Friday, December 23, 2011

I'm still a Hot Mess

I haven’t written in a really long time. A really LONG time. I miss it. I miss thinking about what I’m going to write, banging it out, reading and re-reading it, changing it all up and writing it again. It’s not that I haven’t had things to write about. Life goes on every single day…the good and the bad. I just haven’t slowed down long enough to do it. There isn’t enough of me to go around anymore.

I am sitting alone on my couch, the night before Christmas Eve, listening to the sounds of my house: dog bumping around in his crate, my youngest son’s sniffles (must get him some medicine tomorrow!), my husband snoring in the next room, etc. I am surrounded by the people I love. No matter what has happened in the day to day, good or bad, this is all that matters. Its been a year, give or take, since I wrote my last real post. A lot has changed, but then again, maybe not so much. I am almost halfway done with my degree in Psychology. I am still working at the doctor’s office but, as always, keeping my eyes peeled. In fact, I have an interview next week for a potential start up office in the next town. Keep your fingers crossed for me. It would mean more money, but less free time (as if I had any to start with) and less time for school. The largest change is in me. I see so much more than I used to see…in life, in other people, in myself. The biggest change revolves around my oldest son, The Sweet One. Two of my last posts were dedicated to my youngest children. I didn’t get around to posting about my eldest son. Before I could post about him, we had a nearly life-altering event in our household. It was brought to our attention that someone was bullying him. It turned out to be several some-ones…most of the high school really. Someone had set up a fake Facebook account in his name, proclaiming “himself” to be homosexual, having lewd conversations with other students, propositioning people. Although one person set it up, the password got passed around so that a large chunk of the high school was taking turns “being” my son, posting things on Facebook like they were coming from him, etc. Pictures that were taken on school campus were posted of him like he was posting them himself. Some of them he even posed for because someone said “Hey, get in on this picture with us!” He thought he was being included in the group…he wasn’t. 3 months after we left homeschooling for a private Christian education we were broadsided by this.

It was only brought to our attention because the principal found the website (he routinely checks up on the kids this way) and was concerned enough to call me in for a meeting. You see, he believed that it was my son’s real Facebook page, and he wanted to make me aware of his “indiscretions”. Needless to say, when I left the office he was very aware of the true situation and vowed to investigate. I did what I know was the right thing to do. I went home and I told my son what the other kids had done. Part of me wanted to hide it from him and let him go on thinking that these people were his friends, but I knew in my heart of hearts that it would be wrong, that he deserved to know what kind of “friends” he had. The next thing I did was call a friend of mine, who happens to work for law enforcement, and asked about the legality of the situation. Unfortunately, in Alabama, there are not (or were not at the time) any specific laws against cyberbullying per se. Other than them threatening him or making a profit from his name (they didn’t do either) there wasn’t anything really that could be done. I was devastated for him. I watched as the reality of his world sank in. I watched as the blood ran from his face. I watched as his whole 15 yr old life crumbled down around is ears. It may not sound like a lot for some, but for a 15 yr old boy, to have rumors of this magnitude spread about you is tantamount to social execution. Not only did these kids “friend” kids from 4 area high schools, their friends sent friend requests to their friends and so on, until more than 200 kids in our immediate area were either witnessing this behavior or were participating in it. Many didn’t know that it wasn’t really him saying these things and it wasn’t just boys participating. You probably think what I thought before this happened: boys bully boys and girls bully girls. Wrong. There were just as many girls participating as there were boys. I think that was the part that nearly killed my son. It wasn’t just that the girls might think he was gay, but they were actually participating in the rumor-mongering, posing as him, propositioning gay sex to other students. Such a blow to your sexuality would be hard for an adult, but for a young boy…well, I probably don’t even have to tell you. After I told him what I knew, we sat together for a little while. He talked and then he cried and then he talked some more. I remember thinking to myself, “This is why kids commit suicide. They really think that life is over for them because their way of life really is over. How do you come back from this?” I lay on his bed with him and just let him be angry, but mostly what we did was cry. It was like the death of something. The last of his childhood slithering away from us as the cold, hard edge of adulthood jammed itself into our lives without welcome. I wished with all my heart that I could shoulder this pain for him but I couldn’t. I asked him if he wanted to go back to school and he said no, not yet, but then he said something that made my blood run cold and stopped my heart in its tracks. He said, “I don’t even want to wake up tomorrow.” Now, I know that adolescents are full to the brim of melodrama…its their currency….but I could hear in his voice that he really felt that way and all I could envision was that mother who found her daughter hanging in her closet after being bullied on the Internet. I have never been so scared in my life. Everything in my world stopped turning right then and I knew that I had to do whatever was in my power to make sure that didn’t happen. He was so distraught and I was so scared that he would slip away from reality and harm himself during the night, that the first night I just lay in his room with him and let him cry. My poor husband slept alone…it was Valentine’s Day. I had to take several days off of work because I just didn’t trust him enough to leave him alone yet, let alone leave him in charge of his brothers while I worked. The principal agreed with me and allowed him to finish his work at home that week. Meanwhile, the group of kids who had done this was rounded up and summarily chewed out by the principal, who gave an assembly about the dangers of bullying the next day, and then this group of kids was given Saturday school where they had to scrub floors and walls and bathrooms, etc as their punishment. Don’t get me wrong, at least the school tried to do something, but it just didn’t seem fair to me that my son is barely functioning and this group of kids who maliciously destroyed his outlook on life and turned him into this fragile creature who doesn’t even want to exist…these kids are given “chores” for their crime. I was bitter…I suppose I still am.

