I don’t get it


My son was born in another country. He is what’s generally referred to as “of mixed heritage.” But he has lived with me in a predominantly white environment in England since he was less than a year old. It wasn’t intentional or contrived, no underlying political reasoning for living where we do. It was purely centred on the fact that the house prices were affordable for me, and I thought it was very important that Boo have a home he could definitely call his own.

I have never tried to deny Boo any part of who he is. He has always been aware of his father’s side of the family, never a negative word said about them, and I have always sought out every opportunity I could to bolster his connections with his cultural heritage. Unfortunately, the efforts I made were the only efforts that were made at all. Even before we left for England, any communication or contact with Boo’s paternal family was instigated and enabled by me. Any visits were transported by me. Any letters were written by me. Despite the fact that his father has a huge number of extended family members, they would not even stop by of their own accord when they were “in the neighbourhood.”

Hence, the eventual return to England.

Since the return to England, there has been minimal contact at best. Boo’s father, to his credit, did continue to send cards to his son on annual special occasions. But, despite my begging him to write “just a paragraph now and then!” the written correspondence has dwindled to nothing, and there has not even been a birthday card in three years.

In 2010, Boo’s behaviour had deteriorated to a very difficult level, and I had become very unwell myself. My own family members did not reach out to us nor offer to help me with my son. However, I had received word from Boo’s father that his sister would be willing to have Boo stay with her for a while in Boo’s country of birth to give us both a chance to regroup and recover. I had been persuaded by the promise that Boo would be well looked after, attend a very good school, and spend plenty of time with his many family members. Perhaps this was an opportunity for Boo to feel he was part of a large family, and to give him some of the academic stimulation he had been lacking in his own school.

I eventually agreed and took him to what seemed like the other side of the world. It was incredibly hard to leave him there, knowing that we would be separated by such a distance, but I was assured he would be surrounded with love and treated well, with his father and extended family watching over him. I spoke to Boo every day on the phone, helped him with his homework, and Skyped whenever we had the opportunity.

But things were not as rosy as they seemed. I learned that some members of the  family had strong views on discipline, and his aunt had used a belt to punish him and keep him in line. They also had strong views on religion, on race, and on gender roles and masculinity. Boo was required to attend their place of worship every Sunday and engage in religious home study meetings twice a week. His aunt had made her feelings known about white people many a time in his presence, she had expressed homophobic and racist views, and she was so determined that her nephew would prove his manhood that she encouraged and arranged fights between Boo and local neighbourhood boys.

I was horrified when I learned about these things, and told Boo’s aunt I would be returning to collect my son. But the family circled their wagons and refused to return Boo to my care until the school year was completed. I had no recourse as I had given his aunt temporary guardianship in order that Boo could attend school and receive healthcare, and, as Boo was born in their country, any attempts to remove him against their will would result in my arrest for kidnapping.

It was a helpless, hopeless position, and not as far-fetched as some reading this may feel.  We still had to leave in a hurry under the cloak of darkness, after Boo’s aunt had signed my son back over to me.

My son has never been the same since that experience. I believe his need to prove himself as a full-blooded male has continued to this day, through his aggression, his anger, his bullying, and his desire to engage in antisocial behaviours. He is desperate for an identity and is completely drawn to anyone who displays any stereotypical, negative characteristics of his mixed cultural heritage. And when he meets them, his whole demeanour changes – his language and accent change, his body language changes, his attitude and behaviours change, until he becomes a mini-clone of the person with whom he has allied.

But this is what I don’t get:

Social Services have delayed the final care hearing, originally scheduled to be heard this month, so that they can assess the viability of sending Boo back to his aunt overseas!

When Boo was taken into care last July, Social Services, without any deference to my wishes, nor indeed without my knowledge, wrote to Boo’s father to update him on the situation. Most recently, since the Court has become involved and a decision is pending regarding Boo’s long-term placement (i.e. until he is 18) Social Services have approached family members (his father’s and mine) asking if anyone is willing to be considered to take Boo into their home and raise him until age of majority.

