This post will probably touch a nerve with some of you who have teenagers. It’s a very, very personal look into something that has been going on in my own life. It’s been something that’s been constantly on my mind since having been dealing with it with my daughter.
The genre of music known as ‘Emo’ music has become an exceptionally popular genre among many teenagers in high schools throughout the country. Bands like The Black Veil Brides, My Chemical Romance, Escape the Fate, and Falling in Reverse have been gaining increasing popularity among teens between the ages of 14 and 18. I don’t know the statistics off hand, but I’m almost positive and willing to bet these types of influential bands have made a very negative mark on many a teen’s mentality and mind state as it has on my daughter.
These types of bands, in my opinion, have brought about a plethora of ‘cutters’, otherwise understood as those who tend to cause self inflicted cuts on their own bodies for myriad reasons, and have influenced the overall mind state of impressionable teenagers across the world.
Am I a mean, bad mother for deterring my 15 year old daughter away from listening to these types of bands, even if it’s her favorite music? I don’t think so.
My daughter used to be a happy, cheery, excited girl who never let anything get her down. She used to listen to music from Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, and other pop singers and groups. I never allowed rap music or heavy metal. Those were big no-no’s. The messages they portrayed in those songs and from those kinds of bands and personalities were completely degrading and purely evil. The motives behind the music disgusted me.
Upon entering public high school, she was introduced to the darker side of music from people she made friends with. These types of bands were all she began listening to, and it changed her. Bigtime. Public school has had an extremely negative impact on my daughter. In fact, it’s had a negative impact on all of my children. From learning disgusting language, to engaging in non-age appropriate conversations, and the list goes on and on and on – public school is not my educational system of choice. If only I knew how to home school. Homeschooling four children, undoubtedly, would be disastrous for me. I don’t even know how to begin or what to do. The thought has raced through my mind so many times. Many nights, I’ve sat up, thinking about how much better things could be if I home schooled my children from the start. How much it would have helped maintain their Christianity. How much it could impact the family unit in a good way. Enough rambling; back to the topic at hand..
She became depressed, withdrawn, introverted. She is enrolled in a program in her high school known as IB, or International Baccalaureate, and it is an honor and privilege to be chosen for this esteemed program. Out of 1,200 applicants to the program, she was among the 200 that were accepted. They actually asked her to be a part of this program before she even applied because her grades were so good. Upon passing and graduating from the IB program, she would have received a huge scholarship to college, and would have had a very good shot at any college she wanted to go to. Her dream used to be to go to college for music. She is a violinist, and is an amazing one at that. Julliard and Berkeley were top schools on her list. When she started listening to these types of bands, everything changed. She used to love church, and Jesus, and pray. She hasn’t done that in a long time, so she admitted. When I asked her why, she shrugged her shoulders and said, “I don’t know”. Yes, I think public school played into this. Her science classes teach the theory of evolution. They teach the big bang theory. They have textbooks that will talk about Satan, but there is no mention of God. How is this justified? It infuriates me so much I can’t even think about it without getting fired up.
Her grades began to fall. She began to distance herself from our family, wanting only to sleep or lock herself away in her bedroom. She started wearing dark clothes, and drawing exceptionally dark pictures. There was one in particular that haunts me till this very day. Two, actually. One was a simple box; it had a heart lock on the front of it. Seemed simple enough and pretty – until I was told by my 10 year old son that she had told him it was the box she wanted to be cremated and put into under her favorite tree. This floored me. That killed me. Another drawing depicted an exceptionally scary looking girl in great detail with stitches for eyes, and stitches over the mouth, with blood running down her face from her head and eyes and mouth. She was holding up a sign that read, ‘Let me OUT!’ I think I stopped breathing when I saw this…I don’t even know if I can put into words the fear that crippled my entire being. I would have never known about these drawings if I hadn’t gone through her sketch book when she was at school one day. I had done so when I was in her room one day, because I was worried about her. I was looking for clues as to what may have been going on. She doesn’t own a computer, or a phone, or a tablet. I don’t believe in giving those things to my kids. They can get them when they grow up and move out, just like everyone from my generation did. Parents, I think, give too much to their children nowadays, and enable them to get into trouble, and to come across things that will hurt them in the end by giving them these types of devices. If they have homework or research to do, they can use the homework computer I have set up in my office. I monitor everything.
She is a very talented artist, and began using all of her talent in the wrong way.
Eventually, she had 5 out of 7 F’s on her report card. Then it turned to 6 F’s. No matter how much encouragement I gave her, no matter how many conferences I had with her teachers, or time I put in to help her change her grades, no matter how many days she stayed after school for tutoring (which she didn’t want, but I made her go to anyway) changed anything. I think the breaking point for me was when she began cutting herself.
I found scratches on her thigh and wrist. I noticed this because she was wearing a sweater in the Florida heat. Made absolutely no sense. I asked her why she was wearing a sweater. She said she felt like it. I told her to change because it was too hot. When she did, I noticed it. Self inflicted cuts/scratches going up to her elbows on both arms, and also on her thigh… and it scared me to death. That was the first time. The second time, I lost it. I cried, panicked, and prayed – hard. I made sure there wouldn’t be a third. I knew I had to act fast and intervene – and I couldn’t have done it without God. The strength I needed to get through this was not able to be found within myself. I needed God.
