by EVANDA BARBARA
Trigger warning: This post deals with themes of self-harm.
I’m a mother currently negotiating life with a thirteen year old girl.
A thirteen year old girl who once slept each afternoon on my tummy till she was almost three and I was too pregnant for her to lie on me. A thirteen year old girl who was quiet, unassuming, academic in nature and made me proud. Every. Single. Day.
Then, a few months ago my home turned into a hormonal warzone.
The first major battle fought was over the juggernaut that is Facebook. My husband, who opposes the whole social media world, was adamant that no good could come of her getting an account.
We negotiated (her and me) because I was trying to ensure that she would socially integrate well going into high school. Any parent will tell you that in this day and age, all arrangements, parties, “get togethers” and the like, happens via Facebook. The home phone line is obsolete.
My husband relented. There were conditions. During school term – only on Friday afternoons and for the weekend. School holidays are a free zone. I have the passwords and do random checks.
I’ve had some parents tell me what an invasion of privacy they felt it was that I was monitoring her Facebook account. I responded by telling them how completely irresponsible they were not to.
I guess before I go on – you also need to know that the social media world is part of my workplace and playground. I’m a communications executive with comprehensive social media experience. I consider myself well-versed and social media savvy.
Last Friday, around lunch time the school counsellor called. The opening “don’t get a fright I just need to talk to you” did nothing to ease my terror. I now know what it feels like when a fist closes over your heart.
Easing gently into it, she asked me how I found my child to be at home. I responded that I found her to be “very teenagerish”. What was I to say?
She then proceeded to tell me that my child’s friends who said she’d told them she was cutting herself had approached her. I stopped breathing.
It got progressively worse after that.
The vice principal had called my child in to discuss this and she’d told them it was a one-off. She was told to go home and tell her parents. She didn’t. I felt like I was going to throw up.
The counsellor had received a phone call that morning from the mother of a friend to ask them to contact me about my child’s tumblr page and its disturbing images. What tumblr page? I started to quietly sob at my desk.
I don’t think there’s anything worse than finding out you don’t know your own child. And that the child is on a downward spiral, presenting a normal front to you, if not to the outside world.
For those who don’t know, Tumblr is a social media site where you set up a page in order to post photographs, accomanied by a short number of words. My daughter posted pictures of her damaged wrists.
The counsellor couldn’t tell me the URL of the page – but told me it was unlikely that it was linked to my child’s name. Of all the social media sites I am unfamiliar with – Tumblr has never interested me. With Facebook, blogs, Twitter, Pinterest – it was one area of social media I haven’t had a need to investigate. I was as uneducated and crippled as a parent without a Facebook account.
In life, I’m a problem solver. I’m well known for my ability to think outside the square and find a solution out of the realm of normal thinking.