Parents Sharing Stuff About Their Kids Online - The Older They Get, The More Complicated It Can Get
Earlier in the day I ran into an online dicussion about parents' sharing information about this children online. It got me thinking about the relatively limited extent to which I'll write online about my own (now grown) kids.
Over the years since I've been writing online; when it comes to the more casual, personal, online writing I've done I've written here or there (without names) the occasional thing about my own kids when they were babies or preschoolers. It may have been a cute little story about something they did. Sometimes I'd address something like how I handled the usual matters of babies or preschoolers.
I'm a mother, so I don't think anyone would be surprised to know that I've written a birth story for one of my sons. He was born early, so his birth was eventful enough to be a story. My daughter's arrival into the world was super-quick and late enough (37 weeks) not to be much of story really. There was an obtetrical issue here or there, but I'm not about to post that kind of thing online. Since I didn't give birth to my eldest son I've written about my becoming a mother through adoption (but only once he was well into twenties (maybe past thirty), and the adoption issue was such "old news" to him and everybody else that I didn't believe it would do anything but, maybe, help any readers (but also, maybe, help him) to better understand at least one kind of adoption situation. One problem with adoption has always been that far too few people realize how solid and "the same as every other mother/child relationship can be. A challenge can be, however, figuring out how to handle the "spin-off" matters the are there simply because becoming a mother by adoption can be just a little (or sometimes a lot) more complicated than simply giving birth to one's child. If my son hadn't been years into being an adult and long past having gone through the meeting-the-birth-family process I would not have written about him, personally, with regard to adoption.
The Adoption Issue Has Been A Whole Other Thing, And At Times I've Far From Left My Son's Adoption Out Of Something I Wrote About That Issue
Of course, besides believing that "the world" needs to understand more about adoption, I've also got the thing that my other two children had to process whatever it was that their older brother would go through once more than the simple fact that I hadn't given birth to him became something new to them. So, to me, writing what may help ANY reader understand more about at least some adoptions might answer some questions that they didn't know to ask or that I hadn't thought to answer even if they didn't ask.
Most of the stuff I've ever written about my children was written under the pen name I used when using a pen name was what was recommended by a writing site. Once I started writing under my own name I didn't see reason to remove most of whatever I'd written because by then my children were (needless to say, I think) years older than they were when I started writing.
Because my son ran into some difficulties when he started school, but because I don't believe that his "mysterious learning problem" was NECESSARILY the direct result of anything associated with his birth mother or anything else beyond the fact that he had more than one primary caretaker in his first few months; and because I believed that the school not only further complicated the learning issues he had (in other words, they "did a job on him"), I did write about those school issues he had (which meant that it wasn't possible to include the fact that he was adopted).
What I wrote pinned "x percent" of blame for my son's difficulties on the school, but ONLY "x percent". At the time I wrote a piece or two about my son's early school issues I thought it may help someone whose child was not twenty-five or older but, say, five or six or even eight. Having worked hard to encourage my son (and his siblings) to be a person who thinks for himself, uses good sense, and doesn't just blindly accept what anyone (including me) tells him, I was faced with a grown son who quite reasonably had been listening to what teachers or other professionals told him about his school problems. AND, I was faced with a grown son who (even though he may have paid no attention) had grown up hearing all kinds of "baloney" from all kinds of outsiders who, for some reason, felt the need to pipe up about things that people would never pipe up about if a child were not adopted.
Not long ago and inspired by a question I saw on the HubPages "Answers" section, I wrote yet again about adoption; but, as has most often been the case, I tried to approach the subject of sorting out issues associated with adoption from issues not necessarily associated with it. My son is now in his late thirties. As has always been the case, I wrote about his adoption within the context of my relationship with him, individually, but also with my individual relationship with each of my children AND with all of them, as a group.
The thing about all of us is that we all grow as time goes on, and sometimes it can become apparent that there may be some benefit to addressing at least SOME issues from the perspective of where we are, what we have learned, and what we hope someone will see (whether that someone is one of our own children, a reader who is a stranger, or a birth mother who feels guilty about having allowed the child to whom she gave birth become the child of a stranger).
