A week ago today the body of a 2-year-old little boy was found in a shallow grave in South Austin, which is about 20 or so miles from my house. His family lives in a suburb right next door to mine North of Austin, so when the pictures of his bruised body started going around Facebook saying he was missing, I paid attention.
It’s been 7 days and some of the facts about his last days have come to light and the fact that his mother was raised by drug addicts, molested by her father and taken into the foster care system at 13 have all come out. According to the police report Meagan said the baby hit his head on an AC unit and then wasn’t acting normal. He had a seizure and then she tried putting ice on his head to nurse him back to health because she was scared if she took him to the hospital that CPS would take him away from her. There had been a lot of CPS reports on her in the months leading up to the death of this child. When she woke up the next day, the baby was dead and that is when they went to bury him.
I’m not linking any of the news reports, because my point of this blog isn’t to sensationalize the death of a child or to give anyone mental pictures of the suffering death of a 2-year-old. If you want to find the news reports you can Google Meagan Work, Austin TX and they will pop right up.
I have wrestled with my feelings about this case all week. When the story first broke, I gave the mom the benefit of the doubt that maybe she didn’t have anything to do with his death or whatever. I looked at all her posts on Facebook before it was taken down and I couldn’t wrap my mind around how someone goes from taking selfies with her baby and planning his birthday party to burying his body in the woods in a shallow grave.
The more that comes out the more that I wrestle with it. When Andrea Yates killed her kids it was easy for me. I hated her guts. I wanted her to get the death penalty and fry for what she did to her babies. I don’t even think about how I feel about her now that I’m Catholic. But the case of Colton Turner has me twisted because on the one hand I can’t understand how a mom could just watch her child die and do nothing but worry about herself getting in trouble. On the other, I can’t hate her guts.
This morning as I was thinking about it and about this new trend in young motherhood of posting tons of pictures of their children on Instagram and Facebook but not wanting to actually care for them, it dawned on me that Meagan didn’t have the one thing that I had as a young mother. I had a grandmother who knocked the crap out of me when I walked into a house with my baby on my hip in the dead of winter without a hat on his head or a jacket and socks on. I’ll never forget it. My aunt took the baby and then my grandmother started whacking me and telling me how stupid it was that I didn’t have the baby covered, with socks, a jacket and a hat on. That he was going to get sick and it was going to be my fault. She sure was right, he got a cold a few days later and when that happened my mother taught me how to nurse him and when he got a fever she told me to take him to the doctor. My mother, grandmother and aunts all taught me how to care for my children. How to care for myself when I was pregnant and how to know when to take my child(ren) to the doctor. I watched them raise my cousins, cook dinner, and mother us. They were my examples on how to be a mother. They were not perfect, I’ve been spanked and whipped in ways that most people would consider child abuse and it didn’t even do any good, but they still taught me how to take care of my kids. I don’t take much of their advice on discipline, for many reasons, but when it comes to my children being dressed, fed, and nursed, I sure do. If I am a good mother, it is because I was taught by a tribe of mothers; the leader of that tribe being an old Mesican grandmother who wasn’t perfect, but who didn’t hesitate to tell you how the cow eats the cabbage and whack you when your child is half-naked and it’s snowing outside.
When people ask me why I wanted to start a non-profit, I really didn’t have an answer. It’s something that has always been a dream of mine. It’s morphed from a maternity home to a home for victims of domestic violence to a counseling house for teen parents, to all kinds of things. It was only after reading the story of Dorothy Day did I see that I just wanted a house for people to come to. A home. The case of Meagan Work has only hammered this vision into my head. There are so many people walking around in this world who have no concept of what a home is. Who have no woman whacking them to understand how to take care of their children. That taking pictures of them in cute clothes and plastering them all over the interwebs isn’t mothering. Mothering is cleaning their boogers, changing their diapers, taking them to the doctor when things don’t seem right, putting clothes on them when a cold front comes in so that they don’t get cold throughout the night, cleaning their poop messes at friends’ homes, and so much more. Being a mother means putting this little life before your own.
I understand why this mother was scared of having her child taken away from her, she was taken from her mother and who knows what happened to her in the foster care system. I’ve heard horror stories, and who even knows, but I can imagine that it is possible she just didn’t want her child to go into that system. She had no mother, no one to love her and teach her how to love. How tragic is that?
I want to spend my days loving people. Not asking anything from them, but just giving of myself. Giving them lessons that I’ve learned, letting them see the wonders of reading good books, to see that there is a world full of hope for them and it is possible to make it out of where they are and grasp on to that hope. To get therapy so they can start to look at their wounds and heal them so that the cycle of dysfunction is broken. To give them a place with family so they don’t go look for it in a gang or look to a pimp to protect them. A lot of people don’t get how anyone can do these things, but I can. When you never have anyone defend you in your life, it feels good to have someone do so, even if they abuse you. It’s better than being abused and not being defended. I want to defend them, feed them, help them, be there for them, and not abuse them, but help them heal from the wounds of abuse. Maybe I can help just one mother learn what I learned from my tribe of mothers so that she doesn’t think that a pack of ice will heal a head injury because she fears the worst for her child and death being the worst doesn’t cross her mind.
We have a generation of people growing up with no clue how to parent their children and that just continues an ugly cycle. I want to offer them a Red Door to walk through where that cycle begins to be broken.
I chose Red in honor of the Holy Spirit Who had never left my side, Who walks with me all day long and Who has always led me to where God the Father wants me to be. Who raised my Lord, Jesus Christ, and opened the door to heaven for me. The Holy Spirit is a gangsta. He gives us the power to open the door when Christ knocks on it.
** If you would like to get updates on my Red Door Foundation you can “like” my page on Facebook and if you feel like you would like to help me with the start-up funding, you can go to our GoFundMe page. Every bit helps.