Thursday, December 17, 2009

Shedding Some Light on @Military_Mom's Tragic Tweets

Bryson Ross, a 2 year-old Florida boy, drowned in his family's swimming pool on Monday.  His mother, Shellie Ross, is better known in the blogosphere as @Military_Mom, a mommy blogger with more than 5,400 Twitter followers who writes about her experiences parenting four children and being married to a military husband.  Ross was tweeting just 1 minute before her 11 year-old called 911, and Ross performed CPR on Bryson.  Thirty-four minutes after Bryson was taken to the hospital, she tweeted asking for prayers for him.  Five hours later she announced his death on Twitter. 

There has been a firestorm of controversy surrounding these tweets.  Some are saying that Ross was too busy tweeting to watch her child, and was callous to tweet about the accident.  Some are dismayed to have messages such as these delivered to their timeline when they are used to having much lighter-hearted fair from Ross.  Many are asking the question, "What kind of mother tweets when her child is dying?"

I don't know Shellie Ross.  I'm not a follower of hers on Twitter and I had not heard of her before this happened.  But I do have an answer to that question.  What kind of mother tweets when her child is dying?  A blogging mother.  More precisely, a blogging mother going through every parent's worst nightmare.

When trauma strikes, it is literally too big for our brains to process.  We cannot assimilate the situation fully into the normal structures with which we understand the world.  We have no place for this new information, and it gets stuck.  Because we don't know what to do with what has happened, it is not at all uncommon for people to "revert to type" following a tragedy.  That is, they suddenly and even compulsively do the things that are most comfortable for them.

I have heard stories of military wives who see a chaplain and an officer approaching their door and go take a bath before they let them in to deliver the news that their husband has died in action.  I have seen people go to the kitchen and start cooking.  Children in particular often shock adults by greeting horrible news with something like, "OK, can I go play now?"

When something awful happens, it can seem like the world has come to an end.  Doing what is most familiar to us gives us a sense of normalcy that we desperately need in order to even begin to understand what has happened.  Shellie Ross exhibited two basic, instinctive behaviors -- she did what was familiar and she asked the first people she could think of for help.  Her behavior wasn't abnormal -- the situation was abnormal.  So maybe we could all show a little compassion instead of rushing to judge.


Colleen said...

Don't forget the support! People are starting to consider their online friends to truly be their support. I am not sure how healthy it is, but it's what people are doing.

There are two knitting books (Mason-Dixon Knitting and Mason-Dixon Knitting outside the Lines) written by two bloggers who connected online when one of them had a scarily sick child in the hospital.

"And so our stories go..." said...

I agree with you. People do odd things when tragedy strikes. When my father was dying I called a friend and started talking as if nothing was happening. Now that I think about it I wonder what I was thinking, but I was so shocked, I wasn't thinking. My thoughts and prayers are with this family.

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