This story begins a long time ago. Twenty years ago in fact.
When I was 12, I started secondary school, the schools in our area being the last to accept 11 year olds.
On the first day, we got to the school gates and I freaked out, refusing to get out of the car. I embarrassed my mother, lost the respect of my peers and gave myself a great opening scene for a NaNoWriMo novel.
I didn’t and still don’t know why I did this and the feeling I had back then follows me to this day. I have been known to drive for 6 hours, fail to find a parking space and just drive home.
In 1994 they didn’t diagnose social disorders or mental illness in kids (which again, made an excellent basis for a story.)
Anyway, my Mum would tell everyone she met the story about how I wouldn’t get out the car.
As if I wasn’t already ashamed enough.
To make it worse, my Aunt would chime in with the story of when I was 6 and clung to a lamppost outside the school because I didn’t want to go in after a Drs appointment.
Now, these stories were damaging to my self-confidence. Every time they were told, I felt that my family were trying to make me out to be the black sheep. The sympathy my mum elicited from them got her friends, people she could share with. The looks of abject disgust I got will stick with me.
Comments like “such a little bitch”, “you need to help your mum more” and “I’d have beat her from here until next Sunday.” accompanied the story right through my teenage years.
Then I had kids.
And found Twitter and blogging.
I finally understood why Mum felt the need to share this behaviour and why it got the responses it did.
Sharenting has been around for a long time, just the means have changed. These days, we can create a comedic post about our preschooler asking awkward questions and gain responses from sympathetic parents having had similar experiences. Back then, toddler tantrums were something which you pretended you didn’t see. After all, your kids were perfect angels.
Ok, so growing up it may have been damaging, but now I laugh about it. I talk about it freely.
And because of that incident, I expect these behaviours from my own kids and know from reading others’ experiences that it’s ok.
Through my intense frustration, I’ve found support and encouragement and even comedy in these moments which would otherwise be recounted with a snarl and horror.
Sharenting is important for the mental health of the parent, to empower them to talk about these experiences in an environment where they can express themselves without venom being spat directly at the child. If my mum had blogged about the car thing, I would have been embarrassed, hurt by some of the comments maybe, but I wouldn’t have had to see the disgusted looks, the horror that I behaved so terribly, the disappointment, as though I had shamed the entire family again. Perhaps my Mum would have got the support she needed as I grew up, becoming more and more damaged. She’d have had someone to talk to when she was feeling guilty because I was self-harming, taking meds and failing to thrive.
Perhaps it would have made us closer if I could read about her experience as an outsider, watching her child on self-destruct.
This is why I sharent – because we’re all just muddling through, doing what we can and, who knows, someone reading might just glean an ounce of hope from your post.
Parenting is bloody hard enough without isolating ourselves and feeling vilified for talking about our children.