I just got back from an impromptu meeting with the guidance counselor at The Girl's middle school.
The Girl is fine, so don't worry.
Last night, The Girl received a picture text from kid in her class. Now, The Girl was 4th generation receiver of this picture, meaning the original sender had sent the picture to someone, who sent the picture to someone, who sent the picture to The Girl. The picture was of a leg covered in scratch marks. The original sender claimed she was cutting herself and it felt good.
The original sender is around 12 years old. Sixth grade. That's it.
I was shocked. I looked at the picture, but was unable to determine for myself whether this was a picture of a cutter's leg, or a kid with scratches and possibly a feisty cat or dog on their hands.
Either way, it didn't matter. Whether the scratches were self-inflicted or not, this child sent out a picture to people, claiming the marks as her handiwork.
And please remember that this girl didn't send the picture to my daughter; she sent it to someone, who forwarded it to someone who forwarded it to my daughter. I honestly have no idea how many people saw this picture (which causes me to hang my head later on- you'll see), or will see this picture.
I asked The Girl to forward the picture to me, and with hesitancy, she did. When she asked what I was
going to do with the picture, I explained to her that many parents don't have the open, trusting relationship with their children that we do, so if one of my kids was cutting, or claiming to cut, I would want to be informed of it. I told her that it was my job, as the parent of a kid that age, to do what was right, inform someone who could handle it, and protect my child at the same time. The Girl accepted this explanation and forwarded me the picture.
So today, I spoke to the guidance counselor at The Girl's middle school. I explained the situation, gave the child's name, and that's all the guidance counselor wanted from me. She didn't want to see the picture, which I found odd, but I didn't question it. She told me I did the right thing by letting her know, and that she would call the child to the office right then to inspect her legs. She thanked me for letting her know what was going on, and that was it; I left.
At this time, I don't have any idea what, if anything, came from my visit with the guidance counselor. I haven't gotten an angry text from The Girl yet, asking me what I did, so I can at least assume that the guidance counselor kept the source of her information a secret, which I am thankful for.
I am also thankful to have the connection with my daughter that I do; to have the trust built between us to the point where she is comfortable sharing information like this with me. And that the trust extends to knowing that I will do the right thing with the information she gives me.
I went through the anger phase last night when my daughter first received the picture. I went through the confusion phase when I talked over things with Hubby and some of my friends to get advice on what I should do, if anything. I hit the crying phase shortly after I got home, because it truly hit me that I just had to have a conversation with the guidance counselor about a child that wasn't my own, who I wouldn't be able to pick out of a line up, but who was crying out for help. Then I cried even more when I recalled the surprised look on the guidance counselor's face when I stated the child's name, and watched as she wrote down the name on a piece of paper. I went to the school at 1pm- 4 1/2 hours after the school day had started. The guidance counselor had not previously been told about this child or her picture. In my (over thinking, over worrying, over analyzing) mind, that meant one of 2 things:
- The other children who received the picture did not have the trusting relationship to share things with their parents as we have here, so no other parents were informed, OR
- No other parent felt the need to do anything about the picture of the girl cutting herself, probably under the guise of It's not my kid.
If a child cries out for help, does anyone hear her? Whether she was cutting herself or just claiming to cut herself, the child was crying out for help, and were my daughter and I really the only 2 people hearing her?
Whatever the reasons, I cried even more. I cried out of thankfulness that I have a trusting relationship with my daughter, out of fear for our youth today, and out of relief that maybe this child will get some help, one way or another.
If you haven't seen the movie "Disconnect" yet, you need to. Not only does it star Jason Bateman (love him), but it gives an honest portrayal of the way of the world today- how disconnected people are with one another, and how that affects everything around us in ways we can't even fathom. This scenario, with my daughter being 4th generation receiver of this picture and not a damn person in between thinking to tell someone that can help this child, is exactly what that movie is about, and it makes me hang my head and have an extremely heavy heart.
This has definitely been my biggest WTF moment of the week, and one of the biggest since I've become a parent.