Thursday, February 16, 2012

Kate's Thoughts on YouTube

Last night, Kate took my laptop to her room so she could watch YouTube videos and sing along. From the family room, I could hear her singing Kelly Clarkson's  "Mr. Know It All." I could also hear Jacob stomping out of his room and pounding on Kate's door to tell her to turn it down. Some yelling and door slamming ensued.

After that, Kate turned it down, but I know now that she switched to watching people perform covers of Adele's Rolling in the Deep. I know because she came out to talk to me about the comments posted beneath one of the videos.

"Why do they even put a 'Dislike' button on here? People hit it just to be mean," she said. "Why are people so mean?"

"I don't know," I said. "I don't even read those comments. They're awful. You shouldn't read them."

"This girl is overweight and people are saying ugly things."

Frankly, YouTube comments make me wish someone would nuke humanity.

Kate said, "But some people say nice things. See, here's a nice one." Kate read a couple of comments out loud.

Kate is discovering what most of us already know: anonymous Internet comments bring out the worst in people.

I took the opportunity to talk to her about being kind, about how important it is not to make fun of people for being different. Of course, she already knows these things.

While she sat on the sofa talking to me about the comments, I thought about how beautiful she is, how she's growing into this gorgeous young woman. I thought about how grateful I am that she doesn't have to deal with a disability or obesity or some other physical trait that might invite hateful comments from anonymous trolls online or middle-school jerks at her school.

I'm grateful that she recognizes cruelty and that it prompts her to speak out with righteous indignation.

This morning, Kate was searching through the laundry basket looking for a shirt to wear. She pulled out a long-sleeved top she'd gotten for Christmas. "That's cute. Wear that," I said.

"It's not unique, Mom! Today is Wear Something Uniquely You Day. I have to wear something unique to me!"

She stormed off and I yelled at her not to unfold all the damn clothes when she's going through the basket. (We could put our clothes away, but, lately, I seem incapable of completing this chore.)

A few minutes later, Kate came back in my bedroom, dressed for the day, hair brushed, shoes on. She was wearing a gray T-shirt that reads "Out of the Darkness." It's one of the shirts we received last fall from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention after we raised money and walked in memory of her father.

She said what she says every morning: "Bye, Mom! I gotta go. Love you!" Then I said the thing I say every morning: "I love you, too. Have a good day!"

Then Kate left for the bus stop.

Kate's kindness, her great capacity for empathy, her abhorrence of human cruelty and anonymous online bullying make me so proud. Her courage and willingness to be honest about her life and about the loss of her father to suicide inspire me. She is unashamed of the things that make her different, the things that make her "unique" in a sea of sixth-graders wandering the halls of the middle school.

Kate's heart has been broken, that is true, but, in the places where it is healing, it grows stronger every day.

"As great scientists have said and as all children know, it is above all by the imagination that we achieve perception, and compassion, and hope." -- Ursula K. LeGuin 


  1. There should have been a warning before this post that I was going to need Kleenex.

    1. I KNOW!! I am at work, and I work with all guys, so they probably think I'm crazy (rightly so, though, TBH)

  2. I love this so much. My beautiful 9-year-old daughter Emma, who is popular, smart and could very easily be a stuck up bitch, had made it her personal cause to stand up for the mentally retarded girl in her class whenever people make fun of her. One day she relayed a tirade she gave at the lunch table she delivered when people were ragging the girl about her food choices. Then Emma said "why would you be mean to someone? That's just one less friend!" I told her that if she graduates from Harvard with a PhD at the age of 16 I could not be more proud of her than I was at that moment. Yay for not raising bitches!

  3. Oh, this post! Your daughter sounds like such a special girl. I have three teenage girl cousins who consistently make feel great about the youth of America, and they do it by, like your daughter, embracing what makes them different. They couldn't be more proud of who they are or more comfortable in their own skin. They make 16 and 18-year old me back in the day look downright flimsy with self-worth. Strong girls make the world a better place.

  4. You have a right to be proud! Raising daughters can be such a challenge and other children can be so cruel. What a blessing to her that she has a strong role model.

  5. I would post a Kleenex warning on posts like this, but I honestly get a sick thrill out of making people cry without warning. Thanks, everyone, for your kind comments!

    Maggie, I love your last line. "Strong girls make the world a better place." Amen!


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