Apparently, there is a protocol they have to follow that demands that they first consider a return to the birth parent, i.e. me. If they determine that a return to the parent is not feasible, they are bound to reach out to extended family members. My family in England, not surprisingly, withdrew any interest in the case and have been excluded from consideration. But since Boo’s father was approached, his sister has again asked to be considered for long-term guardianship.

Apparently, after several phone calls, the Social Worker determined she has passed the viability assessment, and all that remains now is for an international Social Worker to visit with her at her house and conduct a full assessment.

You know, I get why they may not feel the time is right to let my son return home to me. I get that I am not the best candidate at the moment to prevent him from leaving our home and heading straight to his “gangsta” friends in the city nearby. I get that not enough work has been done with either of us to prevent his violent temper from returning if I try to define boundaries he doesn’t like. And I get that, without family therapy, there is every chance that a return home at this time would be tantamount to picking up where we left off, except my son is six inches taller and a lot stronger than a year ago, and there is a very real risk that in the event of another violent outburst, one or both of us could end up seriously hurt.

With the exception of the incident last July, I have never raised a finger to my son. I have never imposed strict notions of masculinity, of gender roles, or demanded he adhere to any specific, strict religious doctrine. I have never encouraged him to fight for status, nor has he been wanting for any of his basic needs, including love, affection, praise, and full acceptance.

The first and only time I physically hurt my child was when, after eight months of physical assaults against me, he came at me with knives in his hand, and I put him on his arse to avoid being stabbed.

I don’t get how Social Services can be so quick to remove him from my care because, in their opinion, I assaulted him on that fateful day last July – but they are willing and seemingly hell-bent on returning him to a woman who believes in and metes out regular corporal punishment, and who would insist he tow her ideal line of what a real man should be.

They know what she is like, because Boo has told them and I have told them. They know what happened to Boo last time he went to stay with her. They also know that, with Boo’s temperament as it is right now, if he were to display even some of the behaviours towards police or other more powerful figures than himself in his father’s country in the same manner he behaves towards police here, he will be dead or in prison before the year is out.

But none of that seems to matter to them.

And I just don’t get it.

© Alice through the Macro Lens [2014]


How far has the apple really fallen?


apple tree

I received a call a couple of weeks ago from my brother, telling me that my mother had broken her hip and was in need of help at home where she lives alone. I live 200 miles from her; she and I do not get along.

My experience of my mother is that she has always treated me like I’m 12 years old. We don’t have the type of relationship where we can simply talk about what is happening in our lives. There is no such thing as banter. If I try to “chat” about my comings and goings, I anticipate, and often receive, looks of disdain, judgements, advice, or criticism. Occasionally, I will receive some form of ostracism: told to stay well away her area of the country, for fear that what I may bring with me (should I approach the general extended family nest) will bring “shame” on her. In my humble opinion, my mother lives for the image she can portray to others, and she relies on her now very-grown-up children and our offspring and achievements to bolster that image.

It stands to reason that I am a huge disappointment to her. My life decisions have been a disappointment, if not an outrage to her. According to my mother, I have always been a “strange child.” One of her frequent laments, when she is particularly peeved with me is to question my lack of ability to “just be normal.”

“I don’t understand why you hate your family! I don’t understand why you are so hellbent on rejecting any semblance of a normal, civilised relationship!”

She has a point I suppose. I am not very good at maintaining normal, civilised relationships with anyone really …  and this is one of the central reasons why I have now been handed a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (along with a smorgasbord of other things). I probably was a strange child. I haven’t really paid a whole lot of attention as to whether I was a strange adult … I left home when I was 16 and spent the majority of the next couple of decades just wandering the world on my own.

She has labelled me a “fantasist,” an “isolationist,” and “antisocial.”

