Dan Turner: You Are the Problem

Dear Mr. Turner,

I bet if you and I broke bread and shared a bottle of wine, we’d have a lot in common.

I’m a parent too, and I would love to hear how you raised such a gifted, smart athlete.

I would guess you spent countless hours driving your son back and forth to early morning swim practices, rising before five a.m. several times a week. I am sure you gave up entire weekends to watch him swim at competitive meets and spent thousands of dollars on coaches, gear and training. I imagine your family sacrificed quite a bit to chase Brock’s dream, what became your dream, of scholarships and possibly even the Olympics.

I can’t fathom the joy you felt the day he signed his letter to attend Stanford University, one of the most prestigious schools in the country. Your heart must have burst with pride at what your son achieved.

I bet you could tell me stories about the time he shaved seven seconds off an event at a State championship or when he spent an extra hour in the pool to get his turn perfected so he could beat a record time.

I get it. Winning in the pool often comes down to milliseconds, and momentary mistakes have consequences.

You seem to forget this small fact.

And that’s why you are the problem, Mr. Turner. Your statement detailing the impact this event had on your son omitted one small detail: his victim. The lack of acknowledgment and empathy you offer the woman he assaulted behind a dumpster demonstrates that you believe your son is above reproach. The insinuation that Brock’s sentencing was unfair, suggesting that county jail with probation (instead of the usual mandatory sentencing of several years in lock-up) is a “steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action,” shows you believe Brock has suffered enough for his role in this situation.  You imply that your son’s feelings of despair and anxiety for the loss of his future trumps the irreparable harm and lasting damage he caused the young woman, her family and her boyfriend.

Your son’s life changed the moment he decided to pursue a woman so intoxicated she could not speak or even stand on her own. That mistake — that crime — cost him his Olympic hopes.

Your discounting his role in this event will cost him something much more: any chance of learning that his actions have measured consequences. You gave your son — and every other young man on campuses across the country, an out for rape.

It must be heart breaking to watch your child’s life destroyed because of what may have been his first drunken binge at a frat party. This pales in comparison, however, to finding out your daughter was violated in rubbish by a young man that didn’t even know her name. Living with the fact that the convicted perpetrator has no remorse about the crime, and in fact, won’t even admit to it, must be unbearable.

But life is made in moments, Mr. Turner, and drinking wasn’t your son’s only bad decision that night.

As the victim so eloquently stated in her letter to your son: 

“You said, Being drunk I just couldn’t make the best decisions and neither could she.

Alcohol is not an excuse. Is it a factor? Yes. But alcohol was not the one who stripped me, fingered me, had my head dragging against the ground, with me almost fully naked. Having too much to drink was an amateur mistake that I admit to, but it is not criminal. Everyone in this room has had a night where they have regretted drinking too much, or knows someone close to them who has had a night where they have regretted drinking too much. Regretting drinking is not the same as regretting sexual assault. We were both drunk, the difference is I did not take off your pants and underwear, touch you inappropriately, and run away. That’s the difference.”

I do not know how you chose to raise your son, Mr. Turner, nor can I judge. I am sure you are doing what you feel is in the best interest for him.

But I beg of you,  decide at this moment, this very second, to hold your son accountable for his actions. He made an incredible mistake and will pay for it for the rest of his life. It’s your job to help him understand what he did was wrong — not make it easier for him.

His victim was not sexually promiscuous. He did not have consensual sex. It was not a run-of-the-mill college encounter. Drinking is not an excuse.

He committed a violent crime and needs help. If you don’t understand this, you need help.

The moral lines remain blurry in today’s world, particularly for those gifted with athleticism, intelligence or wealth. No longer can we blame our kids’ poor decisions on violent video games, rap music or films that glorify criminal behavior. It comes down to us, the parents, Mr. Turner. It’s up to you to help your son see his wrongdoings, and give some semblance of closure to his victim.