I discretely went to my boss and told her what was happening and why I needed the time off. She hooked me up a local child psychologist and within the week he began counseling for his grief. He only went to about 6 sessions before he backed out, but I have faith that when he is ready to deal with it fully we will return. Because of this event, for a time, wasn’t sure of his sexual orientation. I think he looks at himself and asks ‘Do they see something in me that I don’t see? Am I gay? How do I know?’ Not that I was particularly ready to have these discussions, but I have had many discussions on the topic with him. I can say that before this event, I was pretty sure that I had a strong conviction about sexual orientation and how it related to my faith…now, not so much. I know what I think in my head, but I just can’t reconcile that to my son. My child, my baby whom I carried in my body and whom I would die defending…I don’t believe the same things I used to because I was able to look at it from a different perspective. I can say this…anyone who carries hatred in their hearts for people of different orientations have never faced loving one before. I can guarantee you that. I have urged my son not to label himself right now. From a mom’s point of view, it doesn’t matter right now anyway because I do not want any experimentation with anyone of any sex! We do believe in saving ourselves and that doesn’t change no matter what our preferences. It was a dark time for me and my husband, particularly my husband. No matter what, we know now that our love for our child doesn’t change. It scares me, thinking of his future now, but my love doesn’t change. I see the feminine marks on my son that the world has tried to enlarge and turn into something it may not be, but I don’t care. I don’t care that here in the South, boys are supposed to play sports and fool around with their girlfriends. I don’t care that boys in the South aren't supposed to spend all of their time reading and writing stories and painting like my son does. I don’t care that he’s not like the other boys. God didn’t create him to be like everyone else and I make sure he knows it everyday.

It has been nearly a year since the original incident. My son did return to school because he didn’t want to let them beat him. He does still occasionally face some ridicule at school but he tries not to let it bother him. The Sweet One turned 16 this past June and is looking forward to having the courage to take his driver’s test eventually. He has tried to have a few girlfriends but so far nothing very important. I think the farther and farther away the incident goes the more secure he feels in himself. That is all I care about. I worry for him that he doesn’t have friends, doesn’t have that “core group” that is so vital for teenagers, but I pray everyday that he draws what he can from our family and that one day soon he will show us all just how strong he can be. I can’t wait for that day. You'll recognize me...I'll be the one cheering the loudest :)


Flourchild said...

Thank you for sharing this..I cried while reading this and my heart broke for your son and for your family. I have had to deal with my daughter being harressed because of her ethnicity for all of her high school years. Teens thinking it funny to call her the N word..I am white and my husband is blace..or saying What are you?? It made me sick and I wanted to harm all of these jerks for hurting my daughter. But we moved on and we have learned to deal with it. You are such an amazing mother..I can not imagine the pain you makes me so sad.
Im happy he is doing good and I know he will be an amazing adult some day. I think when people go through these kind of things they can turn it around and do something GREAT! GOD bless your boy..I love him and I don't even know him:) Im praying for you ..Im so happy things are better. Time does heal pain:) God Bless you....

Shepherd K said...

Hey, Mel. Welcome back to the blogging world. Sorry your return is "inspired" by an unfortunate episode. I supposed I should be glad that I went through that stage of life before the advent of social networking. It was bad enough being 6'4" and less than 160 pounds.

Candance said...

My heart is breaking for your son! Nothing makes me madder than a bully and by the time I get done chewing their a$$es for it in my classes, those bullies have been brought down a peg or five. But, the most important thing you said in this whole thing was "No matter what, we know now that our love for our child doesn’t change." Make sure he knows that every single day of his life. You and your husband are good people to love him no matter what and, based on your description of him, if he was in my English class, he'd probably be one of my very faves!

SSW said...

I have to say this is one of the most heartfelt blogs I've read in awhile. my heart goes out to you and your family. He is one lucky kid to have a mother like you! You are strongest woman I know and your sons will be greater men for having you as their mom!

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