My mom spent my formative years watching Perry Mason (the old black and white one, whose theme music I cannot purge from my brain despite many years having passed since I last heard it); later on, it was CSI and Law and Order. Unsolved Mysteries was on the TV whenever it aired, I assume due to a morbid fascination with a topic she feared tremendously. I grew up amid the constant reminder of “stranger danger” and McGruff the Crime Dog being a big part of my behavior modification in public. The term helicopter parent wasn’t part of the general vernacular yet, but my mom embraced the spirit of it nonetheless. I spent an unfortunate amount of my childhood worrying I’d be murdered or kidnapped. That is almost but not completely beside the point, however. Now, post-adoption life has me worried about many more things

The point is, I pushed back against my innate draw toward true crime podcasts when I was looking for entertainment. I needed something to hold my attention while I cleaned the house, exercised, or did some other menial task that I would otherwise avoid. I rejected suggestions out of hand because really, how morbid is it to listen to hours of other people’s misfortune? Well. It is pretty morbid. It’s also weirdly fascinating. 

This brought me to thoughts about how people tell real stories. Some of the most intriguing stories to listen to have been the ones that include a lot of background detail. These stories drag the listener in by laying the groundwork for sympathy. They create a narrative of protagonist and antagonist, hero and villain, victim and aggressor. 

I am a notorious over-sharer. I cannot handle small talk but I will for sure tell you all about the story I just read or listened to for an hour. Someone can ask how my day was and I might accidentally give an impromptu TED Talk about my most recent hobby, mental health struggles, or trauma history. I am at least self-aware enough about this that I can now tap the brakes when needed. It has been a hard thing to not over-share about my kids.

For one thing, my kids are amazing I just want to tell everyone around me about how one is doing great in a subject they struggled in last year, or the goal they scored in their sport of the month. But also, they are getting older and they all know how to Google now. I don’t really want them to search for our names and see a list of what amounts to humiliating stories and pictures of them from their earlier childhood. I have, in fact, deleted several blogs when I made that particular realization. They deserve a chance to tell their own stories in their own way should they want to or not if they don’t. Plus, it was pointed out to me once I wouldn’t want strangers to see all of my baby pictures. So, I try to respect that. 

But, what I can do, and what I intend to continue, is share the parts of my story where we overlap. Sometimes parts of my story, things that could help other people deal with their situations, are important to tell. If for no other reason than for someone to realize they are not alone crying in a bathroom with the door locked and a kid screaming at them through the door. Because many of us have been there, but it’s easy to feel like there’s something wrong with only me, or only them. 

What I don’t share (anymore) are details that could identify them from any stranger on the street. I am not aiming to publicly shame my kid for having a bad day. I do, however, try to share my experiences and promote empathy. Reading those things from other writers has made my life more bearable. Knowing that my kid is not the only one who, despite best intentions, went to school in completely weather-inappropriate clothing even though I said to change into something warmer—it is a balm to my weary soul. Laughing so hard I cry over someone else’s kid telling the teacher something embarrassing that is actually innocent but sounds … not that, is delightful. 

So, as sarcasm is one of the many services I offer free to the world, I offer this: You aren’t alone. Sometimes kids are weird. Sometimes they look you square in the eyes and do the exact thing you just told them not to do. Sometimes they scream so loud for so long about their sock being “wrong,” but they won’t let you fix it or change it… and then the police are called because your sweet neighbors are afraid someone is being hurt. They weren’t, by the way, thanks for keeping us safe, Officer. The kids liked the stickers. Anyway.

I’m sure some people think it isn’t a big deal. They might think I should be able to share whatever I want because they are my kids. I’ve heard people say something similar about their children. I think about how, if something terrible happened to someone I love and they ended up the subject of a news story, would they feel ashamed by everything that was said about them in a public way? I know that’s not the same. But I am trying to do the best I can. Will I still sometimes over-share? I hope not. I really hope I can be respectful of my kids as individuals so as not to shame them for life (though, ask them at any given moment, my existence alone might do that so…ya know). I think all of us are doing the best we can. If I take a picture or write a personal blog post, I now ask them if they mind if I share. 

It’s easy to overshare on the internet. I mean, there are entire websites devoted to what amounts to gossip about strangers. So I don’t blame parents for getting sucked in. But as kids grow up, I think they deserve to have agency over their own stories. 

More Articles About Adoption Experiences:

Adoption: Whose Story Is It to Tell?

Does Your Child Own His or Her Adoption Story?

Please Don’t Tell Your Child’s Story