You can have unconditional love for your child and hold him accountable — at any age and under all circumstances. You can be loyal to your family and responsible to the outside world. You can still hold your six foot two inch son tight and teach him to own up to his actions, even if that means losing his — and your — dreams.

Brock cannot “educate” others until he first understands his own crime, and make no mistake about it, this was a sexual assault, not a drunk night gone awry. Unfortunately, because you do not hold your son accountable for the rape, and Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky sentenced him only to six months in county jail and three years’ probation, the message is loud and clear to other potential offenders: you are not responsible for your behavior if you get drunk, especially if you are a world-class athlete.

You are part of the rape culture, Mr. Turner. You are the problem.

You may be interested to know I’m raising athletes too. My three girls follow their sports with passion and vigor. We spend our weekends trekking all over the Midwest, cheering loudly for every achievement and encouraging them to work hard and play harder.

I don’t see scholarships to elite colleges in our future though, and certainly not the Olympics. Their father and I have more modest dreams: we hope they graduate high school and college, and then move on to live happy, fulfilling lives.

And we pray they won’t get raped.

Because we are scared, Mr. Turner. We are scared that one day our girls will drink too much at a party, experiment with drugs, or trust the wrong person, and the direction of their life will change in that one second because someone like your son Brock wasn’t held accountable; because you made his Olympic dreams more important than his victim’s ability to sleep at night.

So, Mr. Turner, please don’t talk to us about your son’s lack of appetite. Please don’t talk to us about the lack of bounce in his step or his anxiety about going to prison for a crime he — wait for it — committed and was convicted for by a jury of his peers. Don’t discuss his depression, which appears to be more about getting caught than guilt for what he did. And please, please don’t talk to us about the price he is paying for the twenty minutes he physically assaulted a young girl behind a dumpster, and then abandoned in the dirt when confronted by good samaritans.

He is not the victim, and the sooner you stop treating him as such, the sooner he may realize the impact he had on an innocent young woman’s life. Your attempt at marginalizing your son’s assault only ensures another young man will do the same.

The devil did not make him do it. The alcohol, while having an impact, did not make him do it. And I hope for your sake that Brock does not come out one day and point his finger at you, Mr. Turner, stating that it was in fact his parents coddling that made him believe he could get away with anything and everything, including sexual assault. The “affluenza” defense is very real in America.

There are no amount of anti-drinking ads or lectures your son can give that could make this a net-positive for the victim. She will pay for his decision for the rest of his life. And because you and your son are not acknowledging his actions, the culture of rape at our colleges, particularly among elite athletes, continues to grow.

You are part of the problem, Mr. Turner. Take twenty minutes — and the rest of your life — to think about that.

I am sure your son’s victim will.

From the victim’s letter to her assailant at sentencing:

“As a society, we cannot forgive everyone’s first sexual assault or digital rape. It doesn’t make sense. The seriousness of rape has to be communicated clearly, we should not create a culture that suggests we learn that rape is wrong through trial and error. The consequences of sexual assault needs to be severe enough that people feel enough fear to exercise good judgment even if they are drunk, severe enough to be preventative.”

Can You Be Genuine and Kind?

I am in a funk this week, and not in a Bruno Mars Uptown kind of way.

I am stressed at things beyond my control — stuff in the grand scheme of life means extraordinarily little, but at this moment, I am agonizing over it. My mind tells me to keep perspective, but my heart races with the anxiety of the unknown. Insecurity seeps out of my pores and self-doubt runs rampant over every decision.

I am a balloon on the verge of bursting. If one more person blows hot air in my direction, I will explode into a million pieces.

Because of these feelings, I know I am more sensitive to criticism, even from sources not directed at me. I take every look, comment, or even lack of acknowledgment personally.

I am aware, yet it is difficult to control.

This weekend, I read an article that discussed the lack of authenticity and being genuine in the parenting blogging space. It wasn’t my type of article. I’m not into name-calling or belittling other people for their life choices.

