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?