Hax: Calling authorities is right thing to do

The Washington PostOctober 23, 2013 

Dear Carolyn: I live in a complex that has a lot of families in it. There are always kids playing outside, but I rarely see parents.

This past weekend, I finally met one of the parents. I’ve seen as many as seven children on her porch, and I don’t know how many live in her house, but I’d say at least three. She came outside with her boy, calling him names, cursing at him.

It didn’t take long for me to realize she was completely wasted at 10 a.m. on a Saturday, with slurred language, hitting on my husband, giving us hugs, trying to get in the car with us … it was bad.

What do I do? My heart aches every time I see one of those children. Is this something you call the authorities for?

NEIGHBOR

When it’s that bad, yes, it is.

I realize there is a sense of crossing a Rubicon when calling the police or child-protective services on a parent — of putting them in “the system,” of possibly doing more harm than good. At the same time, if these kids are in crisis, then it’s every witness’ duty to speak up.

That’s why I recommend Childhelp so often in this space. It’s a nonprofit dedicated to the prevention of child abuse, and it has a hotline — 1-800-4-A-CHILD — that you can call when you’re in the grip of oh-this-is-awful-what-on-earth-do-I-do paralysis.

Dear Carolyn: I was married to an abusive alcoholic for 23 years; it took great courage to leave him under threats. My daughter wants to forgive her dad and forget, and for me to do the same. I can’t bear being around my ex at the grandkids’ birthday parties, and so I miss them. I feel like a terrible grandma but can’t stuff my feelings and go. Is there a solution?

D.

Yes, and you’ve come to most of it on your own: You tend to your own well-being as you need to. That includes forgiving your ex’s weakness, if it would help — and forgiving your daughter for wanting or needing to forget. As for the parties: Skip the ones you must. The time you spend with your grandkids between the birthdays, the plain old days, arguably mean even more.

Email tellme@washpost.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

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