Saturday, 15 September 2012

Parenting, prejudice, and tough love

Update: When I first posted this entry, the photo was fairly new. I searched Facebook and discovered the person's name was there and had the same profile picture as the photo. She was friends with the person who replied and that profile picture also matched. I couldn't find the matching status but her profile wasn't set to public and, if I had a status making the rounds on Facebook (in not a positive manner) I'd have deleted it too. Then I found a non-grainy photo of the status, it looked real. I searched Google for final confirmation and found about 3 or 4 entries under her name. An Etsy, Twitter, and a MyLife account. I think there might have been one more. I couldn't find the age of her son but did confirm she was a mother. I didn't tag her in this blog as I was writing more to discuss my feelings on what was written and not the author of the status, but I didn't see the point in removing names and photos from the picture.

Several days ago I posted a link to this entry on a forum I frequent. That day the woman who set up the forum posted the picture on her own blog, Regretsy. Yesterday someone came onto the forum to claim the person was her niece and had been framed; she also posted a reply on my blog. I sent her a message asking her for more information but heard nothing. Thankfully Helen, the pseudonym of the woman running Regresty, was able to talk to the person who supposedly wrote this status. Her son is three years old, no where near old enough to walk home on his own with anyone. She hadn't written it.

Now comes the scary part. Within a half-hour of my blog entry, someone had already created a Facebook page, "[name]: Homophobe and Child Abuser?" with people sending her messages and threatening violence. And, remember I said I found three or four entries under her name? Google now brings up 17,500 results. Many of which show up as "Let's draw some more attention to [name] and her friend, [name]. ... How absolutely disgusting and disgraceful, thank you, [name] and [friend's name] ..." Page after page of identical listings. I got up to the 16th page before I found an entry that didn't have anything to do with her (one of those "Did you go to school with anyone named [first name] or [last name]? Find your friend here" entries). Note that wasn't where the entries against her ended, it was just where it stopped being all her. There are many pages beyond that.

I removed the reply to this post as it mentioned her by name. I have also removed her name from the picture and from my blog. I'm keeping my blog entry up but please keep in mind the photo is fictional. And, if you have written a blog about this photo and the women involved in it, please un-tag them and remove their names. They've had enough negative attention and would like to fade out of the public eye.


I have seen this picture on Facebook several times since last night and each time it makes my heart heavy. Here's a mother determined to stamp out what should be nurtured in her child; kindness, open-mindedness, and empathy. It makes me want to give both those kids hugs. Both deserve to be able to walk home with their neighbour without threats of violence.

Her friend's comment about tough love baffles me. Obviously this person has no idea what tough love is. Tough love is allowing your teenager to deal with the consequences of their actions. They do something wrong and you do not step in to fix things for them, hoping that the results will show them in a way lectures won't. Tough love involves stepping back, you are not the consequences and you don't deal the consequences. It is not an excuse to violently pass your prejudices onto your children.

The other part that confuses me is their ages. How old are they? If they're prepubescent children then how does she know this boy is gay? Is she assuming because of interests or personality? My son was uniformly described as "sweet" when he was a child. He used to bring his baby doll to school and loved the colour pink. He's 15 years old now and hanging out with his girlfriend as I type. You can't judge kids (anyone for that matter) based on stereotypes. And, if they're old enough for this kid to have actually come out, then why on earth is she spanking her son? If she is putting her hand on her teenage son's backside, I hope someone from child protective services is investigating this family.

One proud moment in my life came one afternoon when my daughter got home from school. This was back when she was in grade eight and, for some unknown reason, the school decided it would be fun to invite all the boys and girls in the senior classes to stay at school for a sleepover. It was going to be heavily supervised and my daughter was eager to attend. All the kids were talking about it. That afternoon, however, my daughter was angry. Sarah*, a classmate of hers, had confided in one of her friends that she was bisexual. On the bus ride that morning, the friend had spread that information around. Her excuse was that she felt everyone should know before the sleepover. And, of course, that information spread within minutes of the buses arrival. Daughter got to school in time to hear a group of her classmates loudly proclaim that there was no way they'd sleep anywhere near Sarah. That was when my daughter walked up to her and told Sarah that she could put her sleeping bag beside daughter's bag. She wasn't going to spend the sleepover alone.

Anyone who's had a preteen/young teen girl knows what these years are like. Sleepover central. Two days later my daughter got an invitation to go for a sleepover at Sarah's house. What does a parent do? In my home, I request to go and visit the parents. I spoke to the Mom and got a general idea of what their home was like. Squalid and disorganized but I didn't see anything that would actively harm daughter and hoped maybe the rampant messiness would be an eye opener to prod her into cleaning her own room (it wasn't). They slept over at each other's homes a few times before Sarah moved.

I allowed daughter to deal with the consequences of her actions, with support and praise from me. If you stand up for someone in front of bullies you paint a target on your shirt. Daughter learned this as vandalism of school property (namely graffiti against Sarah) quickly occurred and was blamed on daughter by the same girls who had refused to sleep near Sarah in the first place. What did daughter learn from her actions? She has about three friends now who are "out" (I'm sure she will tell me the exact number once she reads my blog) so I figure one thing was standing up for friends and supporting them.

This woman too has learned one thing from her actions, her page is no longer totally public since her status went viral (her friend, on the other hand, seems to have missed this lesson). I can only hope she's learned something as well that her son already knew, kindness and empathy.

* yes, I just picked a name at random

No comments:

Post a Comment