Yes, this story has been done to the death in the weblog world, but it is a story that has invaded my sleep.
The young woman who beat her child in a Kohl's parking lot has finally spoken about the ordeal. I was hoping she would have said "yes, I beat my child, I need to take some parenting classes and learn some anger management skills in order to become a better mother to my child."
Instead, she said "Somebody's been judge, jury and executioner of my child for a mistake I made," which are probably words that her attorney told her to say.
She is right, though. Just not in the manner she thinks she is right. Madelyne Toogood is the one who has become "judge, jury and executioner" for her child. Whether she readily admits it or not, she has sentenced her daughter to a lifetime of psychological damage, which is much more lasting than any physical damage she inflicted on the four year old.
Toogood then said ""A mistake I made happened, I'm not trying to, I apologize for it, there's nothing more I can do than that...But my child shouldn't pay for a mistake I made, and that is what she's doing."
But of course, Ms. Toogood, your child should not pay for your mistakes. But that is not the fault of the police or the media or Child Protective Services. Your daughter will be paying for a long time.
There is damning evidence on the videotape that proves Toogood did not react instantaneously to something her daughter said and did. It's in the way the mother looks around before she puts the child in the car. She looks to see if anyone is watching. And then she begins beating the girl. I can imagine the scenario; something took place in the store that pissed the mother off. Perhaps it was the fact that Kohl's would not let her return the items she came in to return. Then the daughter either dragged her feet leaving the store or whined about something and the mother said "I'm going to beat the shit out of you when we get to the car." Trust me, it is a real possibility that that is precisely how it happened.
The mother looked around. She looked for witnesses. You can see it in her body language. And then she turned and beat the child. When she finished, she strapped the girl into her car seat and beat her again.
The little girl will indeed pay for her mother's mistake. She will flinch every time her mother makes a physical move towards her. She will cower in fear when her mother is angry. She will walk on eggshells around her mother in order to not provoke her into another rage. These are lasting effects that create scars much deeper than any punch to the face will.
As a mother, I understand parental rage. I understand that primal anger that takes hold when your kids do something that pisses you off, especially if your day is not going well. I openly admit I understand the urge to take your child and slam them against a wall.
For most of us, that urge is instant and fleeting. It comes and leaves in a flash, before you attempt to act on it. The rational part of your mind takes over and you tackle the situation in another manner. Much later, probably when you are laying in bed because you can't sleep, you chastise yourself for ever feeling such anger towards your child. You lose sleep over the fact that you even thought about harming your kid.
I have never hit my children out of anger. I know what it is like to be on the receiving end of misplaced rage. I have felt the buckle of a belt land on my back, I have felt the sting of wooden spoons and wire hangers, I have felt the despair of my mother's fist landing a hard punch to my head. I swore to myself, even back then when I was quite young, that once I had children I would never hit them out of anger, I would never use household objects to teach them a lesson.
Not everyone has that rational part of the brain that can stop them in action when they are about to do something wrong. Some people are impulsive, they naturally react to bad situations with physical violence, be it throwing a batting helmet into the dugout or kicking a vending machine or beating a child. Not everyone has complete control over their emotions.
But there is a difference between wanting to strike your child because of something that child did and wanting to strike your child because you are in a bad mood and need a convenient, defenseless target.
When asked by reporters exactly what caused [Toogood] to become upset enough to strike her child, she declined to answer....I was upset, nothing in particular, my mistake.."
She was upset. Nothing in particular. She was just in a bad mood and decided to take it out on a four year old. Her own child. Perhaps it is wrong of me, but I might have reacted differently if Toogood said "my daughter was throwing a tantrum in the store and I got pissed off," or something similar to that. No, it wouldn't justify what she did in any way, shape or form. But at least then, I could say to myself, that woman needs help, she does not know how to react to a misbehaving child. That's not the case, though. She took her anger at something else out on that girl. She was re-directing her rage at another human being. She needs more than parenting classes, more than supervised visits and psychological treatment. She needs to be shown that her actions will have a lasting effect on her daughter. Not because of the media or the police or any judge. It will be because of her.
That little girl had no idea what she did wrong. She had no clue why her mother was doing that to her. She will think up a thousand reasons why she deserved that beating because, in the mind of a four year old, your mother does not hit you like that without a good reason. If this is to happen again, she will learn to fear her own mother. She will learn to behave differently around her. She will learn how to be timid and shy and spend a good part of her day shrinking into a corner so as not to upset anyone.
Toogood first needs to accept the fact that no one is to blame but herself. She needs to accept the fact that this was not a simple "mistake," but a crime with both physical and emotional bruises attached to it. It is nobody else's fault but her own that her daughter is not living with her at the moment.
Toogood stated that there were at least 50 family members that they could have placed her daughter with, instead of with strangers. But those 50 family members are the ones who shielded Toogood from the police. They refused to cooperate. They sheltered her and made excuses for her. It makes me wonder how many other times they excused her behavior or rationalized it or even worse, thought of it as acceptable.
We'll never know what went on in the Toogood household before that day. The really sad thing is, there are thousands upon thousands of households just like that, where every day children are being beaten into submission, where parents are destroying the lives of their own kids and they will grow up thinking that beating a child is normal behavior. The odds are pretty good that they will grow up to do the same to their own children.
Madelyne Toogood is just one of many parents who treat their children like punching bags. What's the answer? What's my conclusion to all this? I don't know. Just like the cycle of violence that permeates some families, this rant has no end. It continues in my head every day.