This newsletter was extremely difficult for me to write. As I started to compile some recent articles that pertain to this line of work, I felt it was time for another blog post. An opportunity for you to hear from one of us.

 What would be the topic of discussion? Should I write a funny little anecdote about what I've learned about being a parent, and how I wouldn't have been able to do it as a teen? Or, better yet, should I write about finally seeing the information click and make sense in the life of one of my students from Meigs County? Or, maybe on a more serious note, write about the sexual assault of an American journalist in Egypt and how a certain politician took to Twitter making light of the incident?

 But over and over, one thing kept tugging on my heart.  Brokenness.


 It started with the HPV article. Cancer. This STD causes cancer. The article is a good one, but as I read it I was deeply saddened. "Just about everyone" will have HPV at one time or another, the article states. Seriously? Have we given up any and all hope that some people do actually wait until they are married to engage in sexual activity? And, in some cases- bazaar, I know- those people actually marry each other and remain faithful to their partner, thereby eliminating the risk of getting HPV? For real. It happens.

 So, I moved on. And with an already heavy heart, I decided to tackle Billy Ray Cyrus. Well, not actually tackle him, cause he's about a foot taller than I am and is not currently in my office, but rather, tackle the subject. The subject of a father who is hurting. Who let the envelope slip a little further and further out of his grip, until videos emerge on the internet of his precious little girl hitting a bong.

 This hasn't been the first time his little girl has been in a negative light. Miley's "Can't Be Tamed" video was a subject of a previous newsletter, and we've all heard about the Vanity Fair photo shoot, the wet t-shirt pictures and the pole-dancing fiasco at the Teen Choice Awards. But this is different.

 So, I read the GQ interview. All 6 pages. And I read the Focus on the Family editorial about the interview. Sure, it's a great thing to encourage parents to be involved in their kids lives and step up to the plate, but this is a much deeper issue, and to minimalize it as such is minimalizing the pain that this family is going through. 

 Here's the thing. I know other families are faced with issues that are just as bad and even worse. To some, a wild and crazy daughter and a pending divorce are merely drops in the bucket of their everyday life. But their difficulties aren't played out on a national level in front of millions of people waiting for their fall.

 And, we wait. We wait for the next Miley Cyrus scandal. For the next Brittney Spears fiasco. We anxiously await the news that Lindsay Lohan is back in jail, and Charlie Sheen has finally gone overboard and is too far beyond any hope of rescue.

Because their hurt, their pain, only serves as a reminder that our shortcomings aren’t that bad. We look at our children, and even though they may be involved in risky behavior, we know it isn’t this bad, so we turn our backs on the hurt within our own communities. Our own families.

Billy Ray has become the first to admit that he made some mistakes. And those mistakes have cost him dearly. As his divorce and the escapades of his daughter play out in front of the nation, he hurts, knowing that just a little more involvement on his part could have changed the outcome.

So, after reading the GQ article that nearly brought me to tears, I began my search for a final piece for this newsletter. A final article to convey the direness of the situation to parents. To help them understand that this is a completely different time. No longer is the biggest problem faced by a child a bully that steals lunch money, or a pop quiz in math class. Gang violence. STDs. Drugs.  All of which seem to be glorified on the very televisions we place in our children’s rooms. And now? Girls are being encouraged to pursue anorexia or bulimia. Unreal.

I visited some of these “pro-ana” and “pro-mia” websites. And my already hurting heart seemed to crumble. A list telling girls why it is so much better to be thin. “Starving is an example of excellent will power.” “Nothing can’t be fixed with hunger and weight loss.” “Think of anorexia as your secret weapon.” And, my personal favorite (that’s dripping with sarcasm in case you missed it) “Only fat people are attracted to fat people. Do you want pigs to like you because you are one of them?”

As someone who has struggled for years with appearance-thankfully never to the point of an eating disorder- I feel like all the ground I’ve gained personally and my desire to promote healthy body image and self-esteem to young girls is all in vain. Because right at their fingertips is a world telling them that perfection is thin. Deathly thin. And plastered on magazine covers are stories of Beyonce, Tyra and J-Lo. Women who gain a few pounds and are hammered by the very people that put them on a pedestal of beauty only moments before.

So, where do we go from here?

What has this struggle done for me, in my simple life in a small town? All these articles are real life. And just because they may seem like they are far away, they aren’t. This reality is invading even the best of homes. Because parents are unaware of what is lurking, ready to snatch their children. Hannah Montana couldn’t escape it.  And your kids may not be able to either.

So I encourage you, now more than ever, don’t just be a friend to your kids. Be their parent. They’ll thank you one day. I know that I’ve thanked mine. And I hope that one day, mine will thank me.