My livelihood depends on me sharing secrets. Loyal readers know my bra size, that I cheated on my first husband, and the brand of pill that I take for my mental illness. The details, often intimate, that I share on my blog and in articles are a part of the stories that I tell.
My most popular posts are about parenting.
Steve and I have a free range parenting style that I call “lazy.” My writing is personal narrative, so even when I am creating a “listicle” for an outside website I tell stories about my family. Our fights, our loneliness, and our laziness illustrate my lists. More often the stories are the entire story. There are things I filter. Not many, but I avoid references to particular penises and re-telling embarrassing moments between my sons’ and their friends. (my trick for spelling embarrassing correctly? There is an ass in it) For the most part I treat outside characters obliquely.
Yet I do not finesse my boys. They are alive in this blog with the way they loathe flash mobs and love socks. As every parent knows children offer us a new lens through which to view our world. Their questions and observations challenge long held beliefs. Their interactions with each other make us explore nature versus nurture. Their arms around our necks and spat out “shut up pleases” make us think about our own parents and our own childhoods. Their jokes make us laugh like no others. So they are of me and in me and all over these virtual pages…and I’m not sure how to quit that.
But I need to.
Late in December I learned that some of Leo’s online friends were reading my blog. The how and the why are both interesting (because really, why) but more urgent was the reality of Leo’s life being laid bare. We had taught him never to share his last name (clearly that ship had sailed somehow) or give his home city. Yet I had given them that and so much more. Pictures of his school, stories of his sadness, the ways in which I failed him. I provided both access and ammunition. When I thought about the impact of my writing it was mostly for Steve. Our sex life is public knowledge. I figured that might embarrass the boys, but it seemed really only Steve had a say. And he said yes. (Like, all the time) Sometimes I imagined the boys reading the blog and then laughed at myself. What tween wants to hear what his/her mother has to say. Or teen. Or twentysomething. It felt safe. Ish.
For most people sharenting is telling a few stories over coffee, or posting naked baby pictures. My writing is over-sharenting. At least once you bring my ten year old’s friends into the picture. His skype chat is filled with links to the blog…friends telling him what they know about him. So much for online privacy.
So I asked the boys whether or not I could write about them. And told them I would be writing about the conversation. They were quick to see the flaw in this. “I can’t tell you what not to write about and have you write about it.” Right. So we had a conversation that I won’t write about.
My take away was that no one was clear about what I should and shouldn’t say. I gave some examples of stories that I thought they wouldn’t want me to share…and I can’t share them here. For the next week I kept at it. ‘What about this, can I write about this?” The pattern began to emerge. “Sure” said Oliver. “No” said Leo just as quickly. Oliver would shrug and I would try to tease out a reason for Leo’s hesitance so that I could create workable guidelines. The line seemed to keep moving.
For a few weeks now I have only been able to write about the dog. He doesn’t have a say. Yesterday we had a conversation about what being “cool” meant. It was excellent. It was great blog material…and it is off limits. In yet another effort to clarify my boundaries I asked the boys.” Can I write about this?” “No.” Said Leo. “You can always write about me” said Oliver. “You can do anything with me” he continued in his amiable way. (This from the boy who defined cool as “not trying to make other people like you”.)
“Wait.” said his brother. “Can I do anything with you?”
“What about this…this last part…can I write about this?”
“Of course” he answered with an evil grin. “You can always write about me taking down Ollie.”
How about you? What is your policy on sharenting?
6 thoughts on “Sharenting…what we are saying about our kids online.”
I have tread carefully here because not only am I mother I’m also a step-mother. Anything I say can and will be held against me in a court of law. Literally. For my smallest kiddos I think all the time how our “momblog” generation will effect them into adulthood. Will that story of how my oldest kept painting the walls with her shit keep her from getting that major career break?
I’m so back and forth though. I started out not sharing pics or names…now I only TRY to avoid names. I’m the worst about typing and not thinking. I’lll look back at a post from a year ago and see I used a name instead of an initial.
I don’t share my last name anywhere…so despite their unique first names I think perhaps no one can prooooove it’s indeed that this A that stands before them is indeed the one that painted the walls in shit when she was two.
But then I think how wonderful for them to have our stories to look back on, that we wrote when they were fresh on our minds. It’s the new family photo album that once took a toasty spot on the coffee table. They can also use them in their own parenting, and foster their own personal understanding of themselves…perhaps…
It will be interesting to see…
It is so complicated…
This is a great post! I have issues with this as well as I have 3 boys. My oldest wants no pictures of him so I avoid using pics of him on my blog unless you can’t see his face. It is hard to navigate writing and pleasing all the parties we write about. I found you on Pinterest. I would really love to join your Pinterest board Writers and Bloggers. Funny, my Pinterest profile is Julie Hoag Writer & Blogger. Thanks for the great read. I enjoyed it! I will include my email address for Pinterest below. I would love to be added!
I’m not a parent in the true sense but I do have say that sometimes stricter is better when it comes to fur babies.
I also love your Pinterest blogging board.
It’s a minefield, isn’t it? I don’t think I do it, really. I tend to stick to the specific funny anecdotes of things they’ve done, or more generic parenting observations – I don’t think of any of it as particularly sharing personal details, particularly given their ages. I don’t talk about the actual details of my life, or theirs. And the same is true of my personal social media – I may mention the odd funny thing ‘the kids’ did, or a reference that makes clear I am a parent, but they are rarely mentioned by name, their details aren’t on there, births were never announced, no pictures, my relationships were never on fb either, or address or employment details or anything. Interestingly, I am not remotely concerned about ‘safety’ aspects (I mean, yes, on why I never put personal details like phone numbers or anything) re why I don’t have pictures of the kids. From my previous job, I have a very clear idea of who sex offenders really are, how they operate, how high or otherwise the true risks are – I’m not a person who thinks sex offenders are going to grab my kids through the computer screen, though that is always the reason people assume for my high level of online privacy. Actually, I just don’t like the idea of sharing much of their private lives when they don’t get a say. And I will be pretty strict with them (I hope) about not having social media accounts while young, and I think my position on not letting them do it would be weakened if they knew I had been putting them out there for years. I don’t want them to shape their identities around an online image, and I don’t want to overly shape their identities around a narrative I am putting out there about them either. Plus, my natural tendencies are towards being pretty private. I’m quite a closed person, and I’m not that comfortable with exposing personal information to the public arena. I have always used my facebook to post political stuff and jokes really. I don’t put details from my life, I don’t mention relationships, good or bad. So it is probably kind of natural to me that I deal with references to my kids in the same way. It would be strange to be very private about myself but not them, I suppose!
However, though I am quite restrictive, I do understand why other people are not. And I also see that I’m really a minority nowadays – it is more common for people to share a fair bit of their lives and their kids online. So maybe it’s not that big a deal really – everyone is doing it, I can see the argument for saying that is just life now. I can also see the appeal of people who share. I do understand that, both online and in real life, those people are more approachable and relatable than I am. People like to hear personal details – it makes them feel connected and comfortable. It definitely has its positives. So I think there is probably no real right answer. Just what feels right to you and your family. I definitely think with older kids the approach you have taken makes sense – giving them a say in what is said about them. With little kids, I think you just have to do what you believe is best.