On the Keaton Jones’ Bully Video. It Needs to Go Away.

The Keaton Jones’ video. It all needs to go away.

If you’ve been on social media within the last week, you’ve seen him floating around, by no choice of his own. He found himself in inta-fame world, brought to you by the almighty power of the “viral video”.

Everyone felt terrible for this poor, hysterical boy who was pleading with the world to end bullying.

Very sweet. And innocent.

And the mom should have never posted the video. Because the internet is a terrible place that ruins everything that is good in the world.

That video wasn’t out for 24 hours and suddenly all of the ugly came out: mom is a suspected racist, dad is an imprisoned racist, and mom allegedly is doing all of this for money.

Listen. I want to believe otherwise, at least about the latter. I’m a little off-put by the mom prodding the child but I want to believe she had pure intentions.

The racism piece…meh. That’s looking like its unfortunately true, but that doesn’t take away Keaton’s overall message. Because he’s a child who innocently and wholeheartedly wants people to be kind to one another. Hopefully mom doesn’t teach him to hate people of color, especially now that she’s feeling the heat of all of this fallout. Maybe she’s learned more than one lesson, but the boy’s original message shouldn’t be muted because his mom is potentially an asshole.

Yet, here we are, hearing about how much of an asshole his mom is every.single.day. And that won’t go away. That trumps Keaton’s innocence.

And that’s hurting Keaton.

This 15 minutes of fame is going to continue to hurt Keaton more than it helps. Now he is going to stand out even more so than he did before with his peers. And all kids want to do is blend in. They don’t need the spotlight, they just need to feel like they belong. This isn’t helping him. This isn’t blending in.

I feel for Keaton, and I even feel for his mom. She misstepped on this one. And she needs to stop doing media to backpedal out of it. And we need to stop sharing his video on social media. It’s all bad and terrible for him. All of it. Even the celebrities that have shown their compassion for him. All bad.

And this is coming from someone who pours her soul out for the trolls of the interwebs to read and has learned some tough lessons, on a much lesser scale than that of the Jones’.

Which is why I believe Keaton’s video rubbed me the wrong way from the moment I saw it. I saw too much of my own story in theirs.

I get it, Ms. Jones, I do. Maybe you thought you were helping, like I had thought. I, too, have been accused of having my own agenda in “exposing” my child. I see you. I understand what you’re feeling.

My journey took me off course in social media land, too.

I got divorced. And writing gripped me. It was my savior.

And I wrote a post about being in the throes of divorce. In The Trenches. And someone noticed it and said it was great. And it ended up being published on BonBonBreak.

This is when it really hit me.

Words matter.
Words speak to people in ways that penetrate their soul.
People connect through words.
The power of the internet is amazing.
People are identifying with my words.
People want to read my words and connect with me.
I needed these people. They understood me. They empathized. They connected.

This felt amazing.

I felt like I was making a difference, helping people, healing people even. Every reaction and comment gave me energy and a bit of a high. I mattered. I was touching people.

When I began writing about my daughter’s gender identity, the slope started to become a bit slippery.

Scary Mommy wanted to publish my first article on the subject and millions read it.

Whew. This felt big for me.

I will interject here that I have never made one dime off of my writing or any media I’ve done. Not.one.dime. That is important to know.

Because I wrote about a controversial topic, somewhat opposed to the topic of divorce, now I was in a new ballgame.

Negative feedback abounded. Internet trolls came out in force. And personal friends began expressing concerns for how this might affect my daughter in the future.

But I wanted to fight the good fight. I wanted to be a champion, an activist of sorts. I wanted to speak loudly on the subject and really make this all about accepting differences in everyone, accepting our kids for who they are.

This felt important to me because for every negative comment, I was also getting a mom messaging me about her struggles with a child similar to mine. It felt right. I needed this connection. I needed someone, or a bunch of someones, to understand me.

And then media outlets started to reach out to me and wanted my story. And that felt a bit exciting, but also…weird. It felt like now I was possibly teetering on that fine line of overexposing my child.

None the less, I ended up doing one video interview for a British media company called Barcroft. I thought I was still fighting the good fight. You can read here how that went. I’ll sum it up in Cliff Notes and save you the click: it didn’t go well and I regret the day I signed on the dotted line to do it. I should have listened to my gut and not gone forward with any media. It just wasn’t what I was ready for and now that video exists in the bowels of internet hell forever.

And it will affect my child somehow, I’m sure, most likely in a negative way.

