The First Rule Of Parenting: You Don’t Talk About Parenting

by Samantha on January 28, 2013

Official Fight Club Poster

Remember “Fight Club?”

For all of us parents who had the chance to actually see a movie, in this instance, a blockbuster by Brad Pitt, what was the first rule?

The first rule of Fight Club is that you don’t talk about fight club.

The same goes for parenting. The first rule of parenting is that you don’t talk about parenting. Why? Because, for the most part, people don’t care.

Yet meet any parent these days and sometimes one of the first things out of their collective mouths are stories about their little darlings. Now, don’t get me wrong: as a mother of millions, I certainly understand the need to commiserate, brag, complain and laud my child’s latest achievements over other parents who may or may not be so lucky to experience the same. I write a blog about parenting, for heaven’s sake! Rest assured that the irony of this post is not lost on me. I get it: I’m part of the problem. That being said, it doesn’t hurt to investigate the reasons behind our constant need to share our child’s lives with others. How much is too much? How much should we really be saying about our kids?

In this age of oversharing, social media and immediate distribution of your child’s first visit from the tooth fairy, are we going a bit too far? “Parenting” has become a sport of sorts, has it not? I mean, really: it certainly has some of the same attributes. To wit:

- A competitive nature (“My son just qualified the national spelling bee competition.”)

- The desire to “win” (Consider the amount of money spent by “hockey parents,” “tennis parents” and similar)

- A “Code of Conduct” (Often unwritten but expected nonetheless. Examples? Just think playdate reciprocity expectations)

- It’s a “Spectator Sport” (Perfect examples: holiday concerts, music recitals and spelling bees)

- Doping and drugs  (Consider the number of Advils taken by any parent of small kids ;) )

Of course there’s the downside of parenting, the parts that parents are often reluctant to share:

- Cheating (Your child has been caught and suspended for her behavior - not something you really want to announce via Facebook)

- Expense (Think college fund, university and various extra-curricular activities and lessons. You’re struggling to save, borrowing money to live and generally in the hole financially.)

- Violence (“He hit me!” And if a child has anger/violence/behavior issues, it’s often not readily shared.)

Competition, membership in a “team” environment/pursuit, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Parenting, as it seems, is indeed a sport, and not only  a contact sport but one that can leave us feeling used, bruised and abused. And now we’re going to tell everyone we know about our experiences through the immediacy of social media. What gives?

Shhhhh be quiet!

“Parenting,” by definition, involves the guidance and support of one’s child within all aspects of their growth.  As a result, the growing popularity of sport-related and extra-curricular activities has spawned not only a generation of overwrought, tired and overly-expended children, but one of extremely competitive and talkative parents as well. The world has become the verbal stage of those who have reproduced and we are all their (often) unwitting audiences. Social media avenues have changed the playing field and parents are routinely announcing the triumphs as well as the minutea of their kids’ lives. We’re in the midst of an information overload, but not of conventional sort. No, the information often consists of little Ethan’s first pee in the potty and sweet Madison’s antics at last’s night’s dinner. Sure: some care - aunts, grandparents and cousins are somewhat obliged to feel this way - yet most of us don’t. Yet that doesn’t stop the continual flow of information, images, YouTube clips and tweets that continue to appear in our various newsfeeds. We have become obsessed with “sharing” to the detriment of all of us, as in our efforts to provide the world with updates on the latest activities of our kids, we have managed to numb ourselves from truly seeing our children’s accomplishments that have merit and value. We’ve talked about parenting too much.

Don’t believe me? One just has to look at the popularity of such sites as STFUParents and the sentiments conveyed in this article in The Atlantic to realize that parental oversharing is very real, very annoying and very unethical to many. Yet we keep doing it, despite other’s requests that we cease and desist from sharing.

One has to wonder: what would life be like if we were given an edict that for one day - just one full day - that we were not able to speak about our kids? That’s right: not even utter their very-carefully chosen names for 24 hours? This means verbally (the old-fashioned way), as well as via any digital or online means. How would we survive? Would we survive? So accustomed are we to sharing every peep or pronouncement by our children that it wouldn’t be surprising that this simple exercise would likely be impossible for many. Most would admit that this is indeed the case; that being said, what does this fact say about us collectively? Have we become a society of oversharing, self-involved, and vicariously narcissistic sorts, who display our “wonderful” lives through the pursuits of our kids?

