Growth Spurts: Points on Parental Publishing
When I was around five years old, I remember helping my mother make chocolate chip cookies. I so badly wanted to add the eggs to the batter, and I remember thinking so hard about the correct way to ask my mother about helping with this particular step. After careful consideration, here’s how it came out: “Mama, can I help you hatch the eggs?”
My mother, of course, started laughing at my very cute question (What mother wouldn’t?!), but I was mortified by my wording error. Mama went to share the funny story with the rest of the family, but I quickly went to my room and hid beside my bed, completely embarrassed. A couple of minutes later, my parents came and found me and tried to explain why what happened was so cute and that I didn’t need to feel embarrassed. I still felt it, though.
Fast forward a couple of years. My mother, too, is a writer, and she submitted the egg-hatching story–plus more stories–about myself to a national magazine. And it was published. So now my personal embarrassment was national news!
Okay, that’s a little dramatic. Yes, the story was published in a national magazine, but it wasn’t exactly big news. And since some time had passed between the incident and the magazine’s going to press, I had a chance to come to appreciate the humor in my error. In fact, I was quite proud to have been the subject of a magazine article–proud enough to bring the issue to Show-and-Tell in my second grade class!
Now let’s imagine what it would have been like if this incident had happened in 2018. Most likely, my mother would have shared the story within minutes on Facebook and Instagram, and she probably would have texted her friends and family to be sure that they saw it. And, quite likely, the story would have been accompanied by a photo of me hiding by my bed.
Would it have been wrong for my mother to post my story? No, I wouldn’t say that. Honestly, I would probably do the same thing. My point is that many of us are very quick to publish stories about our children without really considering how our children might feel about it. When our children are very young, we can’t always get their permission to share their stories, but as they get older, I think it’s entirely appropriate–and fair–to ask their permission before sharing stories and photos of them on social media.
I’ve been writing stories about my children on social media and in Parents & Kids Magazine for about a decade now. That’s a lot of sharing! Pretty early on in my article-writing, I started asking for my children’s permission to share certain stories about them. Most of the time, they were pleased to be written about, just as I was when my mother wrote about me. But I confess that I haven’t always asked for their pre-approval on things I’ve shared about them on Facebook.
Was I hurt by my mother’s writing about me in a magazine? Obviously not, since I took the article to Show-and-Tell. But it’s a good example of the long-term and far-reaching effects our storytelling can have.
Parents, we are living in an era of oversharing. To the masses. At lightning speed. Let’s not forget that the subjects of our stories have feelings. And let’s not forget that said subjects might join our social media worlds one day and be able to see all that we have shared about them!
Before we click “Post” on that next funny story about our kids, let’s pause and consider the laughs and likes we want from our friends as opposed to the consideration and trust that we want to have with our children. They are, after all, the most important eggs we’ve ever hatched.