If My Personal Situation Were Different There's Quite A Bit That I Never Would Have Shared
Personally, I wouldn't necessarily have chosen to write about some of the more private aspects of my son's story. I asked myself whether I had a right to share our story on the Internet, but I also asked myself, "If I don't write it how can I be sure it is told accurately?" More importantly, I asked myself whether not writing it might leave for misunderstanding facts that, if not understood, could leave questions or doubts not only in the mind of my son but maybe even in the mind of each of his siblings.
The story of my son's adoption is not a story at all to us (me, my son, his sibllings, my three kids' father) or to any number of other family members). In more expanded "inner circles" it's "old news". I guess, as I struggled with whether or not to write that most recent (and most likely final) piece about our personal adoption story; I believed there was more benefit to all three of my children in writing it than in not writing it; but also, possibly, benefit to readers in general. AND, it did occur to me that if anyone from my son's birth family were to ever find the piece maybe it would somehow give them some kind of peace with the situation as well.
The thing about being a parent is that you aren't just "there for the child's whole story". You WROTE a huge part of that story; but, of course, as a child grows up and continues to mature you write less and less of that son or daughter's story. As someone who writes, I pretty much don't want to share anyone else's story, particularly my children's stories. Then again, I feel like I have a right to tell my own story. I leave as many people out of my more casual/personal writing as I can; but when it comes to one's children (at least when it comes to mine, maybe not so much for someone not as close to their kids), they aren't just part of my story or even (at least in some ways) my only story. They are what made me who and what I am - not even just after they came into my life, but back when I was facing the reality that I would (if all went well) eventually become a mother.
The other thing about being a parent is that, no matter how old one's child/ren get one does what one thinks will be best for each child and/or all her children even as they continue to have, and write, their own stories.
There have been times when I've thought about how often I've written about adoption and/or my son, and how about little I've written about his siblings. Sure, I've written a poem or two with one or the other of them in mind. Then there's that handful of little stories about some cute little thing one of them did or said when they were little. While I have a birth and/or adoption story for both of my sons, I haven't written a birth story about my daughter's arrival. Instead I just kind of tacked on her arrival at the end of something I wrote about a complicated miscarriage.
Just as most parents of more than one child so often do, I've hoped that because it looks like I've paid more attention to my eldest/first child (in writing anyway) that isn't a sign of my thinking about him more than either of his siblings. And, I've hoped that because, for example, I have the "origins" story for my two sons; nobody thinks I pay less attention to my daughter (either because she's a girl and not a boy, or because she's the youngest).
Sometimes I look at, or think about, the more casual/personal stuff I've written and think about how, out of respect for my family, I pretty much always try to leave them out of my writing; which means my writing runs the risk of appearing to come from a self-centered, "all-about-me", motivation. I'm not by nature a "sharer" (Internet-wise). l'm not even (at least most often) a "venter" or a "ranter" (online, anyway).
I could save myself a lot of stewing if I'd just write about something like flower pots or travel spots in New England; but a) I'm not interested in flower pots, and b) other people have written, or are writing about, that kind of stuff already. I'm not a snob about subjects like that. I've written that kind of stuff myself. l It's just that - at least for my personal, individual, purposes with regard to the writing I do in my "skimmed time" or in my "me time", I'd rather indulge in the luxury (particularly now that my children are grown) of writing what I hope will help someone - if no one more than one or all of my children - will gain some little shred of insight that I've picked up as my story has been written, or at least a better understanding/perspective of one subject or issue or another; and adoption, no matter how positive, smooth, powerful, or strong as it may be, is (for one reason or another) an issue.
As it is (and unrelated to adoption at all), I have some situations in my life that mean that telling my own story is more important than it would be if I didn't have those "situations". If I didn't have those "situations" in my life I'd probably have approached at least SOME of what I write online (at least with regard to some issues) differently. Also, some things I might have written, printed out, and just put in a personal book that I could have just shared with my own children. As it has been, however, what it is my children's best interest (even as they've grown up) has been for me to get certain things out there - beyond the firewall of, for example, the private files in an attorney's office or any number of other place/person who would tell my story, or tell their version of it.