The blog post in of itself did not get under my skin. What did surprise me, however, was the visceral response to it. There were cheers from people who say that blogging as we know it is fraught with fraud and inauthentic dribble. Too many people are jumping up and down on the Internet saying “Look at me! Read me! Look at how great I am!”

Others stood up in defense of blogging and their work. And for the right of every person to pursue something they love, whatever the reason.

I wanted to fall apart. It was the last thing I needed to get involved with at the time but like driving by a car accident, I couldn’t look away.

On one hand, I understand the point. When it comes to social media, networking and engaging with readers and other bloggers is critical to your success. I am involved with several groups where bloggers come together to support each other. We “like” each other’s posts and share articles and leave comments so Facebook will show our work to more people. Sometimes these are things that I care about, sometimes not.

On the other hand, why should I promote material that doesn’t speak to me? Why should I give an audience to things that don’t touch my heart or evoke an emotion? Why do I support people whose work I don’t always love or interests me? Why do they support mine? Am I a fraud, too? Is it all for nothing?

So, as I sit at the crossroads of self-doubt and a nervous breakdown, I ask myself, what is the point of it all?

And that’s when I looked over at the Essential Oils vaporizer sitting on my nightstand. The one I can’t use because the oils give me hives and irritate my eyes. The one I will not put away because I bought it from my best friend who has transformed her life over the past few years, and I burst with pride when I think about it. And I would rather cut off my right arm than see her not succeed, so even though I don’t always buy into her holistic way of life, I want to support her.

It sits next to the “World’s Best Mom” figurine that my daughter gave me three years ago that she bought with her own money from her school’s holiday shop, which of course I told her I loved even though I despise trinkets.

Underneath it is an essay my friend asked me to read. She wants to publish a story that is close to her heart. We both know it’s not good, but we are working on improving it because she feels passionate about it. My red-lined comments are tempered and filled with “love this part!” and “great line!” because I don’t want her to quit. I believe with hard work and my help she can create something great.

I admit that sometimes I am not genuine or one hundred percent authentic; but if not, it’s because I am trying to be something else, something that is even more important to me. I want to be kind and supportive and help someone else follow their dreams, just as my friends have supported mine.

And I will never apologize for that.

Life riddles with insecurity. Sometimes we have thick skin and a rebellious nature that allows us to shed people’s opinions — or what we believe they think of us — with ease. For others, our hearts are wrapped in a weighted vest of self-doubt that often plays tricks on our minds.

We see it in moms that believe every missed event, every misplaced sock, every Lunchable packed is symbolic of failure. We see it in dads that view their kids’ athletic success as indicative of their self-worth. And we see it in bloggers so desperate for affirmation they forget the reason they started their blog in their first place.

But we all have choices in this life. For some of us our hearts speak so loudly that the only way to live life is only to be true to yourself.

And for others, we search for the delicate balance of finding ourselves while grabbing the hands of others along the way.

Maybe neither is wrong, but I’ll be the one with my arm stretched out.

Just let me know if you need my hand.

On Turning Tween

My youngest turned ten recently. She lovingly reminds me that she is officially a tween now, along with her eleven-year-old twin sisters.

Having three tween daughters would scare most people, and it should. Navigating puberty times three is not for the faint of heart.

While my girls seem to be handling it well, it is much harder for me.

You see, I have always been confident, even steadfast, in my parenting decisions, doing what I felt is right for my little family.  Facebook was not around when my girls were infants, so I didn’t feel the pressures so many young moms now face due to social media, and I am lucky to have a strong network of supportive women in my life.

I didn’t always do everything by the book, and if you wanted to label me  it would probably be “Crunchy, detachment, needs her sleep, part-time working mom.” I nursed all three of my kids. And also bottle fed. We eat mainly organic fruit and vegetables, unless we are at a friend’s house that busts out a packet of Oreos, then we are all in. I let all three of my kids cry it out at one point or another and I rarely let them sleep in our bed, but I am all for early morning snuggles or late-night reading in my bed together.

It worked for us.