The answer is “yes,” and we need to stop.

The constant stream of updates from the toilet-training trenches, the images of Junior’s first soccer trophy and the blow-by-blow account of Emma’s first visit to the dentist are considered mundane and uneventful at the best of times. Other parents don’t really care. They may claim to find it interesting, but they really don’t. Accept this fact and move on. Only then will you be able to share your child’s important milestones with people who really care.

The first rule of parenting? Don’t talk about parenting. At least not to the extent that we have been talking. Think twice before you hit “post,” reflect for a few seconds before you “tweet” and quell the urge to upload that oh-so-cute picture of your little one when he’s about to do something that only his mother or father will truly find cute. If we all took this approach, perhaps we would then finally see the forest for the trees, cut down on the digital clutter and discern the really good status updates from the mundane.

Image courtesy of http://www.imdb.com and http://www.firstnews.co.uk


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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Sean Nicholson January 29, 2013 at 2:39 am

Amen!!! Parents who love to “share” their nuggets of advice drive me nuts, especially when I didn’t ask for their advice. And especially if you don’t know me or know my kids.

We’re all making this up as we go. There is no parenting handbook (that I’m aware of), so just do what’s best for you and your kids and you’ll do just fine :)

Cheers!

-Sean

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Samantha January 29, 2013 at 3:11 am

So true, Sean! We’re all guilty - myself included - which makes it a bit too easy to fall into the oversharing vortex. If we would all check ourselves and think twice before we’re ready to hit “share,” there would be so much less digital clutter that we’d have to wade through. One day, perhaps….
Thanks for commenting!

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Cheryl Griffith January 29, 2013 at 5:01 am

I disagree. I love my son. I don’t care if everyone gets sick and tired of seeing his pictures or my daily posts of how amazing he is. I have to see a million pictures of their pets, and of their binge drinking, their amazing travels, or stupid pictures of their food. Everyone brags about whatever they want. If they don’t want to be bombarded by my posts and pictures of my family, they don’t have to listen. I do care about the kids of my friend’s and family, so they can post as much as they’d like and I love seeing it, and I know they feel the same about my family. So although I understand that a majority of people don’t care what is going on with my family…. I don’t care. They can turn away. I do agree with Sean about people giving advice about my family when they don’t know me. That = annoying.

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Samantha January 29, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Hi Cheryl,

I think the problem becomes those parents who are insensitive to the fact that others don’t want to be bombarded with every single cute expression, behavior or otherwise that their child does every day. We’ve all come across a situation where it’s a case of “kiddie overload,” with people posting and updating their social media statuses with often inappropriate or uninteresting fodder about their kids. As I mentioned in the post, I’m sure I’ve done the same to some degree and am highly sensitive to the fact that many of my friends who don’t have kids don’t really care as much as I would about my child’s latest achievement. Yes - I write a parenting blog and write and speak about parenting publicly, but those who subscribe to my blog, my Facebook fan page, Twitter and otherwise know what they’re getting into ;) They expect to hear all about the inanities of my daily life with my kids; others don’t. Thanks for your comment, Cheryl.

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Janet Dubac January 29, 2013 at 11:28 am

Thanks for sharing this reminder Samantha. I agree with you that parents are the only ones who know what’s best for their kids-not others. When I encounter this dilemma, I just keep my cool and stay quiet. For me, that works for now. I’m just afraid that I may lose my patience one day and don’t know what to do anymore.

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Samantha January 29, 2013 at 4:32 pm

We’re all in the same boat, Janet! Just as our friends and others “overshare” the information about their kids that perhaps only they will find interesting, aren’t we all guilty of doing the same (myself included)? I guess all you can do is check yourself and your behavior and think twice before hitting “publish” or “update.” It’s a work in progress, that’s for sure :)

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Sarah January 30, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Hi Samantha!

Did you read this piece in the G&M last week? I was thinking some of the same things after I read it!
The challenging part really is finding the balance right - because our kids are such a huge part of our lives and let’s face it they’re all pretty awesome!

I’m a firm believer though in privacy - even for parenting bloggers - no one else wants to know the knitty gritty of the every day - pick a topic - write about it - use an annecdote sure but also keep it broad enough to be relatable -always ask before you post - will this embaress me or my kid when they are in the 10th grade? or getting married? or going for a job interview? If the answer’s yes you have some deleting to do!

