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Today was Supposed to be about the Red Hat

Today has been memorable. It’s my daughter’s 5th birthday. She got that special red baseball cap she wanted and she’s worn it nonstop. I’ll remember that. But unfortunately, this day of hers will always carry with it the memory of my integrity being slandered and put into question before the world by someone much bigger, and much louder than I.

Maybe you haven’t read the article in The Daily Beast featuring…me. Well, in short, it claims I made up this entire “tricky person” blog post in May 2016 to promote myself and sell a book that hadn’t been released yet (which happens to be about chores and has nothing to do with “tricky people”). If you want to read it and soak it all in, go ahead. It’s a personal, hurtful attack and I wasn’t prepared for it.

If you don’t care about knowing all the information behind this story (not just the sensationalized information that sells), just know this–I told the truth. And so did my boys. Now you’re free to go.

For those of you willing to give a mom a chance, and a voice, please read on.

The Daily Beast reporter who wrote that article contacted me at the end of last week, asking for an interview regarding the event that birthed this blog post on “tricky people.” I obliged. She concluded the interview by asking for the name of the hospital and police department involved, which I gave without hesitation.

Several days later, I was blind-sided by her phone call. She informed me that the police report and the account my boys gave do not match up.

The vague police report states: “The hospital security guard watched the video but never saw any of the three individuals make contact with the boys.”

To say I felt enraged and confused by this information is an understatement. Especially since after this incident occurred I was told by the officer that they had the footage they needed (I was horribly wrong in assuming the footage they spoke of verified my boys’ account), and that he would like to interview my boys. There were no interviews conducted–I never heard from the police department again, and because of this, I wrongly assumed (again) they had the information they needed to check into this suspicious activity rather than just close out the case.

The reporter concluded that from a third-party perspective, the fact that my boys’ account and the police report do not match up could mean one of three things– the police department dropped the ball, my sons made up the encounter, or I fabricated the event for self-promotion. She closed with something like, “It’s a good story regardless.”

I was understandably sickened at the thought of her publishing a story that would attack the integrity of my family. I did not make this encounter up, and my boys still insist (nearly a year later) that this truly did take place. They can recount what happened with consistent detail and with emotion. It scared them. And I believe they told the truth.

So with only a few days before the article was to be published, I knew I had to find answers as to why there was a discrepancy between their story and the police report. And in all, I’ve spent the better half of two straight days talking with a Captain in the police force (three times, might I add), obtaining and studying the actual police report, crying as I told of my plight in the office of the hospital’s Risk Management employee (yes, it was embarrassing), and speaking with the ER department’s security in hopes I could find something to diffuse the reporter’s claim that this was all a hoax.

Here’s what I’ve learned over the last 48 hours from the police report itself:

I learned that the officer I reported the incident to never viewed the hospital surveillance footage himself, nor retained it as evidence for later review.

I learned the only people who watched the video surveillance were hospital security guards who in turn, reported what they saw to the officer.

I learned the hospital security guards also emailed screenshots from the footage of individuals who matched the description my boys gave.

Here’s what I learned in the last 48 hours from the hospital staff:

One of the hospital security guards who viewed the surveillance video, provided Risk Management with information stating he watched footage of a boy that got out of his seat in the waiting room and walked toward these “tricky people (who were near the bathroom), then quickly turned around and returned to his seat. Never actually encountering the individuals. (Thus, the one-liner in the police report that took us down.)

Here’s what I’ve learned from speaking with the captain at the police department:

The footage the hospital security guards are referring to in the vague statement in which “they never saw any of the three individuals make contact with the boys” was roughly a 15-minute piece of surveillance of the individuals in question inside the ER waiting room.

And here’s what I personally knew then and still affirm:

The officer never came to interview my sons.

My boys were never inside the ER waiting room. They waited the entire forty minutes OUTSIDE on the cement bench at the ER entrance, scared to move because I told them the neighbor would be there to pick them up any minute. My original police report confirms that I said I left them on the bench outside the ER doors.

If you take in the all of the information above, only one thing is clear and that is…there are a million ways they could be interpreted.

One, would be to quickly assume like the reporter, that the fifteen-minute footage the hospital security guard watched actually contained my child and therefore suggest I made up the whole thing. (It’s pretty tough to identify someone you’ve never met before, and especially hard when they and I have insisted all along that they were outside, not inside the ER waiting room where the viewed footage was recorded.)

There are a host of others assumptions–make your own.

But in all our assuming and personal interpretation of the above information could we also assume that perhaps my kids were telling the truth? That perhaps they really were approached by these individuals who made them feel uncomfortable and deny their request? That perhaps the reason they weren’t contacted by these individuals in the video was because they were outside on the bench and nobody viewed that footage?

Unfortunately for me, all video evidence of this event is gone. Long gone. So we’ll never be able to definitively affirm nor deny that this “tricky person” encounter took place.

The lesson here is assumptions (by me, officers, hospital security guards, and reporters) are just down right problematic. And misleading. And because there was an abundance of assumptions (I include myself in this list), poor follow through, and no verifying that the viewed footage was of the correct children, I’ve taken the media fall for it all.

While the above information I gathered is too late to stop this reporter from dragging my name in the mud, it’s not too late to possibly prevent it from happening again. The captain at the police station I’ve been working with took my emotional phone call yesterday in which I discussed what I believed to be holes in how this situation was handled and stated. He promised to take a closer look at this case. He followed through.

In our phone call today, he stated that he’s since gathered additional information that will be added as a supplement to the original police report. Even still, with all video surveillance gone, none of the information can definitively confirm, nor deny that these individuals approached my children. And probably more importantly than that, people will continue to interpret this event however it best serves them.

My whole purpose in writing this is not to point fingers. Truly. I made the first and biggest mistake of all by leaving my boys outside, unattended. It’s simply to point out that there is information missing in all of this, and as such, any outright assumptions that I clearly made the whole thing up need to be questioned, not rallied behind.

So. After careful, thoughtful, tearful, and even prayerful consideration of what has been blasted about my integrity in relation this “tricky person” account, I continue to assert what I’ve asserted all along–my boys were approached by these people. Outside. On the bench. Where they were sitting.

Their story hasn’t changed.

Though I’m thankful this report made me aware of the discrepancy so I could do what I could to address it (nearly a year later when there’s no longer video evidence), I’m really saddened that the focus of this “tricky person” post has been shifted from how to help keep your kids safe, to how a mom may have lied about it all to sell a non-related book.

But, as with anything crappy that life throws at you, there are always lessons to be learned and passed on to our kids. In the last three days, however, I feel like I’ve learned so many lessons that I hardly know where to start teaching.

I guess I could start with the lesson that assumptions are incredibly problematic.

Or, when someone attacks you, bite your tongue and take the higher road.

Or, whenever there is light and goodness, opposition is sure to follow.

Or, probably the most obvious lesson for the day–when you’re up against giants (high-powered media) you’re likely going to lose, but don’t let that stop you from doing what you know is right.

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