Tommy Jordan fired the shot(s) heard 'round the world when he pumped eight bullets into his teen daughter's laptop following his discovery of a disrespectful rant she'd posted on her Facebook page -- then he posted the tech massacre video on YouTube. One month and 31 million video views later, Jordan explained himself on TODAY, in a backstage web-extra, and in this blog post he wrote for TODAY.com. If your main impression of him is a cowboy hat and "BLAM! BLAM!" read on; you may just be surprised.
I’ve been hearing nonstop for weeks that I’m a “great” Dad. I’m not a “great” one… I’m just a Dad. There are moments in every parent’s life when they are wonderful, horrible, fun, evil, friendly, cruel… all based on the perspective of others who catch a moment in time, or in my case 8 minutes in time.
We comment on parents we see in the grocery store and say things like “If that were my kid, I’d never let them act up like that in public” and we immediately make judgment calls. Maybe that poor little girl has a toothache and doesn’t feel well and Mom had no choice but bring her to the grocery store with her that day? Maybe it’s a three year old with a fever. We (on the outside) don’t know because we’re just peeking in for a moment. We just see a screaming child and immediately make a judgment call and decide for ourselves what kind of parents they are. It’s no more proper to call me a good dad for that one moment you saw of my life than it is to think that lady in the grocery store is a bad one who raises spoiled whiny kids.
I DO want to be a great dad, but frankly, we won’t know how I turned out for about ten more years. For most of her life Hannah was raised by her mother and step-father. I was the “Weekend-Dad” and the summer-dad. Michelle (Hannah’s mom) gets the credit for raising a daughter who gets straight honor-roll at school, not me. Michelle gets the credit for raising a child who is absolutely wonderful with other children, and who is socially apt when so many others aren’t. I work every day to be sure Hannah can keep up the good things her Mother instilled in her, and to impart a few things of my own before she’s too old for any of it to sink in and stick with her throughout her life.
Hannah (age 15) is mentally sometimes 17 or 18 years old. She’s been tested at three or four grades above her current grade level since she was old enough to have tests to run. She read on a high-school level in sixth grade. (Personally I hope she gets that trait from me! I was gobbling down Stephen King novels by the library-cart load at age eleven.)
If Hannah has a short-coming that I can relate to, it’s the inability to talk verbally about her emotions. She’s shy about her emotions. If she shows an intellectual or entertaining interest in a topic, she can talk about it for days; non-stop. Conversely if she has something that evokes an emotional response, she locks up inside. “What’s wrong, Honey?” is often answered with “Nothing” and a turning away of her face. We know these things and we pick up on them. I pick up on them because I was the same way as a kid, but for an entirely different reason.
I’ve had a stutter since I was old enough to remember being able to talk. I actually suffer from two distinctly different, yet equally annoying speech impediments. The first is a stutter, which in my case manifests as an inability to say some words with hard consonants. (So, why in the heck they make a word like that contain three hard consonants is beyond me!!) I get stuck on words that begin with M, L, W, B, and probably a few others. It’s further compounded because I also suffer from what’s called “hesitation” which makes it doubly-difficult to talk because that is a condition where you get “stuck” on soft consonants like “h.”
So, to recap, “stutter” is a hard word for people who suffer from it to say, and “hesitation” is a word that's almost impossible for someone who suffers from it to say!! When you take out hard consonants and soft consonants – well, life just gets difficult!
So, while Hannah has difficulty speaking about her emotions, I grew up having difficulty saying anything at all. The way she feels when someone asks her to talk about her emotions is the same way I felt when I had to get up in class in middle school and read aloud. I remember the feeling of heat flushing up your face and your palms getting sweaty and every eye on you… it was terrifying. Every word out of your mouth is going to terminate with relentless adolescent picking and it’s all going to be directed at you. I hated it!
How did I deal with it? Well that’s a different story that’s not altogether relevant here, but suffice it to say that I don’t stutter when I sing, speak in a foreign language, OR when I do an imitation. I can do a fairly passable Sean Connery without a trace of a stutter, but if I resume my own speech patterns I fumble over my words all the time. So my choices in life were to either pretend a Scottish heritage or suck it up and deal with it and learn to overcome it my own way. Thank God I chose the latter because I do a HORRIBLE Connery impression.
