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]