Every blue moon, I attempt to have a grown-up conversation with my mother. On those occasions she will remind me of all the things that I have done to disappoint her or to “purposely” show her up or throw her attempts to raise me the right way back in her face. She will then remind me  that I have always been distant, that I never let anyone touch me – even as a baby! – and she always thought I might have had “some form of Asbergers.”

My question to her has been, “If you have always been aware that I may have had a more deep-seated reason for my behaviour, even as a baby and child, then why do I constantly appear to surprise you with my actions? And why, if indeed I did display these behaviours when I was too young to be aware of what I was doing, do you still berate me, condemn me, vilify me, and accuse me of maliciously acting this way?

Once, I asked her, “Whatever happened to unconditional love between a mother and her child?”

She replied, “I don’t believe in that shit.”

When my son began assaulting me physically, I felt there would be little to gain from sharing the information with my mother. I dealt with the situation on my own, sharing only with agencies that I went to for help. The only person who took me seriously was a worker at Women’s Aid, usually designed for working with women who were victims of adult domestic violence. Social Services, in particular, showed little interest in what was going on, citing what was to become a seemingly flagship statement, “We are child protection not adult protection.” After about five months of escalating violence, I felt that at least someone in my family should know, so I called my older brother and told him.

Two months later , I told my mother.

She said nothing throughout the entire phone conversation. She hung up, and I never heard from her again until the day Boo was arrested and  taken from my care in July last year. She had apparently been called by a social worker seeking a family member to take Boo for an emergency period until they could find a suitable foster family. The social worker had left a message on my mother’s answer machine, and my mother called me wanting to know “what the Hell is going on.” I reminded her that I had told her about what was happening in our household weeks earlier, that it had finally come to a dangerous head, and that Boo had been arrested and taken from me. Apparently the news came as a complete surprise to her, and I recognised then that she had neither retained nor believed a word I had told her during that earlier gutspill. She uttered some vile condemnation of me, and this time I hung up on her. Since then, I have received very few and very brief contacts from my mother, but minimal as those contacts have been, they always left me feeling horrible and alienated – so I sent her text (a cowardly move, I know) and suggested that for the sake of my own recovery, we should have no further contact for the foreseeable future.

My brother called me for a second time just before Easter, and in his special, “subtle” way suggested that I really should stay with my mother over the holiday weekend, because he and my other siblings “all have jobs and children” – the implication being that as I have lost my job and my child, I have nothing to prevent me from skipping across the country to take care of her. He also said this might be a good opportunity for me to mend our relationship, and besides, they didn’t want her left alone.

So I went.

The other thing about my mother is her uncanny ability to assume that time will heal all things (or at least make you forget why you’re cross with someone). So when I arrived, she greeted me with smiles and smalltalk as if there was not a care between us. I had prepared myself for the visit by promising to keep myself busy and out of the way as much as possible. I had brought things to crochet, reasons to spend time upstairs (she can’t climb the stairs at the moment) and plenty of ideas for working in her very long garden. I lasted almost two days without even a mention about my son, my health, my job, or my life, and managed to fend off several requests that I should use her car to drive her places.

But on Good Friday, she commented, “Oh do try to cheer up a little bit, Alice! I don’t know what’s the matter with you!”

I looked at her, and said, “You know what? I actually believe that you really don’t know what the matter is.” I then proceeded to spill my guts for a second time and filled her in on the details of how my life has fallen apart, I lost my son, my job, my health, how I feel the whole thing has snowballed out of control, how her occasional poisonous comments have not been helpful, how I have been hurting myself, how things have been a massive emotional struggle, how I want my baby back so much, and how there is now a high chance that I will never get him back. I finished with tear-covered face by telling her that it seems mental health services may be concerned about me, because they have recommended that I be placed on close suicide watch should the final court hearing determine that Boo will not be coming home.

There was a strange, uncomfortable silence. Then my mother, who had not moved nor changed her expression at all, said flatly and way too controlled for my liking, “And who are you looking to blame for that?”

