filters for our words, part one

Oh, there are moments! Aren’t there?

Please tell me I am not the only parent of teenagers (I have three + an almost) who has been sorely — and I do mean sorely — tempted to post a thing — on Facebook, on Twitter, in a blog — and get the world’s affirmation.  Child dearest, I’m bigger, I’m faster. I will always beat you!

No? It’s just me, then?

That bedroom three feet deep in clothes-and-who-knows-what-else . . . you don’t threaten to grab a camera and post their foolishness on Facebook?

Or the sass — the sass, people!! — in the disagreement, but then you are proven right in some in-your-face way — there’s no I told you so right there on the tips of your fingers?

Or the really-stupid/life-ruining-thing-they-did and now you think everyone thinks you are a bad parent and so you must make it clear that it was their doing and none of yours? Perhaps just posted in a nebulous, passive-aggressive comment of frustration that’s about as subtle as a Taylor Swift song? As in, you may not have named names, but we all know who you’re talking about . . .

Still no? Then you, my friend, are a better parent than I.

But I’m inclined to think maybe you do get it.

Because it is a truth universally acknowledged that moms can get a little too comfy on the internet. 

Which means the potential for public humiliation of offspring is very, very real, making social media (drum roll, please) just

 “Another Way to Damage and Alienate Our Kids”

As if we needed more ways . . .

* * * * *

I’m pretty sure I’ve done my fair share of posting things that make my kids groan and possibly cry. But I try (really, I do try) not to post things that humiliate them.

I’ve got great accountability, though, which helps. For example . . .

  • Child-who-shall-remain-nameless:  MOM! What did you say on Twitter?? You know my friend so-and-so follows you! 
  • Other-child-who-shall-remain-nameless-who-is well past four, which is the age when ALL children say the most adorable things, but nonetheless, still says the most adorable things, stops me the moment I pick up my phone:  MOM!! Do NOT post that on Facebook!!
  • Other-child-plus-aforementioned-child-who-shall-remain-nameless-did awesome — and I mean awesome — dance for family video dance party night . . . child-with-whom-I-share-141-friends and I BEG them to let us post on Facebook. (No. Really. It’s just that awesome.) But the answer is:  Mom! No! Please don’t.

And I have to respect that.

I mean, which of us parents, in honesty, doesn’t recall that moment when our own parents said the thing we really hoped and prayed they would not say in front of our friends — our six friends — who came to pick us up to go see Footloose at the drive-in?

Think about it. We don’t just have the audience six friends . . . we (if our child has not blocked us) have access to ALL THE FRIENDS! at once. ALL OF THEM!!

Aren’t you thankful our parents didn’t have Facebook?

* * * * *

So, remember that video that went viral a few years back, featuring a dad disciplining his daughter by making her offenses public?  At first, I thought it was a clever . . . kind of like sitcom-parent-burns-child-with-witty-retort clever.

And then I thought, this is real life. What if my family had put my stupidity, my hormonal rage strokes, my ugly, my shame, out there for all the world to see? I don’t know . . . I think I would hate them.

Because shaming your kid on the internet is the 21st century equivalent of putting them in stocks and setting them in the town square for public ridicule.

You know. You’ve seen it: hold someone or someone’s actions up for derision, and the people will deride — and even go farther than you. Right there, for all to comment . . .

In real life, shaming and humiliating drive a wedge. And they inflict lifelong wounds.

So, I mark myself. Not always perfectly. I suppose it’s more of a filtering. Do I love my child More than my blog? More than my followers? More than entertaining my friends? More than this adorable thing that will get 50 likes but would embarrass them — even at four years old — if shared it with my 438 friends? Do I love my child more than myself?

Some stuff is just too costly — and truly isn’t necessary — for the world to know.

At least not right now when, for example, we are in the throes of parenting teens . . .

Which can be a whole lot like back labor . . . which, in my experience, involved a lot of yelling, blaming, crying, cursing, and falling to your knees — none of which, I am happy to say, was caught on camera or recorded for posterity. (Oh, honey. I how I could write the posts!)

I say this in love:

Save the pain of parenting for your journal, for your small group. The “mommy, I poop a rock” video for the box of home movies, for the photo album only a few will see years from now.

Love your children by filtering what you post.

Especially your teenagers.

Sometimes, we forget, in the middle of them being so grown up, they aren’t fully grown up with the tough shells we who are really grown up have. (And honestly, how tough is your shell these days when it comes to social media?)

Treating them the way you’d want to be treated — if not now, then when you were their age — may be the simplest filter of all.

* * * * *

So, last Monday was my oldest boy’s birthday. He’s 16 years old now.

I very carefully crafted a not-too-long, not-too-sappy, not-too-embarrassing Facebook post for his wall and debated about baby pictures . . . He’s adorable. But I didn’t. The end.

Because humiliation isn’t always intentional. Some of us don’t like being talked about — even if it’s good. (And by us, I mean me — I don’t want that. Let’s just leave me totally out of the discussion.) I’m guessing you might have a child like that, too. If you don’t know, ask them.

We just can’t expect to have a good relationship with or be loved by the people we publicly shame. 

(And not just kids . . . but that’s for the next post. And if any of you are regular readers of this blog, you know I have some ‘splainin to do on that score.)

Until then, I leave you with a writer’s prayer:

May the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.
Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.
Psalm 141:2-3