I’m actually thankful social media was not a thing when my kids were little. Truth be told, the antics of my hysterical kids were truly “post-worthy” when they were growing up. So, I know I would’ve totally overshared their day-to-day experiences. This was made quite apparent to me when my son sat with his girlfriend to look at the big, fat scrapbooks I had spent hours creating when he was little.
When they flipped the page to his potty-training photos, my heart sank.
He turned red and quickly turned the page.
I knew in that moment what I once thought was worth documenting for posterity was actually something that could cause him to feel his privacy was violated. By his own mother. And that’s just in a book that sits on a shelf in my home, accessed only as we allow.
Social Media Mom
Here’s the truth that is oh-so-easy to overlook when your kids are running around in their undies with rubber boots or saying really funny things.
Yes, people may “LOL” or post the emoji with the heart eyes. Sure, you may get a lot of likes for that photo, and the grandparents may feel they are sharing the things they don’t see firsthand. But the tiny people whose hijinks you share with the world or your friends via social media will, in fact, grow up to become young adults –with feelings and opinions about their privacy that may include some negative emotions about the digital footprint you are leaving of all their post-worthy moments.
Here’s the reality I have realized with time, as my own three kids became teenagers. They have been through many phases when it comes to having their photo taken or being discussed. You can tell from those thousand-pound scrapbooks when each one loved having his or her photo taken and wanted all the things to become family stories and folklore.
You can also tell when they each became more self-conscious and guarded.
Not Sharing Is Caring
Now, as they are all in high school and college, we’ve reached an agreement that I ask them for permission before I post a photo or share something about them on social media. In fact, I generally ask them if they are okay with me sharing with my friends or family when there’s something going on with them.
Honoring my children as young adults and individuals is important to me. It’s a way to show them I respect who they are and their own life stories are theirs alone to share, on their terms. These are truths that were not as clear to me as a young mom changing diapers in the middle of a family gathering. But those funny little kids who said the darnedest things are becoming independent young adults. And just as I’ve asked them not to disrespect me directly or by how they talk about me to their friends, I need to extend the same courtesy.
The idea of honoring my loved ones was driven home way back when I began dating my husband in college. We took a relationship class that focused on all sorts of building blocks such as respect, communication, and conflict resolution. The idea of honoring significant others was a repeated theme, with this litmus test: don’t say anything about them when they aren’t around that you wouldn’t say if they were. In our marriages and with our kids, we should be the ones to build them up and the ones to be a safe place. Bashing or embarrassing our husband and children is not showing them honor, on social media or otherwise.
This includes the very important idea of guarding how much of their lives we share with others. This is one of the most important ways we can honor our kids.
From Post-Worthy to Cringe-Worthy
Listen; I’m not saying we play pretend and cover up and try to project a façade of some perfect life. I’m just saying: Remember as you post and share that this bathtub beauty will one day be a tweenager who will have opinions about how many people saw her in her birthday suit, even if the photo was strategically taken.
As a mom whose kids are all taller than she, I’m just offering the perspective that your son who is running around in superhero underwear might someday wish that wasn’t out there for his friends to come across. I’m saying that one day, when your funny toddler becomes a young man wanting to impress a young lady, he might feel embarrassed to have her find photos of him sitting on the potty.
Ask me how I know.
So listen in, young moms, to this not-so-young mom. Just remember that what feels “post-worthy” right now might become “cringe-worthy” someday. Take it from a mom whose childhood was thankfully caught on fading and hard-to-see Polaroid photos. Some moments are best left undocumented.