But now we are at a different point in our parenting journey. Sometimes it involves eye rolls, sighs the size of a hurricane and huffing and puffing — and that’s not only by my three daughters.

Parenting tweens is hard. They want their independence. They want to be heard.  They want to grow up.

I just want them to pick up their stuff.

But more than that, I want to raise kind, compassionate, productive members of society, which is hard to do when you constantly feel like you are screwing them up.

The past few weeks have been particularly difficult. For some reason, the four females in our house are on edge. We cried a river of tears and are often an ocean apart on our viewpoints.

We argue about hair and taking showers and homework and eating habits. And after every bad interaction, I feel like a failure, like I screwed them up.

Raising tweens is hard. Talk too much about the food they consume, and it can lead to an eating disorder. Discuss their appearance too much will cause poor self-esteem. Pressuring academic success can lead to depression. And although I never negotiate on good hygiene, I do wonder at what age I will have to stop saying the words, “We take showers so we don’t smell.”

Raising tweens shakes my confidence as a parent. As hard as I try, I feel like the wheels fly off a conversation faster than I can put them back on the bus.

Finding balance in our new relationship is difficult. I want them to be independent and think for themselves, yet we still have rules and expectations. I want them to understand the basics of health and appearance, yet I do not want them to feel judged.  I want them to excel in all they do, yet I do not want them to feel pressured.

We are in the eye of the tornado, and I am unsure where we will land.

Last night was a good night in our home, filled with love and laughter and joy and kindness. I pulled one of my daughters aside, one who I had a particularly trying time with, and said, “I’m glad we had some fun together after all that went on this week.”

Her big blue eyes looked deep into mine, and she replied, “What do you mean?”

I was surprised by her response. “I mean, you and I had a rough week, and I know we didn’t see eye-to-eye on everything. I’m glad we could end it on a good note.”

And then she laughed. “Oh, Mom, it’s not a big deal. I know you are just trying to help.”

As I watched her turn and put her backpack away, I sat in shock. Here I thought I was crushing her self-esteem and body image, and she showed me compassion.

Parenting a tween is hard, but it doesn’t need to shake your confidence. I may need to work on my delivery, but my girls are getting the message loud and clear. We will have bad moments, but I will continue to remain steadfast in teaching them all the things I want them to know, and then adapt accordingly, as I have done since the beginning. And the good moments will far outshine the bad.

Parenting a tween is hard, and it should be. We want our kids to push, explore and question. Sometimes these actions lead to positive outcomes (defending a friend or deciding to walk away from illicit behavior) and sometimes it ends up with mistakes and the opportunity to be held accountable. It is all a part of growing up.

Parenting a tween is hard. And I am so lucky I get to do it.

The Shadow of Gratitude

Dawn breaks into my bedroom like a baseball through a window. I am tired before I even get up, worn out from a game that has not yet begun.

I manage the start well. I pack lunches, check emails, and schedule appointments as I should. I feel even and productive. It is an effort, but I accomplish what needs get done.

As the sun grows brighter my mood dims. A single sock I find on the floor irritates me. A trip to the grocery store seems daunting. An innocuous request by a repair man for a serial number that is difficult for me to read causes me to grit my teeth in frustration.

A friend stops by unexpectedly to pick up a dish. As kind people do when speaking with someone who has been ill, she offers the obligatory, “How are you doing?”

“I’m great,” I muster in my upbeat voice. “Honestly, in the grand scheme of things, I am lucky. It could have been cancer or it could have happened to one of my kids, I am just grateful for all the support we’ve had.”

The dialogue is well-rehearsed and appropriately measured. I hear the words come out with sincerity, and I feel my head bobbing at the right tempo to demonstrate I am engaged in the conversation. My thin lips purse together in a slight smile, and I tilt my head to the side to show I am appreciative of the thoughts and prayers this generous person provided to me during my time of need.

I am always surprised as the bitter taste of resentment creeps up in my throat like bile during these discussions. I am grateful that my community rallied around my family when I suffered from a rare eye disease that sidelined me for several months. I am grateful for the support of my dear family. I am grateful that I did not lose my vision completely as others have.

