Last spring – I know this may sound foolish even as I write it – I was involved in an online quarrel with an acquaintance I’d met through a social networking group and met twice in person. The spat resulted from a miscommunication and this individual – who as it turned out, was a deeply troubled woman or at least going through a very difficult time – had decided I was a cruel, incredibly rude “Alpha mom” who’d deliberately snubbed her. I watched in horror as she trashed my name and character in a venomous assault to what felt like the whole world – which really was only a group of people online, some of which knew me personally and most who knew me through my screen name (which as always is my real name). I knew this person was far too angry to listen to reason or even stop dragging my name through the mud to talk to me personally (which I tried) so I more or less felt forced to accept the abuse (or stop reading it, which I did).
That afternoon I’d had to take my daughter to get a couple vaccinations for her entry to kindergarten in the fall. I was so distressed over what was going on in the internet-ether that I remember I was not able to focus on my children. To the outside world I know I looked calm and that I tracked what was happening but inside I was sickeningly split in two – a part of my mind dedicated to the automatic functioning of caring, capable mother – and the much larger part of my mind writhing in an overwhelming noise of being hurt so unfairly.
My thin-skinned nature is a fairly recent (a couple years’ worth) demotion of my character and deserves to be the subject of another entry. But that moment sitting on the doctor’s bench with my child in my lap I knew something was dreadfully wrong if I could let a near-stranger disrupt my peace so entirely – take me away from where I wanted to be, which was with my kids.
I left the online group about a month later. I’d loved the group and had participated enthusiastically but there was too much of this sort of thing going on amongst the members. I also decided I had to be stronger than how I’d been until now, for my children at the very least, but yes for myself as well.
Did my children notice I wasn’t there that afternoon? I’m sure they did not. Would in growing older they begin to perceive a mother who was so permeable, who suffered so readily when anyone hurt her, that she would leave her own mind in order to gnaw away on her pain? Absolutely they would.
In my recent family crisis I got to show my quality. I had improved. I have invested in my own strength and my hope is my children will invest in theirs.