Why I Share My Kids’ Stories

Why I Share My Kids’ Stories

I recently got some unsolicited and fairly angry advice from another adoptive mom to the effect of the following (the actual lecture I got was much longer than this – I have distilled it down to the main points for your convenience):

1. I share too much of my kids’ stories with other people and I am an insensitive jerk for doing so.

2. Complaining about children and about parenting is “b%*chy”.

3. If my kids could hear the things I say about them, they would be offended and/or sad and/or irreversibly traumatized, so I should only talk about my kids as if they are physically present and listening to me.

4. The advice-giver is sorry to be rude but is just SO passionate about these things, and we should totally get coffee sometime and talk more! (At this point this woman – who I did not know well at all – was very much in my personal space and grabbing my arm, presumably to demonstrate the level of passion we were dealing with.)

So let’s respond to these very passionately-delivered points one by one:

1. My kids’ stories are part of my story. For better or for worse, what happens to our kids deeply affects us as parents. We are all different levels of open and honest about our lives – that’s okay. I happen to believe that being secretive about our lives and our pasts can create an environment where shame and loneliness can thrive. We could argue forever about where on the line between “keep everything a secret” and “share everything with everyone” different topics and events should fall, but in the end I am the sort of person who is always going to be more honest than secretive and who prefers that others do the same.

2. I disagree. And I am pretty anti-whining in general. Yes, complaining continuously and in a vein of “there is no solution” is unhelpful no matter what the topic. Complaining about your kids to your friends who are not parents is super annoying – please don’t be that person. Parenting is an amazing journey, and as much as we can we need to focus on the good times and be positive and optimistic. But parenting is not all butterflies and rainbows and cute baby pictures… and pretending like it is messes people up. Venting to other parents about parenting is completely appropriate and healthy.

3. This makes zero logical sense to me. My children are not my professional collegues. They are not my friends. They are my kids. They are tiny humans that I am trying to help guide into reasonably functional full-size humans. I need honest advice from other parents who have done and are doing the same. How can they give me honest advice if I’m not honest about our situations? How can they help me through the dark moments (and the dark moments come for all of us) if I’m not honest about what that looks like and feels like? Why in the world should I speak to my children the same way I speak to my friends about any significant topic – particularly the tough parts of parenting? I shouldn’t and I don’t. Because that would take us right back to Item 1, and we would all be floating along in loneliness and shame.

4. No thank you.

In conclusion: You have to decide for yourself how honest you want to be about your life and about the people who affect you, including your kids. Realize that if you choose not to be honest, you will spend a lot of your time hedging your words and dancing around half-truths.

Realize that no one can read your mind. So if you are not going to be honest with people, you do not get to be angry at them when you feel misunderstood or alone. When you skirt around certain subjects and refuse to answer questions honestly, you run the risk of teaching your children that certain topics and events in their lives are shameful and embarrassing. Know that people who might have shared their real story with you will hold back when they can tell that you are too.

My personal opinion is that it does us a lot of good to be honest. Learn to be honest in a way that is as tactful and loving and humorous as you can. And be okay with the fact that there will always be people who are uncomfortable with honesty.


Boys walking on foggy beach

“Our stories have the power to break down barriers.”

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