As you will have noticed most of my posts refer to or allude to parenting children with autism. It’s hard to write from another perspective as this is pretty much the only parenting I know. However, I think a lot of my experiences are similar to any other parent … after all parenting is a tough job no matter what.
But lately Mr GG and I have been faced with the challenges of social media. Whilst I like elements of social media like Facebook and, to a lesser extent Twitter, I have yet to find the fascination with media like Snapchat or Instagram and as parents of children with special needs it’s hard to know what to allow or what to avoid. Son No1 in particular is keen to be the same as his peers and painfully aware that he is different at an age where fitting in is so important. He engages with social media and is keen to keep in contact with his online friends.
Sadly, however, his autism and beautifully trusting nature make him a target for bullying and exploitation. It breaks my heart. He doesn’t understand why people are unkind. My amazing boy is friends with everyone and sees the good in all around him, even those that are unkind at times.
Last year we had to deal with an issue of bullying through social media which was swiftly and, we thought, effectively dealt with by school … however, it’s happening again and I’m cross, really cross. I’m not going into details as that’s not helpful, but it’s the same person, someone who has known my son long enough to understand how vulnerable he is and therefore someone who should know better. I’m devastated. I want to protect my son. I want the person involved to see the impact of their actions and realise just how deep the scars of bullying are affecting my child.
So, what do I do? The bullying is, in the main, cyber-bullying … from the safety of distance … although at times the person involved has physically and verbally assaulted my son. Do I remove social media from my son, thus punishing him for being a victim?
I think not.
For those who find social interaction difficult there are immeasurable benefits of social media … it’s a place to make friends, talk with them, and build a social network without the stresses of actually being in the company of people, trying to read social cues and understand body language.
We have a responsibility to train our children in using social media. To teach them how to beware of making themselves vulnerable and what is acceptable behaviour online. Whilst our children are entitled to privacy I also still, maybe controversially, feel strongly that we need to monitor our children’s actions online and deal with any bullying traits that may be exposed. Bullying isn’t always obvious, sometimes the bully is not aware that their behaviour is threatening and overpowering, sometimes they don’t realise how their actions are being perceived by the victim … sometimes a bully doesn’t know that’s what he or she has become and that what started out as something innocent has been built up to overwhelming proportions.
However, as a parent, I’m struggling with how I feel about the bully … I know I need to forgive and I need to help my son forgive but I don’t want to … I really, truly don’t want to. It’s one thing to hurt me … but another entirely when someone hurts of Mr GG or one of my Junior GGs. I’m a work in progress though, I’ll get there however long it takes.
Just today one of our schools tweeted that next week is anti-bullying week and children are encouraged to wear odd socks on Monday to celebrate that everyone is different and unique. That flags up different issues in a house with autism … wearing odd socks is anathema to one child who will definitely be wearing matching socks (and definitely the ones with the right day of the week on them!) … however, I’m sure at least some of us will be taking part. Exactly what it will do to help with bullying issues I’m not sure but … we’ll do it anyway.
So, setting the whole horrible cyber-bullying issue to one side it’s time to look back to the Love Dare. I’m on day 34 now … the end is well and truly in sight which I’m sure many of you will be breathing a sigh of relief about … peace comes … maybe!
Today the subject is marriage. Whilst the Junior GGs are all too young for marriage I’m well aware that time is whizzing past and before I know it they will all be flying the nest, making their way in the world, building homes of their own and, I pray, happy marriages and families.
It’s a thought … gives me chills really … I can’t imagine any of my boys grown up and away from home although the first Junior GG has now left me behind in the height stakes so I guess I ought to be getting used to it. I remember being told when the boys were wee (maybe only Son No1 was around at that time) that we have a responsibility for eighteen years to train our children to live independently of us … it’s true … but a horrible thought! I’ve loved having little children around but I’m also loving the boys they have become and the young men they are growing into. It’s a privilege to be their mum and I hope that when they grow up they think I’ve not done too bad a job!
So, the dare for today is to talk to the boys about marrying the right person … and at the right time. It’s a subject that’s been discussed around our table before as the boys know that Mr GG and I knew each other for many years before we eventually became a couple and got married. The dare also encourages us to pray for our children’s future spouses. It’s a thought! I wonder what the future holds for my sons, I wonder who they will eventually marry, I wonder what adventures lie ahead of them.