With the exception of the occasional poem, I only write non-fiction (even when I do creative writing). With the exception of the occasional poem . There are a few poems I've written for my kids and that I do/did "mean"; any "non-poem stuff I've done is real life and not embellished. With the exception of those few poems that are genuine (as opposed to those I did to challenge myself), there's a lot of stuff I never would have shared if I didn't have real reason to. BUT, the good thing I can offer them is the knowledge that anything I've written (that isn't a poem, and that isn't clearly one I wrote with one of my children in mind) is accurate and true; because (besides not writing fiction) I can tell them that as long as I've been thinking that people like, say, attorneys might come looking for what I've posted online (and try to use it against me); pretty much every word I've ever written (not counting things like pen names or "names changed to protect the innocent") has been written with the idea that it may end up in some court file somewhere (and nobody in her right mind would put into writing (and on the Internet, no less) lies that could potentially be introduced in court. This isn't meant to come across as self-righteous. It's just that I'm not a dummy or a narcissist who would lie in public and/or in court and think I could get a way with it. My kids know me (I think and hope anyway). So, if nothing else, and if they don't gain some understanding/perspective because of one thing or another that I've shared online; I imagine a) they'll at least understand why I've shared some things, and b) they may actually benefit by it in some other way.
If My Children Were Young Today
If my children were young today I wouldn't put anything about them anywhere public online. In fact, I wouldn't store anything in any clouds for that matter either. I wouldn't trust privacy settings on anything or any site. There are ways to store and back-up-store all kinds of things without running the risk that is run by trusting privacy settings or using things like clouds.
My two younger kids were still in school when I first started writing online (one in high-school, one in middle-school), and besides writing under pen name that none of them had to share with their friends, I didn't write about them (other than as described above). Things are a whole lot different now than then, and it really can be tricky to find some balance between what we want to share online, what we feel we have little choice BUT to share, how much to put at risk of being hacked, and how much to count on improvements when it comes to addressing "issues of 'hackability' as time goes on.
I think most people think about all this these days. Personally, I think that thinking longer and harder about what we share about our children is more important than ever. Not everyone is faced with one or more situation that means their kids will most likely actually be better off with some parts of their life shared. Even being faced with those situations I mentioned, however, I deeply resent being so scared (by one of those "situations" I mentioned) into sharing what I would otherwise have never chosen to share that I went against my own grain and commitment to respect my own children's privacy (particularly my eldest son's), and wrote some things that I would otherwise have kept within the confines of my own family and relationship with my children.
There Are, However, Many Ways To Disregard A Child's Privacy
What we share (whether online or anywhere else) about out children requires our respect for their privacy; and, as with anything other than something that's all that personal; there are things that are between us and each, individual, child and that really should not be shared with anyone but that individual child (no matter how old or young s/he is). For everyone who posts an anonymous picture of their four-year-old next to their own, fake, screen-name; there are parents who share things about their children with people, and in places, that have nothing to do with the Internet or other technology. Long before computers were in most people's homes, parents have far too often felt a little too free share their children's personal business - and far too often their own misguided take on that "business". It's not just parents who too often have too little regard for their child's privacy and/or respect that child. I was once shocked when a school official (in all his "big-shotness") yelled at, and humiliated, a boy I didn't know and who was a sixth-grader. There in the lobby of that school (the one I mentioned that didn't do well by my son); as I stood and waited for one of my own children, this individual scolded the boy for whatever it was he did (and didn't just scold him in front of me, but in a loud and humiliating way to which no child should ever be subjected).
Whether in the pre-PC days or today, there are a whole lot of ways that people too often share either what is too private to share, or the wrong/misguided information about one child or another when respecting that child's privacy and dignity (and right to both) would be the wisest and most respectful choice
Making Peace With What I've Shared Online
So, while I'm entirely comfortable with having shared a relative few things that involved not beiing able to separate my children's story from my own; and while I think of all the ways that I so admire each of those children (sometimes for different reasons, sometimes for the same reason), and would really like to write about some of that stuff (but either couldn't ever find the right words for, or else simply wouldn't choose to share something so meaningful); I remind myself that the extent to which I've compromised my son's privacy with regard to writing about adoption could be said (as they say) to be "nothing" compared to the ways far too many adults have far too little regard/respect for the privacy of children (young or otherwise).
And (as they say) there you have it.