It’s Mother’s Day, a time to celebrate motherhood. Today I did A LOT of MOM reflecting, feeling a bit unworthy of the title and the invisible crown that goes with it. I often internalize self-doubt and question what I did wrong and how I failed so miserably when my own mom was practically a saint. My teenage daughter is in a residential treatment program. I didn’t even get to talk to her on Mother’s Day because she lost that privilege by not following the program rules. Not following rules is exactly what put her there to begin with. I second guess what I could’ve done differently. The divorce was most likely the catalyst. Maybe I was too much of a pushover; maybe I didn’t spend enough time with her, or perhaps it’s because we didn’t eat dinner together as a two-person family; if only I would’ve done more travelling with her or at least taken her to Disney… On the other hand, I told her I loved her all the time, gave her daily hugs and kisses, tucked her into bed every night, read her stories (when she was younger), packed her lunches, and drove her from activity to activity. I supported her interests and focused on her strengths. So what the hell happened?
Oh, I know I made several mistakes. But the biggest downfall was that damn cell phone. It was like Satan behind a small screen. Adults can barely handle it, so how do we expect children to function in life while being raised by social media? When the number of Snapchat followers becomes more important than having real life friends, there is an obvious disconnect. Social media is just that; media. It began with Facebook. But once Facebook became a dirty addiction for parents, the kids turned to their own alternate forms of social media and were savvy enough to keep parents in the dark. Social media introduced kids to cyber bullying, stalking, sexting, pornography and drugs at a very early age.
The teenager’s undeveloped brains absorb a lot of shit that suppresses emotional maturity. That’s why we have a generation of self-absorbed instant gratification divas. Social media has become a teenage epidemic (not just teenagers, but that’s another topic). She became so addicted to her phone, I had a hard time physically removing it. It became an ongoing losing battle. By the time she reached high school not only had I lost her to the phone, she also began experimenting with drugs. Her junior year she decided to move with her father to another state. The phone remained a permanent fixture and drugs became more than an experiment. She endured A LOT OF MESSED UP SHIT, some of which was no fault of her own, and her world spiraled out of control. If I brought her home I knew the issues would follow. The problem had become bigger than I could handle. She’d lost herself and I had to make a painful decision; one that left me feeling like a complete failure. But I realized, it wasn’t the decision that failed her. It was everything leading up to that point. Here’s the deal. Negativity poisoned my daughter’s mind and she chose to use drugs to self medicate. Her values skewed, and judgement was way off. I knew no matter what household she was in, she would be exposed to the same drugs and negative influences. Something had to change. So her father and I left her in the care of a program that promised to keep her safe. We didn’t send her to a program that enforces punishment or a wilderness camp. It’s a school that doesn’t allow social media, electronics (other than computers in class), makeup, perfume, or unnecessary primping products. Instead, it offers outdoor activities such as horseback riding, rock climbing, soccer and volleyball. She’s reading actual books (yes, physical books with paper pages) and discovered a new passion in art. She’s now responsible for keeping her bedroom tidy and doing her own dishes (she lives in a house with a host family) and she’s learning how to cook and do chores at a ranch. And most importantly she’s having actual live conversations with other kids and playing games that don’t involve electronics. All the things she should have done at home but didn’t.
After beating myself up convinced I’d failed, it dawned on me that now is my chance to give her the best gift I know how; the gift of sense of self. She’d always tried to fit the image created by social media, which has nothing to do with reality. Social media presents an external picture of an internal fantasy. Take Facebook. Haven’t you seen the posts of perfection, knowing full well there’s an entirely different picture happening behind closed laptops? Social media is merely a playground for people to show off exactly what they want you to see. So you look at it, feel bad about yourself because it seems like everyone else is having more fun than you, and your identity becomes less about who you are and more about who you wish you could be. It’s the same thing with binge watching television. It’s the practice of indulging ourselves in other people’s drama to escape our own reality. Instead of gaining a sense of self, many of us are focusing on the rest of the world. I enjoy seeing what all of my friends are up to. I’m not focusing blame on anyone who posts on social media because that would be hypocritical. What I’m trying to get across is the importance of knowing how to use it wisely, with a filter, and in moderation. So I decided to remove the seduction of social media and drugs to offer her an opportunity to learn how to interact on a personal level with other human beings. She’s out in the fresh air and learning every day life skills. I’m not exerting all my energy trying to pry the phone out of her hands or arguing about doing her homework and chores. She’s doing it all on her own. She’s surrounded by trained professionals who can guide her without the resistance she gave me. When a child loses themselves to addiction, whether it be social media or drugs or whatever, it’s time to forget about what the rest of the world thinks and know intuitively when it’s time for help. And that’s exactly what I did. I placed her in a safe environment which allows her to explore her true identity. And if she discovers that sense of self, it will all be worth it the pain I feel in this moment.