That sinister, unnerving response left me stunned. I don’t know what I’d expected her to do or say. She had never given hugs so I hadn’t anticipated any tactile response – but not even a “sorry this has happened to you” or “where do you go from here?” Not a lick of emotion or compassion or ….

And then it hit me.

Empathy. There was no hint of empathy. And when I started to think historically, I couldn’t remember any incident or time when she had ever shown emotion or empathy. It explained the meanness, the disregard for others’ feelings, and the ability to forget or reject any hurt she may have caused.

That same empty, emotionless disconnection that has everyone concerned about my son’s future was staring me right in the face of my mother.

I don’t know enough about how personality disorders develop, but certainly, if there’s a case to be made for nature over nurture, this could certainly add weight to argument for genetics.

The apple has indeed not fallen far.

© Alice through the Macro Lens [2014]



Transparency? More like a two-way mirror…

I’ve been a fool.

I have misguidedly opened my life up to “professionals” (and I use the term loosely), believing that to do so will assist in finding the best solution for Boo. (You can get a gist of the way things have panned out in a post on my other site here).

In short, I have undergone two extremely lengthy “assessments” having been advised that “complete transparency will be viewed upon favourably by the Court.” Failure to cooperate, I was informed, would probably be viewed in the same light as someone who answers “no comment” to all questions after they have been arrested. In other words, the court would automatically imply that I had something to hide, and the chances of Boo returning to my care would be out of the window.

So I agreed to answer their questions. Eight hours of questions in total with the Social Workers, and five hours in total with the Court-appointed Psychiatrist.

And I was transparent. Painfully transparent. They wanted to know everything about me – from birth to the present. They wanted to know about my childhood: how life was at home and school, and I talked about stuff I hadn’t thought about for years, including the ugly stuff I must have intentionally pushed way back into the depths of my subconscious for good reason. Yet here I was, talking about the long-forgotten/repressed ugly stuff to professionals who were obviously going to use the information to help us, right?


The Social Workers, well … I probably should have guessed that they had no vested interest in me per say. They handed me a six-page schedule that they had supplied to the Court prior to our first “session.” It described the line of questioning I would be receiving over the course of the assessment.

I wasn’t going to write it all out, but I think I will, to give you an idea of the depths they wanted to go:

  • Background information to include Alice’s own childhood
  • (Alice’s) Physical needs at various stages throughout childhood
  • Previous/present relationships
  • Education
  • Employment

Parenting Capabilities

  • Basic care
  • Ensuring safety
  • Emotional warmth
  • Stimulation
  • Guidance and boundaries

Child Development – To Include:

  • Physical health
  • Emotional, behavioural development, identity, and family dynamics
  • Social relationships

Parental Stresses and Mental Wellbeing

  • Describe any serious accidents or illnesses
  • Ever seen a Pychiatrist or Psychologist
  • Do you have any illnesses which you believe to be a barrier to providing “good enough parenting styles” to meet Boo’s needs
  • Have you had any emotional problems
  • Are you on any medication
  • Does any illness or injuries affect your ability to look after children
  • Do you require any special help or medical services because of injuries or mental health wellbeing

Parental Stress continued (!)

  • Do you think you are someone who suffers from stress
  • What kinds of things make you stressed
  • Does any group of people make you feel stressed
  • Do children make you feel stressed
  • Describe how you feel when you are stressed
  • Have you ever been to your GPs regarding stress
  • Have you been on any medication because of stress
  • Is there anything which helps to reduce your stress
  • Do you envisage parenting to be stressful

Family Functioning and Environment

  • Family functioning
  • Wider family
  • Housing
  • Employment
  • Family social work interventions
  • Community resources
  • Support networks

Now, which area of my life do you think they were most interested in? Hmmm … could it be my mental health/stress issues?

Yet, when my son was beating the crap out of me on an almost daily basis for eight long months, despite all the attempts I made, begging them to intervene and help us, they had no interest in us. Their response at the time was, “We are child protection, not adult protection. Unless we believe Boo is at risk from you, we will not get involved.”

