First Posted: 1/9/2015
On Christmas Eve, after a particularly ungrateful act by one of my children, I wrote a Facebook status update about my reluctance to shower her with gifts in the morning. I was astounded at the response. Friends and family were relieved at the transparency of the comment and many shared the sentiment. Raising teens can be challenging and, too often, we share only our best selves with friends on social media.
“I don’t do Facebook,” I remember one friend saying to me a few years back. “I can’t stand to see all the perfect people.” I pointed out that she was as perfect as any of them, as well as the fact that those pictures aren’t all that is going on in people’s lives. They are showing only their pretty pictures, their good sides.
Whether it’s perfect report cards, Student of the Month certificates or tournament trophies, I don’t know anyone who hasn’t fallen into the trap of over-sharing at one time or another. We seem to understand that it is rude and inappropriate to brag about ourselves, but somehow doing it about our kids can seem okay. I admit I’ve given in to the temptation a few times and I always felt silly afterwards. Maybe bragging comes from insecurity; we feel the need to prove that we are doing a good job as parents.
When our older girls were toddlers, I remember sitting at a table at a friend’s wedding. All of us new parents were sharing our battle stories about getting out for the event that night: the screaming toddler with separation anxiety, the babysitter who showed up late, the grandparents who wouldn’t be able to get the children to bed.
“It’s hard to leave him,” one father said to everyone. “He is the best kid in the world. I mean the absolute best. CUTEST BABY EVER. Hands down. No question.”
I waited for the punch line. There had to be some self-deprecating one liner coming. Was this guy for real? Did he not know he was talking to a group of people who all had little ones at home? I thought that maybe it was a one-time transgression on his part, until we saw him again a few months later. This time, my mother was with me.
“Let me tell you Pat (my mom’s name),” he explained. “My son is amazing. Perfect in every way. We really hit the nail on the head with this one!” When we were finally able to free ourselves and walk away, my mother, grandmother to eight, had one comment.
“What a jerk!”
Then there was the dad at the playground who regaled me with concerns that his clearly “gifted” kindergartner wasn’t being suitably challenged by her teacher. This as the child ran by, chasing mine with a stick and yelling, “Poopy head!”
Or how about the mother of one of my older daughter’s friends, who, every time we talk about trying to get them together, lists the days and days of parties her child is booked to attend, thus making sure I know she is very popular and her schedule is overflowing with invitations.
And why am I privy to the knowledge of each and every friend’s kid who is in honors classes, advanced placement or getting straight As? Why do I feel the need to share the same? See, there I go. I let it slip again.
As I go into the new year with this No Brag resolution, I will control my impulse by remembering that someone hearing me boast may have a child who has just been diagnosed with an illness, has a learning disability, is on the Autism Spectrum, has been abused, is terribly shy, is dealing with the demise of a marriage or has a mental health issue. Or maybe they are a normal, typical child. Since when did normal become not good enough?
And I will be conscious to know my audience before I speak. There are very few people it is completely safe to brag about your child to = your spouse, your child’s grandparents and maybe a very special aunt, uncle or god-parent. These select few will get as much joy from hearing it as you will from telling it.