Blasted Bureaucracy

06 September 2009

Well, I'm having trouble getting pics for our last trip up. Since both our cameras are pooched, I've been using my cell phone, or dad's camera. For this past Friday's trip, I used the cell phone, and I discovered last weekend after trying to download the pics after an impromptu Saturday adventure, that my cell phone is suddenly encountering a problem communicating with my computer.

Meanwhile, I've been meaning to tell you all about a couple situations from this past week.

On the last Friday of VBS, James and I tried to get downtown to the police station to get my background check, which I apparently need for both choir and church. I say apparently because I'm not nearly convinced that in the grand scheme of it all, that these things are really worth anything. My administrator with choir tells me that really, it's for my own protection. How is that, exactly? Because if some kid accuses me of something, I just hold up my clear police check and all is well? I think not. Clear police check or not, if someone suspected me of something inappropriate, the exact same series of events would fall into place, regardless of my blightless history. Let's face it, we all know that just because you've not been caught, it doesn't mean you are innocent. How many stories have we heard, and are reported every year about that much admired hockey coach or school teacher who everyone looked up to...and suddenly late in their careers we find out that they were secretly molesting kids or running a kiddy porno ring or something. People can hide things. They can hide them really well.

Nope, what I'd like to know is, who decided that we all needed police checks to work with kids, who is benefitting financially from every $40 that comes in from the checks...and how are those two groups connected?

Anyways, the last time I had my check done, it was a matter of walking in and signing a form and waiting a couple weeks until they call you. Since 4 years ago, they've set up a whole waiting room, with ticker tape numbers and four windows that service all the people. I arrived around 10:15am, and was number 21. They were on number 14 when I sat down. By 10:30 I knew I had to get back out to the van to make it back up to the VBS for the 'final program'. So I handed my ticket to some other lucky soul and beat it out of there.

So last week I went back....with all four kids....armed with a book bag full of colouring books and crayons. I was number 45 and they were serving number 15 or there abouts. The colouring books and crayons lasted about 2 numbers and then I was chasing Afton up and down a nearby hallway. Visions of nasty passport office security guards still in my head, I shushed and hissed and plunked them back at my feet over and over again. Overall it didn't take nearly as long as I thought, maybe 45 minutes.

When we came out, we walked back to the van which I had parked a few blocks away to avoid paying a meter. Directly across from the van was a playpark which the kids had of course asked to play in when we returned. They had been fairly good in the police station so I agreed. As we came upon the park sign, I read that it was Beasley Park. This jogged my memory....I recalled that the Beasley neighbourhood was the subject of a friends photography exhibit. It had been displayed at the Freeway coffeehouse and I remembered that she reported that the Beasley neighbourhood was the poorest in all of Canada. Right here in the middle of Hamilton. And here I was about to let my kids play at the Beasley Park.

It did make me a little nervous, but it was a bright sunny day, in the middle of the afternoon, and there were not many people there; just a family of 3-4 adults watching some kids, and two young moms with 2-3 kids between them as far as I could tell. I don't know the ethnic makeup of this area, but I was surprised to realize as I walked back to van that a Native housing project was located right next to the police station. I hadn't realized there was such a strong Native presence in downtown Hamilton and suddenly I noticed that many people I was passing on the street were Native. This has no particular relevance to my story: it's just what I noticed that afternoon. I've actually been long interested in Native culture and did a few projects in highschool about Native history in Canada. I once named a fish after a character in a CBC movie about the residential schools as a teenager. The family in Beasley Park were native. One of the young moms was darker skinned, perhaps Hispanic, and the other just looked white.

Looking over the rather grungy splash pad, I instructed the kids to leave their sandals on as they played. The baby as usual, did not have any shoes on. I checked the diaper bag but only found a single sandal. As I searched, it became obvious that the two moms and the family were in the middle of a verbal sparring session. The two moms, the white one in particular were quickly becoming very angry and curses were starting to fly. My anxiety began to rise and I gauged how my kids were fielding this....they seemed to not notice. The fight rose and fell and seemed to be calming down. Remembering that there was a pair of baby sandals on the van floor, I took stock of where the kids were at and walked back over to the van, which I mentioned before was right across from the park, about a stones throw from where I had parked the stroller. It took all of 30 seconds to walk over and back, with about 10 seconds to open the door and grab the sandals.