My point in telling this is that I KNOW how my daughter feels more than most people realize. I can picture perfectly what must run through her head when confronted with having to discuss her emotions with other people, even with us. I’m sure she’s probably ok with her peers, but talking to an adult about them is only slightly higher on her wish-list than being water-boarded in a third-world prison without access to fish sticks.
We’ve been overcoming this at home with practice and with patience. The day she made her post on Facebook wasn’t one day of emotional overload. She wasn’t being bratty, or being purposefully disrespectful. She was blowing up…verbally. She’d had so much emotional overload about all the things that were on her mind that she’d never discussed with us that she simply exploded her emotions onto Facebook like an artist hurling paints against a wall in frustration. It was emotional graffiti, if you will.
So here’s something we’ve learned as parents that maybe you other parents can learn from and that you other teenagers can try at home. TALK TO YOUR PARENTS! Yeah I know that’s stupid-sounding, but bear with me for just a moment while I continue the thought.
The day all this happened, Hannah admitted to me on the back porch that she was mad, frustrated, and felt like she couldn’t express it. When I said “Just talk to me” she lashed out with “I don’t talk! I never talk! I can’t talk! And I won’t! It’s just not me!” It was acid coming out of her… and she was upset. She wasn’t yelling at me. For the first time I understood she was yelling at herself, in general, at her inability to express something, even now when it was an opportune time to do so. If she could have ripped the emotions out and threw them at me she would have. She just didn’t know how.
So, since she couldn’t talk, I did.
I told her that it was OK to feel however she wanted to feel, and that NONE of her parents (any of the four of us) would ever be mad at her for having feelings. We might get upset at the vernacular with which she displays them, but that it was her job to keep that in mind when she was doing it. I clearly, with as simple language as possible, explained that we’ve never yelled at her for how she felt, had we? She shook her head, no. We’d never sent her to her room for how she felt, had we? She shook “no” again. I explained to her that we never would.
We welcome her having feelings and expressing them. Sometimes she might not get what she might want from the conversation, such as reduced chores, but we would love to hear that articulate brain working and engage her in conversation about how she feels on a subject.
She was mad at her little brother for barging into her room at the crack of dawn to wake her up every weekend on the rare days she actually was allowed to sleep in. OK! Great! We agree on that one! So, we talked to her little brother and said “Stop going in your sister’s room when she’s sleeping in the morning. When she gets up and comes out to play, great. Until then, she’s off limits in the mornings. OK?” He got it and she feels better. If she hadn’t talked about it, we wouldn’t have known.
She was upset at having to do chores. She thought that we made her to them just because we were lazy and didn’t want to do them ourselves. We explained that we’ve been doing those same chores our entire lives, so we’ve pulled our fair share of them. We’ve been washing dishes for twenty years. She’s been washing them for less than one. We have to work all day to feed the family, to pay the mortgage, to pay for that new saxophone she wants for school. Chores are her way of contributing to the family as a unit and helping us have a little more free time when we get home at night. If she doesn’t do the chores, then Amy and I have to work all day and then come home and work some more to get everything done. Once she saw it as her way to contribute, she seemed more OK with the idea. I’m not going to say she loves doing chores by any means, but she’s on board with the idea behind them.
None of this would have happened without this incident occurring. I don’t mean 30 million people seeing it. THAT was accidental. But the way the incident brought some of our internal struggles to the surface have helped. It aired them out. The publicity behind it actually helped too. Were it not for all the public scrutiny, we might have just let this all die down and go back to life as normal immediately. Since we DID have all this public interest, we’ve been forced to examine the effects on our family every day.
We’re constantly vigilant lately for signs in our family of inner-turmoil and unrest. We probably wouldn’t have been if people weren’t watching so closely and asking us question after question. When YOU all started asking questions, WE had to find the answers within our family to them. Without you asking so repeatedly, that probably wouldn’t have happened. Who needs a social worker? All you need is 30 million people scrutinizing your every word for a month straight to really make you evaluate your actions and their effects on others! Lol.
So we’re here today, on NBC on national television to share with you that we are OK! We’re good! In fact, we’re better than ever and actually some of that is due to all this viral mess we started. And, quite accidentally, I think I actually WILL BE a better Dad for having gone through all this!