In my eagerness to blog and not fall on my face right out of the gate, I've been prewriting posts like crazy. One of them is a five-day series on goal setting which I put together so I would have a plan of attack for launching this, maintaining it for the next month, and still attending to the novel-length romance writing career I'm trying to nurture. Within that list of goals, I wrote, "Write a magazine article." I'm officially striking that from my Things To Do.
See, I'm starting to sense when I'm setting myself up for failure and I really don't know if I would be able to get that done along with everything else. Plus, as nice as it would be to get paid for an article, I couldn't include a byline with it. It was a parenting magazine and I wanted to write about one of my recent parenting experiences, but I couldn't do it without advertising some of my children's private bidness.
However, one of the core messages I wanted to get across in said article was:
Don't Gossip About Your Kids.
You're sitting there thinking, "I don't. Shut up." But let me enlighten you on how I came to the realization that I had gossiped, did regularly gossip and needed to stop. It starts out very harmlessly. In fact, it starts as a survival tool.
"My kid ate a dime. What do I do?" you ask your mom. "My kids crayoned all over grandma's wall," you tell your neighbor. "What takes that out?" Pretty soon you're asking the preschool teacher how to stop your kid from biting and sitting down with the school principal because junior isn't reading as well as the other kids. You're being a caring, involved parent looking for answers to help you guide your child and navigate the rocky peninsula of parenting.
"We went bra shopping today," you tell your friend at work. "He spends a lot of time in the shower," you joke when out for drinks with another couple.
"She has a boyfriend," I found myself blurting to anyone who would listen when the news first broke in our home. I was blown away. No, I was sucked by a riptow from the safe but rocky shores of our little peninsula and thrown into the open water of losing my say in how my daughter ran her life. "Who is he?" were the next words out of my mouth to friends and neighbors. I begged my sisters and other moms for advice.
In retrospect, the situation wasn't that harrowing, but we all have those moments of feeling completely ill-equipped as a parent. The toddler says, "no" and smacks you. You're forced to let one child walk home alone for the first time. Your daughter was bullied on facebook and you don't know how to help her. Stuff happens. We want help figuring out how to handle it.
But it quickly dawned on me that I was shining a spotlight on a relationship that could have sunk in a matter of days. I was taking on my daughter's experience as though it was happening to me. Yes, I had some lessons to learn as a parent, but the main one was, this wasn't about my life. It was about hers. I need to be on hand to guide her through this section of water she's chosen to cross, but she's the paddler. If she starts to drown, she wants a lifeguard, not an audience.
I'm not suggesting you parent in isolation. I'm saying: recognize when you're stepping on your child's privacy. Be aware which details you're sharing with whom, especially as they approach adolescence. Give them the respect you expect them to exercise where your personal life is concerned.
I'm gently cautioning, Don't gossip about your kids.