Yet, my fury at contracting a disease that happens to only one in a million people lays thick like a layer of blubber, crushing my gratitude deeper into a black hole. Despite being on the back end of my recovery, I am still irritated that it ever happened at all.

Following the encounter, my mood changes. The disconnect starts. I feel my energy draining like a toy dying from old batteries. I find myself in a room with my kids, yet I cannot engage in today’s school stories. I smile and nod and sometimes even laugh. I cluck reminders to “hurry up” or “get your soccer shoes on.”  I tell a joke that even gets them to chuckle. Then I walk away from the moment like it never happened.

I look around at my beautiful home but only see the dust and paper and crumbs scattered around like the remains of a party I did not attend. The chaos of a family of five that once brought joy feels more like carrying a pile of bricks on my back. I heave a load of laundry up the stairs to fold, convincing myself of its importance and pushing back the thoughts that I am avoiding interaction with those who love me most.

Alone, I let the shame wash over my body. My pulse quickens as I recite all the positives in my life, a gratitude routine that should bring me peace. I close my eyes and whisper: “Wonderful children, loving husband, healthy body, beautiful home, great friends.”

The chant should calm me, should shift the numbness to happiness, move the feelings of loneliness to love; but it does not work. Again.

The fight I have with gratitude each day is exhausting. It is a never-ending tug-of-war that slowly deflates my soul like a nail in a tire.

The positive attitude that defined my life no longer exists. I am an actress playing a role I no longer understand.

I am placed in a self-defined purgatory. There is no way someone like me, someone who has everything, could be depressed about their life. There is no way I can’t get past this. There is no way I shouldn’t be grateful.

Then night comes, as it always does, and I start to obsess. What else will happen? What bad thing will come next?

As the minutes click by on the red lights illuminating my bedroom, I try and focus on what I have overcome this year which leads to a chain reaction of extreme emotions. I think about finishing my meds for my eye disease. I remember my pride with my daughter’s release from a therapy program. I am happy that my family is now settled after a transfer to a new state. I think about the people I left behind when we moved. I miss the friend I lost to cancer and the dog we put down. I fear my vision will never be the same. I worry about my marriage if we have to move again for my husband’s job.

The push and pull from practicing gratitude weighs heavily on my heart. It never comes easy to me.

It is work. It is hard. It is exhausting.

As night disintegrates into dawn, I slowly wake, feeling raw and weathered from another tortuous sleep. I begin my day the same, but feel like the last threads holding my life together are about to break. Something needs to give.

I decide to walk out of the shadow of gratitude. I decide today, I will be grateful; but first, I will be honest.

I call an old friend to tell her I miss her. I break down asI talk to her about nerve pain, headaches and poor vision. I don’t say it in passing. I discuss it at length and in detail, describing how much it bothers me, how frustrated I am that the scarring in my eye limits my reading, my computer time, my life. I selfishly complain about the little things — too many soccer practices during dinner, not enough time to write, and an annoying encounter with a woman in the grocery store.

I am lighter after hanging up the phone, almost relaxed. The day passes by quickly and effortlessly.

Later, I let my kids eat in front of the television, and I sit with them marveling at their long limbs and dirty feet and hair that smells like sweat and outside. I am relieved to just watch them as they sit like zombies transfixed at the flood of animated colors filling the screen. I find great satisfaction in the comfort of our flesh touching each other against the leather couch without the need to pretend I am engaged in their stories. I enjoy them on my terms and it feels as if I am seeing them for the first time after a long trip.

Later that evening, I lay in my husband’s arms, crying about a life I no longer know how to live. I do not talk myself out of my fear and anger this time. It flows as easily as the tears streaming down my face. I face the dissatisfaction with my life and the events in it head on, accepting that my struggles are difficult and real.

At the end of my break down, I can sense he wants more of me, yet I have nothing left to give. I feel the slightest twinge of guilt as I selfishly leave our bed, but I’m not pretending I’m okay today. Not even for him.