What a difference six months makes! Now they are very involved, and so concerned that my mental health difficulties would place my child at risk that I am now unlikely to ever get him back into my care.

And if the intensity of the assessment interviews wasn’t enough – on the last day at the end of the final interview (which, unsurprisingly, had been about my mental health and my recent lapses into crisis) the Social worker asked, “Does Boo know about any of the stuff we have discussed today?”  I said that he didn’t, and I had made a point of keeping much of this stuff away from him because I didn’t feel it was appropriate to share with a child.

Their response? They suggested that I might find a time to tell him about some of these issues we have discussed, because he will have a right to read the report once it is completed!

I couldn’t believe it! I had no idea that Boo will have access to these reports. Had I known there was any chance he will read about the ugly elements of my life, or about the struggles I have with my mental health and the things I have done when I reach crisis point, I would never have shared with the professionals.

It appears the transparency only goes one way after all.

© Alice through the Macro Lens [2014]



Weekly Photo Challenge: Threshold … Cloud with a Rainbow Lining

(If you’re here just for the photos, they’re further down the page. Make sure you click on them so you can see the full effects of the “rainbow”).

I went to Whitby last year. It was just a day-trip on a coach, but it was significant insofar as it was – and still is – the only time I took a trip for myself since Boo left our home. I went on my own, despite a bus full of people with the same destination … all with the intention of a day out by the seaside and perhaps a look around the ruins of the Abbey.

I remember it well, because I spent a large portion of the day in silence, wandering through a small church half way up the hill towards the Abbey and taking photographs of the salt air-worn gravestones. It was peaceful, and quiet, and calming.  It was intended to be a day of solace: a chance for peaceful introspection, a chance to regroup, to regain some balance after six weeks of incessant worries about the place they had initially housed my son.

Two months had passed since the incident occurred that resulted in Boo being arrested and removed from my care. He had initially gone to stay with my brother and his family, but after two weeks, Social Services decided to place him under the care of the local authority. They had promised me that Boo would go to a caring foster family out of our immediate geographic area to give us both some space and reduce the risk of further assaults. Instead, they placed him in a children’s care home in the same town. It was a dreadful decision, for various reasons that I will discuss in future posts, yet they refused to relocate him despite all my protestations. Eventually, I had to go to the Head of Children’s Services and beg her to help my son and relocate him to a place of safety and full support.

I particularly remember my trip to Whitby, because my attempt to relax was interrupted periodically by phone calls from Boo’s Social Worker, evidently raw from having her tail chewed out by the big boss, and “promising” me (once again) that they were now searching the country for specially trained foster carers who would be able to take Boo into their home. (As it happened, that didn’t pan out the way they had promised me either … but that’s not the point of this post).

Following the phone calls from Boo’s Social Worker, I felt positive and spent the rest of the afternoon pottering around Whitby’s tiny “lanes” with all its quirky little shops (I entered another photo into the weekly challenge that I took in the lanes on my other blog site here) and finished with a fish and chip supper by the marina chatting to two elderly gentlemen about the “olden days”. As I waited for the coach, my attention was drawn to a single cloud in an otherwise blue sky. Rainbow cloud I took a few photos of it with a fixed lens, but then, as the coach pulled up, I remembered I had a telephoto lens in my bag and tried to take a closer view. Some people wondered why I was taking so many pictures of what seemed at first glance to just be a normal grey cloud wandering across the sun. But if we looked closely, there was a spectrum of colour around the edges of the cloud. It was difficult to capture through the camera, and I admit I’ve bumped up the saturation to get it looking more like it did to the naked eye. SONY DSC   As the cloud slowly moved across the sun, the colours changed and moved around the edge, as if there was a threshold through which the colours formed. This was the last picture I took before boarding the bus to go home, and by the time I found my seat, the colours were gone.