So, Keaton and Ms. Jones, I feel you. I get it. But make it stop for yourselves now, as best as you can. Disappear. Stop talking. Silence is the best message now. Be still. 

The lesson to all of us is that, instant gratification and that feeling that we are gaining popularity always is a momentary ego stroke, especially if we feel that we are sending a powerful message with our words.

But good intensions can have horrific fallout in social media land. It’s a place we all hate to love.  Someone’s sad story told today will be torn to shreds tomorrow in this day and age.

What happened to Keaton is the best explanation of 2017’s landscape to ever have existed.

 

Things I Miss.

I complain about social media a lot. And I complain about technology and all of the negative aspects of it.

I also spend approximately 80% of my day on my technology or social media.

It’s a complex, toxic, love/hate relationship, right?

But, seriously. I see how problematic it is and I see how beneficial it is.

It especially worries me for my child’s generation. I fear we’re creating a generation of zombies and dumbasses since these neat little gadgets have become our children’s babysitters (and I am guilty AF).

So, this got me thinking. My childhood was so much less complex and so much more boring.

I miss…

…the days of staying outside and playing until the fireflies told us to go home.

…the days when the terms “helicopter parent” and “social anxiety” weren’t widely known or acknowledged.

…the days of having a phone plugged into the wall and the cord would be all stretched out from trying to walk from room to room.

…the days of Super Mario Bros. being the only form of screen time.

…the days when MTV actually played music videos and The Real World had actual content of college kids making something of themselves, discussing real world issues, instead of just getting wasted drunk and fucking.

…the days of simple seated portraits being an acceptable form of photography, opposed to all of these fancy locations with the wind having to blow in the right direction.

…the days of cell phone minute packages so we actually had to care about how much time we spent on the phone. (I had an Erikson and then a Nokia, FYI.)

…the days of writing notes in class and folding them in the most creative ways possible.

…the days before texting was a thing and people actually had to speak so things weren’t lost in translation.

…the days of not knowing where someone was because they didn’t have a cell phone yet.

…the days of spelling things out with numbers on beepers.

…the days of spending summers reading Sweet Valley High, The Babysitters Club, and Ramona books.

…the days of flannels and grunge clothes that didn’t show ass cheeks.

…the days when The Kardashians weren’t societal icons and middle school kids weren’t so concerned with make-up and lip plumpers.

…the days when rock music actually existed.

…the days when people actually had to have talent to make a healthy living instead of just playing mindless games on YouTube.

…the days when infidelity was the biggest scandal in government.

…the days when bullies actually had to be a dick to your face instead of hiding behind a keyboard, both adults and children.

…the days when selfies weren’t called selfies. They were just pictures you took with your disposable camera and hoped for the best; had them printed and then shoved them in an album.

…the days of rewinding your favorite song in that yellow Sony Walkman.

…the days of actual humorous sitcoms. (Remember T.G.I.F.??)

…the days when the most violent video game was The Legends of Zelda.

…the days of not knowing everyone’s eating, drinking, pooping habits, their political affiliation, and what inspirational quote they’re living by for today via Facebook.

…the days when we all weren’t instantly gratified by every.single.thing. because every answer to everything is in our hand.

And that’s just to name a few.

I’m starting to feel every ounce of my 40 years of age, saying things like, “Well, back in my day, we had an ETCH-A-SCKETCH and that was it!!”. But it’s true. My generation was so much better off than recent generations, I do believe. We were forced to be creative. And we even had actual books and libraries and encyclopedias. Nothing was instanious. Everything required a little bit of work. Mind blowing, right?

We just had a simpler life. Period. They were simpler times. Or so it seemed.

All of this technology is supposed to be making our lives so much better, so much more convenient, and sure, in many ways it is. I love Google Maps, instead of paper maps, and I don’t miss having to find a pay phone. But it certainly has complicated our lives in so many ways.

The irony isn’t lost on me that you’re probably reading this on your smart-technolgy, linked off of a social media site. I get it. As I stare at my child sitting on the couch watching YouTube on our TV.

I get it.

I love it just as much as the next person. I’ve relented to it, allowed it to meld right into my life, for sure.

Perhaps every generation says this, and I know it’s all relative, but I sure do miss the good ole days. I have officially reached the age of saying so.

generation2

 

 

Being a Champion is Tricky Business. Being a Parent is Even Trickier.