I decide to shower, and it feels more like a baptism as the warm water races over my head. My breathing flows easy and for the first time in what feels like forever, I look forward to the next day. I make plans in my head for what I want to accomplish, excited to tackle my simple life instead of run from it.

As I settle deep under the covers, I recite my gratitude list again. It is easier this time, uninterrupted and longer than usual. I listen to the cadence of my husband’s breathing and despite my swollen eyes and puffy nose, I feel satisfied that this is exactly where I need to be. Yes, even where I want to be.

My thoughts drift to the past year, filled with pain and conflicts and lows. And for the first time, instead of marginalizing my struggles, I embrace it with the all the energy I can muster. It is a part of me, whether I like it or not. I cannot “gratitude” it away, nor pretend it does not exist.

My weaknesses are now exposed, and hiding it no longer seems worthy of the experience. Others suffering may be more, but that does not mean mine did not matter. I cradle the pain, imprinting the feeling on my soul like a tattoo, so as never to forget this flash of understanding.

I am grateful for this moment of consciousness, grateful for my life, grateful to be living it.

And when night returns, as it always does, I sleep.

Dear World: My Heart is Big Enough

Something funny happens when you become a parent. The first time you look down into your child’s little eyes, you find it impossible to believe that you could love anything more than this bundle of joy. If you were like I was the first time around, you can’t even imagine that there is another person who loves her child more than you.

If and when you decide to expand your clan,  you worry about irrational notions, such as can I love another baby as much as I love my first one (or two in my case.) Is it even possible?

And then you look down into those little eyes, and you can almost feel your heart expanding in your chest. You breathe a sigh of relief. You realize: my heart is big enough.

This is the message I want to share with the world today, the world that is more filled with fear than it was yesterday. There is so much hurt and pain and sadness that we are starting to turn on each other — just when we need one another the most.

My heart is big enough.

This morning I woke up and saw photos of women standing in line hundreds of people deep, with eyes filled with pain and sadness. Some held limp, little bodies in their arms, babies whose wide eyes protrude out of small faces filled with fear. I want to help these women and their scared children who have walked miles trying to outrun terrorists who are determined to annihilate them with chemical weapons, bullets and other unimaginable horrors.

They’re fleeing from imprisonment, torture, rape, and death, willing to risk it all to cross an ocean or be smuggled over borders. I can’t imagine taking a chance that an over-crowded boat or an armed border crossing offers a better prospect at surviving than remaining in their home country. But for these people, it is a reality.

I care about them because I know as a mother I would do the same. I would risk it all to protect my children.

But because I care about these people who live half a world away from my safe home filled to the brim with food and clothes and stuff — the people I only see in pictures or on the news — does not mean I care less about other injustices, some of which I see with my own eyes.

My heart is big enough.

Because I care about the Syrian refugees does not mean I care less about the veterans we often cast aside after serving our country. Because I care about our veterans does not mean I care less about the children who go hungry in my own community. And because I care about  these children, it does not mean I care less about my friend who is hoping for a miracle cure for her cancer diagnosis.

My heart is big enough.

In this cold, dark world, bad things are happening so often that we are becoming jaded, almost immune, to the horror of it all. We need to stop getting angry at the people who care and be relieved that at least they are still feeling something, anything, at all.

Our personal experiences shape our beliefs, and our beliefs shape our actions.  My personal motivation for donating time and resources are often geared towards helping children, the innocents most impacted by the decisions of others. I care equally about the children of Syria as I do about the little hearts who live in my community.

There are too many injustices in this world, however, and as individuals we can’t fight them all. When we see friends dedicating their lives to supporting other issues, such as wounded warriors or international food banks or global environmental issues, important causes that may not be our own priorities or help those living in our own country, we need to ensure our hearts expand right in our chests in that moment, instead of closing it off bit by bit.