I’ve never seen this phenomenon before around a cloud, and I’ve not seen it since – so I couldn’t help but feel it was meant for me to see for some reason. It seemed to offer me hope, just as rainbows always give me peace in my heart – however briefly they occur. © Alice through the Macro Lens [2014]


Well, not unexpectedly, I didn’t receive a response to the comment I left yesterday on that woman’s blog. Although I gather that her blog site is currently out of action because she is changing the format. Interestingly too, since her appearance on the radio show I talked about yesterday and the increased traffic her blog has received as a result, she has set up a Facebook page with a link to a donation site to raise money for her family.
More power to her if that’s the route she wants to take.

As you can gather, I’m very sceptical about any media input (or any level of subjective interviewing for that matter) where personal family matters are concerned. As it happens, I have my own axe to grind with the agencies who have interviewed my family for the purposes of producing court reports, and I will discuss these in the near future once (if) the bitterness wears off.

I’m adding the comment that I sent to this woman yesterday to my own blog, because I was well aware at the time of writing it how much it meant to me and how passionate I felt about what I was saying.  My son has done some pretty horrible things to me in the last year or two, and since reading a couple of lengthy reports written about him recently  –the kinds of reports that dig deep and gather information from all sources, such as school records, counselling notes, police records,  drug workers,  and  Boo himself –  I gather he has done some pretty horrible things to other people too.  In fact, according to these reports, he started doing some of the things when he was still in primary school ,  and he is only 13 now.  Despite this,  despite looks of disdain from other parents as I waited for him to come out of school, despite “friendly” advice from family members  saying I was too weak and needed to bring a bit of corporal punishment into his life, I have never found space in my head to demonise my son. Labels are dangerous things, especially the negative ones, and I know from my own experiences that being labelled often creates the self-fulfilling prophecy.

With that in mind, this was the comment/mini-novel I wrote in response to myfamilymyvillage’s appearance on a radio show entitled “Bad Baby”:

Hello from across the seas again.

It’s interesting to see your massive rise in popularity since your interview on the radio, and I am glad that this has potentially increased public awareness of the difficulties that a child with Conduct Disorder displays and causes others to experience around them. I think you made a comment in one of your posts prior to the airing of the show that I may be one of the few people who can understand what you are going through because my son also has this disorder, so opening up the public awareness can only be a good thing.

I had an opportunity earlier today, finally, to listen to the interview you did on the radio.

I can totally understand why you would agree to take part in such an interview. In the past, I was invited to be on one of our British shows about troubled children (It was a spin-off with Jo Frost from “Supernanny” fame), and it was so tempting.

However, in my case, despite feeling like I was running out of ideas and the programme offering a chance for professional input and follow-up assistance, I eventually turned the show down, and I’ll tell you why.

Granted, my case was different, in that this would have involved actual television cameras filming my son’s behaviour then broadcasting on a regular terrestrial channel – so one of my fears was the impact the cameras would have on my son.

Would he really act “naturally”? I didn’t think he would. He was nine at the time, and I feel he may have tried to be “good” – because, despite his lack of empathy, my son is astute enough to know that his behaviour is unacceptable from a social standpoint, and he isn’t keen for “outsiders” to know how he acts in the house around me.

On the other hand, he could have completely acted his “natural” self. In which case, I felt that the fallout from people potentially recognising us and treating him differently, particularly at school and in his social circles, would have been unfair to him.

However, my biggest issue was in the potential for the show to manipulate the situation for their own agenda. The media thrives on hype and shock-value. Despite any way we may have presented ourselves, they had the technology to edit and manipulate the scenes to present my son at his worst. And I wouldn’t run the risk of portraying him that way.

With that in mind, I have to say that your small segment on that radio did come across as shocking. Is that really how you intended it to pan out? It gave an eerily sinister portrayal of your son – complete with little clips of scary music in the background.

