Parenting is tricky business surrounded by mountains of strong opinions, including mine. A few weeks ago, I decided it was time to open up about my parenting philosophy. I wrote abundant lists of post ideas that fell into that category. I made plans to develop an e-course to help others put sound child-rearing principles into practice. The potential I saw was exhilarating.
But something stopped me cold.
For some reason, I started thinking about what it was like to be a teenager. I reflected on how my mom often told me that I had to learn things through the school of hard knocks. I was not one to learn from others’ mistakes – I had to make them for myself. I would have died a thousand deaths if the woman who gave me life had shared my blunders (or successes, for that matter) with the masses to teach principles of parenting.
Then, I looked into the eyes of my children (who are mostly teens) as they sat across from me at the dinner table and saw trust. At that moment, I knew I could not tell the world the details of their transformations into responsible young adults without destroying their faith in me.
So much of raising children is bound up in trial and error – on the part of the parents and the kids. I can talk about my mistakes all day because I own them. But my kids’ failures and learning experiences? Those must remain safe with me because they are not my stories to tell.
As a blogger who often writes about family, I walk a delicate line. I can get sucked into the culture of sharenting, where sharing and parenting go hand in hand. (Been there; done that.) Or, I can allow my kids to grow up out of the scrutiny of the public eye. I can protect their stories until they are old enough to decide how much they would like to tell, and to whom.
I choose the latter.
Yet, their story is also my story. Motherhood has made me into the woman I am today. So how do I share my experiences while respecting my kids’ privacy?
I love Erin Loechner’s advice:
I once read a story about a pastor who scanned his sermons for a “Punchline Check.” When telling funny stories about other people – his kids, his wife, his friends or family – he’d carefully review his words to make sure the punchline was about him and no one else.
The joke’s gotta be on me, he’d say. It’s not fair to share somebody else’s faults at the pulpit.
A punchline check is always in order.
In this age of social media where the balance between sharing and privacy is like a tightrope, we all must decide where to draw the line. It looks different for everybody, but I believe that my kids’ stories are theirs to tell, when and how they see fit. I will still talk about parenting and family life, but only when the focus is on me (unless I ask permission first). My children’s trust will always take precedence over any desire to do otherwise.