I was a bedwetter. For a long time. I can say that now with no sense of shame because I am an adult. My bedwetting days have long since passed and now I can see with an adult perspective that I was in no way responsible for my bedwetting. I felt shame about it as a child, even though my parents did everything possible to reassure me that it wasn’t my fault. But there were ways bedwetting impacted my life that made me feel defective. I couldn’t do sleepovers and I was always terrified somebody would find out.
I often think about the experience of growing up as a bedwetter when I’m reading “mommy blogs” or watching what gets posted on social media. I think about it when I’m writing this little “mommy blog” here. I often try to imagine what it would have been like if my mom was a blogger and had decided her mission in life was to dispel the shame around bedwetting or to try and create a community of support for moms of bedwetters. My mom is a great writer and I bet she could have sensitively and beautifully brought a lot of wisdom to the topic, but at what cost to her relationship with me?
This is the question we sometimes forget to ask ourselves when we’re writing about our kids. There’s such a high value placed on “honesty” and “transparency” and “community” that I think we don’t stop to ask ourselves if we have the right to be sharing information that essentially belongs to someone else. My child’s story is not just mine to tell.
It is a very delicate balance to walk and I’m sure there are posts you could point to where I have crossed that line. I have tried very hard NOT to do that– I’m vague where I can be, don’t mention names when I don’t need to, focus on MY part of the story rather than on my child. Sometimes I read what other mothers are writing about their children and my heart breaks because I can’t help but wonder how that child will feel when they see how they were talked about, what private medical issues were shared, how their parents broke trust with them by publicly “outing” them in whatever context.
Because I am conscious of these issues, there are ways in which my writing is not 100% authentic. I know this and I hope you know this, too. If I have to choose between being “authentic” and maintaining the trust of my children, I’ll pick my kids every time. I don’t lie here and I don’t think I paint a picture that our life is perfect, but there are things I know would get clicks and shares that I’m not going to discuss because the cost is too high to people I love.
I read a book recently by a woman who was dying of cancer. She wrote about her children and husband in ways that honestly were really irritating to me. Everything was so perfect and saccharine sweet that I just couldn’t find myself in that story. It took me a minute to ask myself the question: If I were dying, what would I want my kids to know about how I felt about them and their dad? That entirely changed how I felt about the book. I didn’t expect it to be some expose on their marital problems or parenting struggles because this was her last moment to reaffirm how precious this life has been. Maybe we all need to write that way.
I’m not interested in giving the junior high bullies ammunition to use against my kids. I’m not here to hurt the biological families of my kids who have every ability to access my writing. I’m not going to slander my own parents or family to try and get clicks. I’m not going to hurt my children’s image of my husband by airing all our dirty laundry in a public forum. I’m going to write with a full understanding that my children can and do read what I’m sharing about them and if I’ve hurt them, then that’s a price that’s too high. If there’s something I need to write because I feel it could benefit others, I know how to do that anonymously and on sites that aren’t connected to me. There are ways to get the message out that don’t sacrifice your family privacy and trust.
We may feel internet savvy because we don’t post pictures of our house number or the school our kids go to. We don’t want to be easy targets for thieves or kidnappers. But my concern is far less about somebody else hurting my children and much more about the damage I can do with comments that seemed fine at the time, but end up violating the safety my kids feel in my home.
In a social media age, we need to develop an awareness of how our choices will impact our kids down the road. That adorable naked bathtub picture may seem far less adorable when our kids’ “friends” access it and pass it around in high school. Those posts we wrote about how annoying our toddler was may not seem as charming to that toddler when she becomes an adult. Sharing our child’s medical struggles may have far reaching implications we can’t even imagine right now when it comes to their future ability to get insurance or a job or a date. We’d like to believe that wouldn’t matter and maybe it won’t, but what if it does?
I often wonder what it will be like when this generation of kids is given free reign to write about what it was like to have their lives documented in this way. Will they not post pictures of their kids? Will they not write about their experiences? Or will this have become so normalized that they won’t even care? I don’t know how the pendulum will swing or what to anticipate. But I want to be thoughtful that my perspective is not the whole story.
So before I write about my kids, this is what I ask myself: If this was my mom writing it about me, would I be okay with it? (And if I’m writing about my mom, I ask it in reverse: If this was my child writing about me, would I be okay with it?) Would I be okay with this information being accessible as a 5th grader, an 8th grader, in high school, first meeting friends at college? Would I be okay with an employer being able to find out this information about me? How would a potential date respond to this kind of intimate knowledge about my formative years?
The internet isn’t going away anytime soon. Those little pithy things we write may come to define our children in ways we didn’t anticipate many years down the road. We need to be careful, thoughtful, intentional. I know I don’t have this all figured out yet and I make mistakes. I’m sure you can read more about that as soon as my first child starts their blog.