never grow up...
'Oh darling, don't you ever grow up,
Don't you ever grow up, just stay this little.
Oh darling, don't you ever grow up,
Don't you ever grow up, it could stay this simple.
No one's ever burned you, nothing's ever left you scarred -
And even though you want to, just try to never grow up.'
The other day I was chatting with a friend, and the subject of 'Who influenced you to go into blogging' came up. After a brief hesitation, I replied:
'In all honesty, I started out blogging because I couldn't find what I was looking for. Information on pre-adolescent/adolescent girls and autism.'
Let's face it - I'm an artist... I'm not a writer... I agonize over everything I write, often wondering if I am getting my point across. 'Good design' is equally as important to me as 'good content'. But 'this' (adolescence and autism) was something I felt passionate about... something that was clawing at my very soul.
You see, I had just 'come off' adolescence with my oldest daughter, Isabella - and let me tell you... it wasn't pretty. I was terrified of what adolescence was going to bring for Emma. I wanted to try and find a group of mamas (and papas) to connect with - to share things with. And, let's face it - there are no two ways around it: Adolescent girls can be mean! The problem was - nobody was talking about pre-teen girls, adolescence and autism....
Now, more and more girls are speaking up... rather their parents are... you are starting to hear some of their voices... however, I still don't feel the voice of the pre-teen girl is well represented yet.
No, I'm not a pre-teen girl... I'm not autistic... I don't presume to know what my daughter is thinking, not being on the spectrum and all... I can only do what I do best... be her parent. But I do know girls... and, I do know something about adolescent girls (having just raised one daughter through it AND, having taught a whole boat load of others). Quite frankly, adolescence scares me - even more so today then it did a few short years ago.
If you haven't raised a girl through adolescence before, I don't think moms and dads realize how truly difficult - and at times - cruel this stage can be.
You have a wonderful girl. A super, kind and loving girl... and within a day, hour, minute - she can be completely demolished by her peers or so-called friends. NT, ASD - it really doesn't matter. With the addition of social media... it just brings the ball game to a whole new playing level. Unfortunately, I watched as it evolved - almost in the blink of an eye.
Flashback 10 years ago.
Isabella would have been in middle school. Computers weren't as abundant as they were now. (Smart Phones? Facebook? Twitter?) More or less each household had a computer, but it was 'the family computer'. As parents, my husband and I monitored Isabella's activity constantly, much to her chagrin. There was absolutely no 'surfing the net' without us being in the same room. I remember her being 'furious' that we wouldn't allow her to have a computer in her room. 'MySpace' was the fad, and she like many of her friends, had an account (my husband and I called it SpySpace, as we knew the password, and would look to make sure there were no 'MySpace' shenanigans happening).
So, one would think - one. would. THINK. - that even with constant monitoring, as parents, we would be able to keep the shit out... the bad things... the bullying. But you can't. Because it happens. In the blink of an eye.
Hidden behind the safety of a computer screen, never having to hear a voice, or see a face, a child can type something so hideous and so ugly... and press send... close a screen and go to bed. Never knowing the consequence on the other end. Why do I know this? Because I've seen firsthand how a child... how a girl can be devastated by a message sent callously. By a cruel remark meant only to hurt. That was ten years ago. Ten years ago. One computer. Monitoring.
Now there is WiFi. Children have laptops... iPads... smartphones... unsupervised access to the internet. Students are indignant if you ask them to put a phone away in school... they update their status, they tweet, they snapchat... how is one to contain such a plethora of social media access? If something happens, it's sent to everyone's phone within seconds... heck - they have a better 'phone chain' than any parent group will ever have.
At the beginning of the current school year, there was a girl in a neighboring city who committed suicide - she was bullied via social media. She was a beautiful girl... she had her entire life ahead of her. Yet, her classmates somehow deemed her unacceptable... they sent her messages via Facebook and Twitter demeaning her... so much so, that took her own life.
Technology is great - as adolescents, children aren't always. Decision making and cognitive skills are at the height of growth in their developing young brains. Adolescents are developing personal identities... they're trying to figure out where they fit within their peer group. Mistakes are made, awkwardness ensues. Unfortunately, in this digital age every humiliation is documented and circulated for the 'enjoyment' of others. There seems to be no sense of accountability anymore. No personal interaction. Half the things I have seen written, I would NEVER have the nerve to say to someones face.
So now, as I have two girls 'up to bat' in the game of adolescence, I can't imagine how things are going to be for Emma.
Each day, I ask her how her day was... I ask her who she played with at recess and I want to cry, because she tells me the same thing everyday: There were children playing everywhere and none of them wanted to play with her. With the exception of her sister, she spends her day virtually friendless.
Tell me though - how soon will it be before they aren't talking to her, and they start picking on her?
If only we could tuck them away and protect them forever...
'Your little hand's wrapped around my finger,
And it's so quiet in the world tonight.
Your little eyelids flutter cause you're dreaming,
So I tuck you in, turn on your favorite night light.
To you everything's funny, you got nothing to regret.
I'd give all I have, honey -
If you could stay like that.'
Taylor Swift: Never Grow Up