week, right?"
"That's what we were told."
"And Macey said that I don't 'cook' dinner much anymore, correct?"
I then went on to show her our two refrigerator/freezers full of food, plus two pantries full of even more food--and this was on the last day of the work week, meaning we would be grocery shopping the next day. I showed her the shelves with the kids names on them, and I explained that we put sugary treats, snack cakes, and the like on those shelves each week so that the kids have access to their own treats. We explained that this became necessary because Macey didn't understand that it was unhealthy to eat an entire box of Little Debbie snack cakes in one day-not to mention it was inconsiderate to take them all and not share with her brother and sister. This was an attempt, which has actually worked pretty well, to teach her to respect other people and their boundaries in addition to expecting others to respect hers.
I went on to tell her that they had plenty of other healthy snacks in the refrigerator and in the pantry (which she saw for herself), but that these shelves were specifically for things for which a parent wouldn't want their child to have an unlimited access.
I explained that we were teaching our children that since we're all part of the same team, we need to help each other out with household chores, so if they didn't help out with their chores, there was a good chance someone else (the grocery shopper) might not get to purchase those extra things each week since he/she would have to spend that time taking care of someone else's unmet responsibility.
As for cooking, Macey was right. I don't do a whole lot of "get the pots and pans out and make a whole dinner from scratch" anymore like I did years ago. This is a season in our lives that makes that nearly impossible. As the girls entered high school and middle school and nights became filled up with band practice, karate, Church 4 Chicks, etc, I chose to do less cooking and more warming up, or purchasing dinner. We eat dinner, of course, but I was doing less "cooking."
The case worker changed her tone completely, and explained that as she spoke with my other children, what they said lined up perfectly with what I was telling her. She also said, "Macey really needs to understand how big of a deal this is..." When this whole uncomfortable and even embarrassing ordeal was dealt with and put behind us, the real journey to discovering what was really going on with Macey was just beginning. I'm so thankful that my Heavenly Father knew all along, and knew just how to lead us to a better understanding of this precious and wonderful child that He created just the way He wanted her to be...
To be continued...