Thanks for a good reminder and a good read with my coffee :)

Sarah

http://m.theglobeandmail.com/life/parenting/wont-somebody-please-think-of-the-children-why-we-need-to-stop-the-parental-overshare-plague/article7792903/?service=mobile

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Samantha January 30, 2013 at 2:15 pm

Hi Sarah!

Thanks so much for sharing the article - no, I had not seen it, so it was definitely interesting to read. I’m so glad to see that others are now starting to consider the “parental overshare” in their everyday postings about inanities on Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels (myself included!). Funnily, I too have written about this before, in the Globe and Mail as well, as it’s been bothering me for some time. Here’s the article for your reading pleasure:

About to post a video of Junior? Here’s why you should think twice.

We live in a day and age where we’ve become almost immune to shock; it’s almost as if the deluge of information available via the Internet has made us crave bigger, better and more fodder for consumption - and critique - than ever before. Our children are the unwitting victims of this. Now - as I mentioned in the article, I am part of the problem to some degree, I cannot lie! After all, I do write about parenting, both here on this blog and via other media outlets and channels as well. That being said, I have never posted anything that I feel my children would cringe at later in life, or that they would regret, or feel ashamed about. Further, I always consider everything that I post and ask myself: “how would my child feel about this later in life? Would they be embarrassed? Will it affect their abilities to gain employment, make friends, find a spouse?? ;) ” We’ve got to collectively slow down, take a chill pill and refrain from hitting “publish” or “tweet” every time our little darling does something cute. It’s hard to do, no doubt about it - especially when it’s so easy to share these days. It’s a work in progress, but good work indeed. Let’s keep trying :)
Thanks for your comment!

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Christine January 30, 2013 at 7:43 pm

I agree - people share way too much. I remember when we first had a baby, I had to stop my husband from talking about him so much! Especially since we were the first of most of our friends to have a baby. I could see people’s eyes gloss over. It was cute that he was proud but I had to remind him no one cares :)

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Samantha February 2, 2013 at 2:01 pm

So funny, Christine! Yes - people do care to a certain degree, but that’s where it ends. We all have to remember that as much as we think everything our kid does is really interesting, other people beg to differ. A great reminder, for sure!

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Rodney C. Davis February 10, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Hi Samantha.

Interesting discussion. We’ve all had to suffer through someone yapping about their mundane parenting lives. I can still see myself turning a little to the side so they don’t see me rolling my eyes at the sky.

I guess what it boils down to is how often they do it, and how close they are to us. What about the teenage mother I was so worried about because just 15 months ago, she was so stressed out she was venting on me about “dog-boys” and “monster-dads who wanted their teenagers to abort?” Like me, I suspect most of your community would be totally amused, and definitely encouraging to hear her now getting excited about baby-poop.

I also disagree (quite strongly) with the position that there are “no parenting handbooks.” Amazon even has several variations of their “for dummies” books, so that should tell you something. There are lots of great parenting manuals out there. A few of them are actually quite good. Despite the fact that I counsel quite a few families, I’ve personally befitted from reading several of them. In fact, I’m working on my own right now! Its true that we’re all making it up as we go along. But its also true that some methods produce better results with certain kids.

So as in everything else, context is everything. Human experiences are too diverse for us to generalize too much.

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Samantha March 5, 2013 at 6:54 pm

Thanks for your feedback, Rodney. While there are certainly parenting handbooks, there aren’t really any that provide the proper advice that will suit your particular child. Children are not “one size fits all,” and that’s where the problem lies. Nonetheless, I agree with you about context and the diversity of human behaviour.

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Rodney C. Davis March 5, 2013 at 7:13 pm

I hear you Samantha, but you seem to be assuming that all parenting authors believe that one size fits all. What would you say if I told you that there are many of us who believe, like you, in what is called “goodness of fit.” This is an entire body of research that actually makes human diversity and contexts it’s focus. The approaches developed from such theories are effective, and grounded in real experiences. Many modern authors actually write from that perspective. I’ve always been a critic of those who want to persuade everyone else that their ways is the only relevant way. But I’ve also become a strong critic of those who believe that scientific research of real life has nothing to offer. Nothing can be further from the truth.

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