If you’ve been following my writing, you know that I’m an open book, for better or worse. I’ve said it a million times and I will say it again: I write to connect with people. I write on divorce, motherhood, relationships, personal life events, kindness, and acceptance. Nothing new here. Nothing extremely unique. Just another voice amongst the chatter, mostly vying for a better place for my child to grow up in.

I know this platform isn’t for everyone. Not everyone understands why I put myself out there on display, and in some opinion, take my child along with me. I get that it’s not for everyone. I get it.  I respect it.

My post about the possibility of Lily being transgender was published on Scary Mommy in August of 2015. I thought long and hard about publishing it. It was a well thought out decision.

For me, love won. The love that I have for Lily won. Since, at that time, Lily had started to be called out on being different by other children and I had started to be called out on “allowing” her to be different, I not only wanted to connect with others like me but I also wanted to spread a message of kindness, acceptance and love.

It was received with mixed feedback, mostly because I don’t even believe that most people read these entire pieces when they’re published. They read a sensationalized title of, “My Daughter Might be Transgender…and I am Terrified” (a title given by Scary Mommy), and people make assumptions, draw conclusions, just from that one line. Maybe they skim it a little, maybe they do read the whole thing. Of course it’s going to be met with some mixed emotions based off of the title and content. But I felt the message was important. It was raw and it was real.

And I was right. People connected with me. I had dozens of other moms reach out to me to express they’re in the same surprising, challenging (at times) position of parenting a non-gender conforming child. It was shared thousands of times and read by over 40,000 people. I connected with beautiful people that are just as scared for their child as I am mine. That love and nurture their child, just as I do. That try to do the very best goddamn parenting job that they possibly can, just like I do.

It made me feel comforted and so not alone in this unique parenting challenge.

To my surprise thereafter, I was contacted by several other media outlets that wanted to interview me after this piece ran. Some I declined immediately, some I entertained.

I was approached by a media outlet based out of the U.K. in August of this year that wanted to do a 5 minute video interview with Lily and I. I was told it was going to be a part of their “Gender Neutral Parenting” segment on their Youtube channel. They shared some of the other videos within that category, other testimonials by parents like me. Some I loved, some I thought could have been done better, but overall, I liked the idea.

I thought about it for 4 weeks. I actually had turned down the opportunity immediately but then they revisited it with me, convincing me that this is a great way to get a message out there.  I discussed it with family members, carefully weighed the risks, discussed it at a 7 year old level with Lily, and ultimately decided I wanted to be a part of it. I saw it as another opportunity to spread acceptance and kindness. This company sold me on the idea.

When they sent the video to me for approval, I loved it. It was beautifully done. It conveyed my message well, the title was appropriate and the content was great. There were a few things left out that I would have liked added but overall, we came to, what I thought, was an agreement to run it.

Similar to my Scary Mommy piece, it was a message of losing labels, a message of kindness, acceptance, and letting kids explore themselves but also letting them just be kids.I wanted to be a champion for these kids and these parents. I wanted to be a voice of advocacy and normalizing this a bit.

Here’s the link that was sent to me for approval. This is what I want you all to see. (You will have to put a password in: bm_K1dTr4n.)

The part of the filming that I wish they would have included was the question of “How does Lily know about gender reassignment?”. I get scrutinized on this often. Here’s how: Lily has asked several times if she can become a boy. Never wanting to lie to her, I always kept my answers vague by saying “Well, babe. When you’re older, you can be lots of different things”.

And then Caitlyn Jenner came along. Lily saw her on a magazine cover, or possibly on TV, asked if it was a boy dressed as a girl, and I answered honestly”Yes. She was born a boy but decided as an adult she wanted to become a girl”. This came with many questions that I answered to the absolute best of my abilities. This is real shit, friends. These are real conversations with my child who has struggled with gender identity since she was very small.

The video was ran. It was ran with a very different title on a very different segment of this media company’s YouTube channel. The video itself is even narrated differently with things I never said. I don’t want to link it here because I’m not proud of it and the comments under it were absolutely brutal. It’s not the look I was going for.

Unbeknownst to me, our story was also sold to British tabloids and twisted into a bit of a message I didn’t want to send. Something I didn’t even imagine could happen. Rookie mistakes. I didn’t ask the right questions and obviously wasn’t working with the proper media outlet. I now feel like I put my child on display in a negative light. It was never my intention (and no, I didn’t get paid for this filming).

I’m not defending myself here, or explaining myself, for empathy or pity, or even for validation. No. I’m defending my message and my choice to speak out the way I do.