I took action. I forced that music and lifestyle out of her life, out of my house, and out of existence as she knows it – at least I did here at home. I donated most of her dark colored clothing to Goodwill. I made her stop wearing makeup, and I threw it all in the garbage can. I never gave her permission to wear makeup in the first place. She took it upon herself to wear it when she got on the bus to go to school. I found a treasure trove of it in her bedroom, and I was infuriated. Makeup was never something I allowed – 15 or not! “I don’t care what everyone else in school is doing, or how they dress. I care about what we do here in this household,” is what I told her. I encouraged her to begin reading the Bible again. I can’t force her, and I don’t want to try. But I did encourage. I took all of the bad music away, and threw it in the trash. I became a hardball. My husband is right there with me. He taught me how to play hardball, because I’m the softie. I made her eliminate certain friends I felt were more like leaches, sucking her soul away with the same behaviors and actions. I suppose you could say I isolated her. I am trying to save her life, her future, and her very existence. As far as I’m concerned, these types of friends are holding her back from being the best person she can be. I won’t say I’m sorry for making that choice.
And do you know why? Because I love my daughter.
I won’t sit here and defend my actions to anybody. I won’t, because I don’t have to. I think I’m doing the right thing. Parenting doesn’t come with a handbook. I am learning as I go. Where she is my oldest child, this age is proving to be an extreme challenge for me.
Although I’ve stopped the emo lifestyle here at home, I have no control over what goes on at school. She has computer time throughout the day in school, where she listens to music and browses the web. I don’t quite know what’s going on at school. I only know she told me the bullying she has been dealing with in school is what led her to this point, not the music. I have dealt with the bullying situation with the school, and I will NOT allow my child to be targeted by hateful bullies. I went through it in middle school myself; it was brutal. I know how it feels. I don’t understand why kids have to be so cruel.
I have given her some of my personal CD’s to listen to, stuff I obviously approve of, and recently, she placed an order online with a gift card she received for some CD’s. I encouraged her to opt for more happy music. With my convincing, she ordered SuperChick’s CD, which is a Christian group, and RED’s CD, a Christian rock group. I am helping her to move away from this evil, dark place she’s been residing in inside of her mind for the past year or so. It’s not easy, and it’s overwhelming and exhausting. But, that’s what being a good parent is all about. It’s about devoting yourself 100% to your child. To making sure they are healthy, mentally and physically. To ensuring they will turn out alright in the end. It’s hard work. Everything worth fighting for always is.
I took a Saturday out to make an inspirational poster to hang on her wall, one that we can continue to add to and build on until it’s completely filled up. I got both of my daughters involved in the project. It’s nothing special in terms of looks or cost. It was a simple poster board and cutouts from magazines, or things I printed out or made online. I want her to see inspiration and happiness when she looks around her room. I want her to know she has a reason for being here. I want her to see life is beautiful, and it’s truly a gift. I love my daughter, and I’d do anything for her. Anything. When I went into her bedroom to take pictures for this post a few minutes ago, I noticed she put her own addition to the poster. A ‘positive post it note’, she wrote on it. It says, “Remember to breathe. Remember to smile. Live. Love. Laugh. #Positive-Post-it-Note. I almost cried. It made me so happy to see she is trying.
Everything going on with her is a work in progress. We have a lot of work to do. I haven’t seen any more cuts on her, and she promised me she wouldn’t do it again. She never makes promises, because she doesn’t like to let people down. For her to promise this to me, walk up to me and hug me, and tell me she’s sorry for hurting me…that in itself was a milestone. She’s not the emotionally expressive type, and doesn’t like giving hugs very often. This was huge for us. A true moment. Her grades have improved to D’s – which, in the short amount of time she has been working on bringing them up is pretty awesome – and one of her teachers who keeps in close contact with me e-mailed me and let me know she is trying hard. That makes me so happy.
It had been a while since I had seen her truly smile. Until this past week.
These are some pictures of us being goofy over the past week, playing with the webcam on the new laptop my husband got me. She actually, genuinely smiled:
Maybe sometimes all it takes is for the parents to make an intervention. To show that they care, and that they love their child. I have always expressed love for my children, but sometimes, its easy to get sidetracked with everything else going on in life and to overlook the little things. My husband and I have kicked the love way up in this house, giving our kids hugs and talking to them as much as possible. It’s just necessary. It’s something that needs to be done. Kids need to feel loved. Everyone does. I want to spend as much meaningful tine as possible with her, and show her that she is not expendable. I need her. She has a reason to be here. She – and my other three kids and husband – are my life.
It was really difficult for me to write this post. But, this is a real issue that real parents all around the world are facing. Why shouldn’t I speak on it? Because its too taboo? No. I won’t be silenced; this is too important of an issue for me. It’s an exceptionally personal issue, but an important one. And all I can do is try.
Have any of you dealt with anything like this with your children? What did you do to overcome it? I’d love to hear from you.