We cannot let ourselves become angry or bitter because we see someone trying to do their part.  A person is not a hypocrite for deciding to speak out or support a cause that motivates him to act. It is okay for different people to have certain burdens on their heart.

Because my heart is big enough to care about all the world’s problems, even when I am only talking about one. 

And I know yours is too.

Thank you for joining us for a Friday playdate. Never miss a playdate by signing up for email subscriptions to the right or follow us on Facebook.

 

What Really Scares Me About Social Media

Last week , the below picture went viral all over the media, and I say media because it went beyond Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. It was also on major network news and discussed on the radio.

selfie

I am the first to admit that I rolled my eyes at this story. Here it is, yet again, a bunch of young girls more obsessed with taking a selfie than interacting with the real world. But then something stopped me dead in my tracks.

The picture seemed familiar. I stared at this photo a bit longer.The girls were in a group sitting together. I imagined they were all part of the same club or team. They looked young, maybe in their mid-teens.

It dawned on me then. I remembered snapping a photo of my daughter and her friends — just a few years younger than this group — at a women’s soccer game last year. I can picture their duck faces and the tiny hands making peace signs with the game happening right behind them.  We took it twice to get the look just right.

I imagined that picture showing up on millions of strangers’ news feeds, shaming them for being more interested in creating the perfect kissy face than watching the U.S. women’s soccer team. It was only a moment, but no one else knew that.

This group easily could have been my daughter and her friends. I wanted to vomit.

Yesterday, I came across this story clarifying the photo. It alleges that the girls were participating in a contest  broadcasted to the entire stadium to tweet selfies.

Participating. In a contest. Having fun. In that moment of a three hour game.

When Fox Sports and the Diamondbacks offered tickets to another game, the girls declined and requested the tickets be donated to an organization that supports families of domestic abuse. This bold move is in stark contrast to the shaming these girls received from the Interweb.

So. well. played.

I like to think that as adults we learned from this experience. I see people sharing the second article all over social media saying we shouldn’t judge or that there are two sides to every story.

But that isn’t what freaks me out the most.

What scares the bejeezus out of me is that someone else took this picture of them. Someone else decided to use this photo and tell their story. Someone else took control of their experience and plastered it all over the Internet.

And no one else seems to be bothered by this.

I passionately talk to my kids about social media. I show them how a text can be forwarded to a group with a single touch of a button, or a message misconstrued. I lecture them about how nothing is “private” and how people are not always who they say they are. I am waiting until I feel the time is right to let them have their own phone, Instagram or Facebook.

But there is one thing I cannot protect them from on social media, one thing even I can’t control.

You.

I can’t protect them from you and your ability to change their lives in an instant with your iPhone. Your taking pictures, your telling their stories, your providing the context.

And it scares the bejeezus out of me.

My daughters and I could never post a picture on social media again, and they could still end up the laughing stock of the World Wide Web without doing a single thing wrong. Just by being themselves. Having fun at an event where they didn’t even know someone was snapping their picture and deciding to hit “share.”

Because you sat behind them in the bleachers and saw their g-string sticking out. Because you thought their blue hair and nose ring were “funny.” Because you thought the way they danced during the seventh inning stretch was just like Elayne from Seinfeld.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, every embarrassing picture, every “funny” meme, every silly You Tube video we post and share on social media is somebody’s daughter or somebody’s son. It could be MY daughter. It could be YOUR son.

And we have more control than you believe. Simply by not hitting the share button, you are doing your part. Pausing, and imagining that it is your child in that shaming-selfie photo, your sister with her butt-crack hanging out in Wal Mart, your dad with the hair coming out of his ears and nose. Not posting or sharing that content  is doing your part.

Because if we don’t teach our kids better, they will never do better.

It’s hard enough raising kids who respect social media. We shouldn’t punish the ones who are just trying to live their lives.

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THINK_social_media_POSTER

I remember seeing this poster in one of my daughters’ classrooms, except it was regarding thinking before speaking. Simon Clegg turned it into a thinking before posting poster, and I think it is pretty brilliant.

 

 

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