When I returned, I sat and put the sandals on Afton and let her go to it. I was sitting on a small meandering wall that sectioned off the playpark section from the splashpad. The Native family and the two moms were at the south end; I was on the north end. I was probably 25 feet away.
I did a head check on the kids and saw that Jairus was now sitting on the wall too, about halfway between myself and the other people. He was looking dejected and I stood and called to him, asking what was wrong.

As I did this, the angry mom stood and walked over. "Is that your son?" she asked, in a slightly hostile tone. I said it was.
"Well, he grabbed my daughter and shook her", she announced. My eyes grew wide and I covered my mouth.
"She's only two you know, that's just not right", she continued in an annoyed manner. I immediately started to apologize, but she was completely uninterested in apologies. She turned around and walked back to where her girlfriend was sitting and I crouched down in front of Jairus. I asked him what he did hoping maybe he could show me with some actions, but he just sat, sad and droopy. I tried to get him to get up with me so we could find this girl and apologize but he wouldn't stand up.
Finally I picked him up, and long and heavy as he is (ok, not so heavy), I put him on my hip. I walked over to the mom and tried to start apologizing again but she was just clearly not accepting any apologies. She didn't seem all that angry, more annoyed than anything. She just kept blabbering and gesturing to the Native family, saying that she'd been having enough trouble and didn't want any more. I tried to explain that he couldn't speak, hoping to suggest that perhaps there had just been some kind of misunderstanding. She could have cared less.
You know that type? The type who has probably heard a million sorry's that mean absolutely nothing to her throughout her life. She was young, probably not yet 20, with jet-bottle-black straightened hair and dark black eye make-up against her rather pale skin. She wore low, slim fitting black jeans cinched at the ankle, as I've noticed is the new trend with teens.

I decided that despite what she was spouting off, Jairus needed to apologize. I walked a few steps towards the playpark with Jairus still on my hip and found the only white girl besides my kids. She was a big, stocky 2, with curly brown ringlets and I caught up with her at the bottom of the slide. I checked with the mom that this was indeed her kid, the only thing she co-operated with me about, and I had Jairus say sorry, which amounted to a murmur and a loose hug. The girl seemed clueless and showed absolutely no sign of such a trauma as being shaken.

We stayed another 5-10 minutes because I wasn't about to go running off with my tail between my legs. During that time, the family left and as they filed past me, looking disgruntled, I harboured a hope that one might tuck their head in my direction as they left and whisper that she'd made it up, or her kid had provoked him, or something that would exonerate Jairus. But they didn't.

When I had decided that we'd stayed enough time to look brave, I gathered the kids up and got back into the van. I questioned the girls as they buckled up whether they had seen anything. At first they said no, and then seemed to 'remember' when I asked in more detail. Sigh. I wasn't getting anywhere with that.

And so I fretted all the way home, so much that I turned into a wrong lane and got a good honking. It seemed that I was never going to truly know what had happened. While grabbing and shaking a kid is something I've seen Jairus do, it just didn't completely fit this situation. We'd only just arrived at this park, a brand new place we'd never been to before. Jairus usually takes a bit to warm up and become comfortable enough to run around a new place. And he would never approach another kid. Especially not to physically grab them....unless like in the previous instance of grabbing and shaking I can was to protect his sisters. Which if that was the case the girls would have known something about it. I just couldn't completely deny in my brain that Jairus would have done this....but I couldn't see him grabbing a little girl out of the blue either. It's made me quite nervous and watchful of him now when we are out.

It just makes my heart sad.


secondofwett said...

I don't think that Jairus shook the little girl at all...if anything he probably just gave her a little hug and kind of moved his body at the same time....I'm sure you would have heard the little girl wailing if Jairus had REALLY done anything.