I listened to the segment with sadness and disappointment as the narrator, fortified by short soundbites of your voice that could have been clipped from any part of your taped interview, presented your son as some “Damien” child, and you and the rest of the family as unsuspecting victims.

Don’t get me wrong – I GET that he does not act in ways that are socially acceptable AND dangerous at times AND harmful and scary. My son does too and it is a nightmare to maintain ‘normal’ maternal instincts.

But, I feel it was a distorted portrayal.

As I told you before, I have read your blog almost from the beginning, and I remember your post about the day he broke your nose, because I commented on it (March 7th “Psych Hospital Part Two”).

The show gave the impression that he broke your nose simply because you were trying to give him a hug. But that is not the whole picture as you explained in your blog … The show made no mention of the changes in meds at that time, nor the fact that your husband had just left and he wanted you get up. Nor does it specify that the “hug” you were trying to give was actually an attempt to restrain him as he tried to get you out of bed. I see little comparison between that “snuggle” which in your own words you admit to being a type of trickery to restrain him from leaving the bed, and the type of “snuggle” he asks you for when he is calm.

The show also said you and your husband “tried even tone of voice when he acts up.” The implication was that this is how you always deal with him, but you have admitted in many posts that you have (understandably) yelled at him, joined in “smackfests between him and his brother,” grabbed him, pulled his feet from under him, and today the vinegar trick.

 I know you don’t want to hear this, and I will be astounded if this comment ever gets published on your blog – but that show did not portray the full context of your family dynamics, based on what you write in your blog.

I have NO soapbox. I have NOT dealt with my own child in appropriate ways – I have been inconsistent in setting boundaries, in discipline, in displaying love and affection, and in the life decisions I have made that have had some massive impacts on his psyche.

But my son is NOT a monster. He is struggling with a illness that is bigger than him, causing him to act in ways that are misguided and often harmful and dangerous. That has a lot to do with him … but it also has a lot to do with ME … and I own that.

Similarly, YOUR son is NOT a monster – but that show (and at this point I point the finger at them, not you) portrayed him as one, with no mitigating context whatsoever.

That may have been out of your control – I don’t know what they edited out (or in). But while you now appear to be seeking further shows to appear on, I hope you will seriously consider the picture they are painting, and ensure that you are completely objective if your eldest is to receive the help he desperately needs.

© Alice through the Macro Lens [2014]


Only in the eyes of the media …

midwich cuckoos

The Midwich Cuckoos -MGM (1960)



Shows like “Supernanny” and “The House of Tiny Tearaways” thrive on screaming toddlers, the louder the better, and preferably involving kicking, swearing, throwing hard objects, and smashing the family china.

Recently, “Dr Phil” aired a show in America about an eight-year-old out-of-control child, complete with glaring promotion video announcing, “My Head-Butting, Punching, Kicking, Bruising, Biting, Knife-Wielding 8-Year-Old!!” If you didn’t see it, there’s a link to it here. Granted the child has issues, and major ones at that, but the video goes to great lengths to portray the child as the devil incarnate.

There’s a woman in America who writes a blog that I’ve mentioned before called myfamilymyvillage. She is a prolific writer and sometimes adds more than one post a day documenting her day-to-day struggles with her own eight-year-old son who has been diagnosed amongst other things with conduct disorder. I follow her blog, sometimes with almost obsessional interest, because, I suppose I’m trying to find clues about where things might be falling apart for her. I do the same with my own life and my own struggles with my own son – as if by picking our lives apart to some microscopic extent, I might find the answer and everything will be okay.

However, just the other day, the above-mentioned woman allowed the media into her life by conducting an interview for a radio programme in America called “This American Life.” The episode itself is titled “Bad Baby” and includes three or four segments devoted to stories about troubled children. You can listen to the podcast here. I finally had a chance to listen to the broadcast this evening and paid particular attention to the prologue which focused on this woman’s story. Considering the proliferation of her blog writing, and having studied mass communication at college and how it can manipulate an audience through editing, I was particularly interested in how a 10-minute segment would portray her son’s condition.