Being a champion of anything is hard work. It takes dedication, vigilance, a strong back bone. I’m learning as I go with social media, writing, and sharing my life with the masses. I’m navigating ways to do this without having a lasting effect on my child. I’m learning. It’s tricky to balance wanting to get a message out there with also doing the right thing. Some of it is absolutely trial and error. This video was an error. I don’t give any fucks if people are chatting behind my back about this. No fucks at all given. If you’re judging me on my parenting, congratulations of being a perfect parent and knowing all of the answers. If you’re judging me on my writing and my openness, I accept that.

I just want Lily to be unscathed. That is all.

So, I guess this is another message of kindness. Remember that not everything you see online is real… but there are real people with real feelings behind the keyboards. Don’t let your keyboard make you brave, hateful, or overly judgmental. The media loves to do this. They love to create a divide.

I’m still proud of my message and even more proud of Lily for simply being her. Who she wants to be. She is leading me into a path of so much learning, I cannot even begin to tell you how lucky I am.

But, my lesson has been learned. I will champion kindness through other ways. No more British media for us. But I will continue to unapologetically write what I feel suitable, share what I feel worth sharing and be a champion for kindness, tolerance, and acceptance.

Thank you for reading my rambling.

 

 

Dear Facebook Friends, Please Stop.

I love Facebook. I really do. I love the concept. I get most of my news, my gossip, my baby picture fix, my puppy picture fix from Facebook. I’m able catch up with friends and family that live far away, I’m able to laugh at funny Vine videos and read some amazing articles. I sometimes get too much information about friends’ marital woes or personal struggles but hey, I’m one to put myself out there a lot, too, so I don’t judge. I’m among the many that have become addicted to the online connection that is social media.

I post pretty frequently and I’m not ashamed of it. Call it narcissistic or attention seeking but we live in this new age of over-sharing and I melded right in. I truly embrace most of what Facebook has to offer.

However. The politics and the hate. I can’t get on board.

Everyday that I login to Facebook, I am inundated with hateful memes, political rants, verbal attacks from party to party. I’m truly not understanding this facet of Facebook. If this is simply just an exercise of freedom of speech, please, Facebook friends, explain to me why this is necessary.

When you’re slaying hateful statements about anyone, a political party, our Commander in Chief, or even attempting to discredit someone’s beliefs, what is your purpose? Are you sincerely attempting to persuade someone to your side of the argument? If so, do you think this is a successful way to do so? Posting a meme about how “stupid liberals” are ruining the country, or something similar, do you think this is effective? Or, perhaps you’re looking for solidarity with others that believe as you do? Again, if so, is this an effective way to connect with others? I’m honestly vying for a better understanding here.

My opinion is this: it is bullying. It is adult online bullying and it really should stop.

I totally get it. Our world is in a scary space right now. Terrorists are attacking worldwide and record acts of violence are being reported everyday. We are, as a whole, as one unit, terrified. We can all agree on this, I’m certain. So, it begs the question: on some deeper level, are these posts simply a fear response? I’ll leave that answer to the shrinks of the world but what I do know is that it is far more damaging than it is helpful. As a matter of a fact, I don’t see it as at all helpful. It’s a divide. It’s hate mongering. It’s making me really dislike people that I thought I not only liked but respected.

I’m all for a good, healthy debate, so please don’t misunderstand. I’m always the first to the table to verbalize my own side of controversial topics…in person. I learned that the internet is not a healthy place to do this. I used to engage, I did, but I learned that everyone is more brave behind a keyboard, including myself. Fact. Each and every one of us has typed things that we would never convey in person that exact same way as we typed. It’s so easy to become a different, braver, meaner, more outspoken version of ourselves online. And, yes, the morals, values and opinions are the same, but they’re verbalized in such an aggressive way online. Some would argue with me here but, friends, would you honestly verbally attack me in person and call me a “stupid liberal” to my face? If so, unfriend me right this moment. I’m not into keeping verbally abusive people in my life.

In a nation and in a world where we are constantly talking about how we fear for our children and for their future, I have to ask my Facebook friends who post so much hate and one-sidedness to please…stop. This isn’t helping our kids. This isn’t helping our future. This is showing our kids that although we encourage them not to bully, adults can do it all day long. This is showing our kids that the world is so divided and broken that all we can do is throw insults around because we don’t know what else to do.

There’s a better answer: get politically involved. Write to your senators, become an activist in whatever it is that you believe in, run for office even. But please, please stop hating one another. I really want to still like all of you.