Stalked and threatened, Leo Traynor responded like a parent.
I don't know that I would have had it in me to do the same.
In a riveting and frightening piece on his blog, Traynor's Eye, which was reprinted yesterday in The Guardian, the Dublin based writer described a three-year-long ordeal in which his family was threatened online. He was taunted with anti-Semitic slurs on Facebook, Twitter and his personal blog. His wife was, too. Eventually the troll began leaving packages at Traynor's home. First, a lunchbox filled with ashes and a note: "Say hello to your relatives from Auschwitz." Then, a bouquet of dead flowers with his wife's Twitter name on it, followed by a message to his Twitter account that night: "You'll get home some day & ur bitches throat will be cut & ur son will be gone."
The police couldn't help, but a friend "who's basically an IT genius" could, and the messages were tracked to three different IP addresses in Ireland. Two were public Wi-Fi spots. But the third, Traynor writes "was a friend's house. The troll was his son. His 17-year-old son."
Yes, I just gave away the ending, but you should still go read the piece, because it is rich with parenting questions.
First, there are the ones you might expect for parents of teens -- a reminder that alarm bells should go off when your child can not pry himself from technology. As the father of the troll told Traynor, the teen was "always glued to his laptop, tablet or smartphone ... He couldn't watch a TV show without tweeting about it simultaneously. [And] he'd become engrossed in conspiracy sites."
Then there are the questions about how to handle the despicable behavior of someone's child.
What Traynor chose to do, with the help of the boy's parents, was "accidentally" run into the family in a public spot. Over tea and chocolate chip cookies, he told his story to the parents -- complete with a manila envelope full of screenshots and photos that he just happened to have with him -- as if it were just an update about his life, not an accusation against their son. He writes:
I showed them pictures of ashes and dead flowers.
I pointed out that one of the messages my wife received wishing me dead had arrived when I actually was gravely ill.
I told them of how I'd become so paranoid that I genuinely didn't know who to trust anymore.
I told them of nights when I'd walked the rooms, jumping at shadows and crying over the sleeping forms of my family for fear that they would suffer because of me.
Then it happened ...
The Troll burst into tears. His dad gently restraining him from leaving the table.
Traynor could have called the police and had this young man prosecuted. He could have used "the troll's" name when writing this story and shamed him publicly and for life. He did neither of those things. Instead, he made some demands of the boy and his parents -- that the son get counseling and never do something like this again.
Could you have forgiven that completely? I'm not sure I could have. But I am certain I would be forever grateful to someone if they did the same for my son.