I was incredibly disappointed and shocked to listen to the segment. In my opinion, this woman’s child was portrayed as little short of a sadistic, manipulative, cold and evil predator. Obviously ten minutes wasn’t long enough to include context or any mitigating factors, nor was there any discussion of any times when this eight-year-old boy may have made her smile or laugh or loving towards him. Yet they are mentioned in her blog. I was moved by the programme, less by the shock value message it sent out about this child than by the intense sadness I felt for this child. It was as if his mother had thrown in the towel, and with it any future chance for redemption.

This was the very reason that I have never allowed my own situation with my son to go public in the media despite being approached in previous years to do a show. In her defence, I am aware, painfully aware, how frustrating it is to be a mother to child with conduct disorder. It is frightening at times. More so once you start to recognise the sinister nature of the behaviours, the lack of empathy, the constant manipulation, the lack of remorse for injuries caused, and the lack of emotional connection between action and harm. But I still feel wholeheartedly that it is my job to protect my child; so to allow the media to portray him in a negative light, in my opinion, would ultimately do more harm than good.

In addition, the short segment of the programme in which this woman spoke gave the impression that her child’s negative behaviour was completely unconnected to anything she or other family members did themselves. The narrator offers a brief overview of how she and her husband attempt to placate their eldest child when he “acts up”. There is talk of “using an even tone of voice” and withdrawing rewards as if these are their “go-to” methods used most frequently, if not exclusively. But she openly admits in many of her blog posts that she has lost control of herself: shouts, physically restrains him, manhandles him, and she even mentions a time when she joined in a “slap fest” between him and his younger brother.  I won’t judge her for her actions. God knows I’ve been at the end of my rope on more than one occasion myself. But at least I own my mistakes. Perhaps too much. Few people who know me or listen to me could say that I don’t take full responsibility for the way my son behaves. If anything, I have to be convinced to the nth degree to see that some things he does are outside my control.

So in my world, despite everything, I won’t be appearing on Jeremy Kyle or Oprah or Radio 4 any time soon.

And Supernanny will have to wait.

Oh, and for the record, I posted a very lengthy comment to one of her recent posts here. I will be astonished if she responds kindly to it, or even publishes it for that matter. If not, I’ll put it in my next post.

© Alice through the Macro Lens [2014]



Losing touch with reality …

I know people have, quite rightly, observed that there’s nothing I can do to change the past, but I can’t help it.

I feel I am losing sense of reality whenever I mull over the way things have gone so far. I sit here, even now, at this very moment, with an inkling that this has all been one bad dream. Perhaps if I go back to sleep, I’ll wake up at an earlier time when things were still salvageable and persuade “professionals” to help us – a bit like a “restore point” on the computer. Or that, if I will it hard enough, then I will wake up and find that there really is no Conduct Disorder, or that there never was any violence in the household, or that I am not suffering a mental breakdown, or that I still have my job, my finances are fine, and life is just ordinarily comfortable.

It is incredibly difficult for me to accept the reality of not having my son around.

It’s impossible for me to move on without him.

Today is Mother’s Day.

I decided to give myself a treat anyway, and ventured out to the local cinema on my own to see a screening of the National Theatre’s production of War Horse. I  know I’m running the risk of sounding more than a little insane, but at times I found myself believing he was sitting there next to me. I had one of those big drinks that came with two straws and I only drank out of one because I convinced myself the other straw was “his.” We “shared” popcorn. And I bought mint-flavoured Matchmakers because he prefers them to the orange ones. I watched the show as if he was with me, imagining the questions he’d be asking or the comments he’d make at varying points in the show. I even went to McDonalds after I left the cinema, even though I dislike the place myself, because that’s what we would have done if he’d been with me.

SONY DSCAm I insane?  Possibly.

Do I miss my son?  Terribly.

© Alice through the Macro Lens [2014]