Thursday, June 05, 2014

OK, Sure, Let's Blame The Parents

Alright, I have had just about enough of this!!

I haven't watched a lot of news about these two 12-year-old girls who stabbed their friend because "Slender Man made them do it" but I did happen to catch a CNN show hosted by Dr. Drew Pinsky yesterday. He had his panel of "experts" on there and they argued about what caused these girls to do this, they argued about what their psychiatric diagnosis might be and they argued about the role these girls' parents played in this. This show was full of a bunch of garbage, in my opinion, because in the end there was no resolution to the why's etc. because--surprise, surprise--none of them are really experts on these girls.

I know I said a few things about the shootings and stabbings in Santa Barbara but this one hits even closer to home for me for three reasons. One being that the parents are being blamed, two being that there was an argument about whether one of the girls was delusional and hallucinating (a la schizophrenia--though they didn't use that word. They used every other word but that one.), and three being the subject matter, Slender Man himself.

For anyone who doesn't know, Slender Man is a creature with no face, he's wearing a suit, he has tentacles coming out of his back, very long arms and is 8 feet tall. Admittedly he is a bit creepy however his origin is from a big Photoshop contest held in 2009 whereby people were asked to create something scary and photo shop it into a picture. Since then, among the younger crowd mostly, he has become quite popular being written up on Creepypasta and made the subject of YouTube videos. There is a lot to his "legend" and apparently these girls who stabbed their friend don't even have the story right, twisting it to fit their need to justify this attempted murder. Dr. Drew argued that at least one of these girls has a "serious psychiatric condition" and cited the supposed "delusions and hallucinations" she had. He said that if she showed up in any emergency room saying these things, she would be put on a 72 hour hold for observation and further evaluation for a psychotic disorder.

The other thing about this whole story is that at least one of the set of parents of one of the girls is being blamed because of the "lifestyle" they led and the kinds of things they bought in to. The "experts" felt that this lifestyle led to this girl getting involved with the legend of Slender Man. On top of that, the "experts" went on to argue that all parents should be monitoring their kids' online access at all times in an attempt to head these sorts of problems off at the pass.

This is where it gets intensely personal for me.

For years I tried my level best to monitor what Thomas did online. The only computer he could use was right in the main living area. I would occasionally catch something I didn't particularly like and I would tell him to shut it down. Then as time went on and his social circle grew, he was always at friends' houses doing God knows what on computers and video games. I had zero control over it except to ground him from those friend's houses but even at that, there was coming a point where Thomas wasn't going to be able to have any friends because they were all involved in suspect things on the internet. So, the time came that I relaxed a bit, succumbing to the realities of parenting in the internet age.

Eventually I bought him a laptop but to some degree that went unmonitored too because I wasn't always home and I just wasn't going to spend my time combing through his computer looking for anything that might be bad. Time marched on and then last year Slender Man came into our lives.

He showed up here and there in Thomas' art work or in casual talks with me. Then, last May, all hell broke loose. In the middle of the night on an unassuming May day, I was woken up and told that Thomas was scared and was asking to go to the hospital. I went in to his room and found him terrified and he said that Slender Man was after him and he didn't feel safe at home and needed to go to the hospital. As the early morning wore on to the next day and then the days after that when Thomas was in the hospital, it became apparent that he had gotten wrapped up tightly in his belief that Slender Man existed and was hunting him. He had auditory hallucinations that accompanied the visual hallucinations and delusions and even requested, at the intake to his hospital stay, that he get a room that had a ceiling lower than 8 feet tall so that Slender Man couldn't get in to it and get him.

There he was, my psychotic child, already diagnosed with acute paranoid schizophrenia after unrelated (to Slender Man) delusions and hallucinations surfaced and landed him in his second hospitalization. There he was, my psychotic child, believing that this "legend" was actually after him.

So tell me something, all of you, WAS THAT MY FAULT? WAS I A LAZY PARENT WHO DIDN'T CARE ABOUT WHAT HE WAS DOING ON THE INTERNET? DID SOMETHING I DID OR DIDN'T DO OR SAY OR DIDN'T SAY CAUSE MY CHILD TO BECOME PSYCHOTIC AND END UP IN THE HOSPITAL?

The answer to all of that should be a resounding "NO!". My boy was already sick and I do not believe any parent can monitor their child 24/7 on the internet. I just don't. I tried. Believe me, I tried. All the way to the point of stopping friendships that even sort of might have influenced Thomas which in the end I feel like was a bit of a cruel action on my part because it just wasn't realistic and it was unfair to Thomas to lose good friends because of my fears.

So here's the thing. I know nothing about these girls who stabbed their friend while being motivated by Slender Man. I know nothing of what the parents did or didn't do and frankly, it really isn't my business. But here we are again hearing from the media that the parents are to blame etc. etc. etc. and parents like me who have done everything they can, and still their child slipped through the cracks, are left feeling like bad parents because our children found Slender Man or any number of other menacing stories to fill their heads with.

So, again, to those arm chair psychiatrists out there shoveling junk food into their traps while they watch the news and judge parents like me and to the media whose ONLY "expert" qualification is to make all of us parents feel horrible about what we did or didn't do, I want to "flip you the bird", roll my eyes, turn away in disgust, take Thomas by the hand and walk into the future knowing I'm doing everything I can for him and will never stop.

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