I have a son, who is nearly eight years old. Recently, he’s hit a new developmental stage where privacy is important to him. He’s getting dress in his bedroom instead of the living room. He’s locking the bathroom door. He gets embarassed when he spills something on himself at the grocery store.
This is new.
He also cares about what we say about him. He corrects us if he feels like we are not telling a story from his perspective. In fact, he doesn’t really want us telling stories about him at all.
As a child, I’d experienced one too many incidents where my silly childish thoughts and actions ended up as story fodder for my mother’s relatives and friends. These stories were nothing shameful or even particularly funny — just normal kid stuff. But it only took a few times of overhearing the laughter at my expense before I learned not to share my feelings and thoughts with her. I felt betrayed, although I was too young to identify exactly what my mother had done to make me feel that way. On some level I felt she had chosen the needs of someone else over mine by telling stories I didn’t find funny.
The lesson I took from the laughter was to keep things from my mother, and I developed the ability to keep secrets at a young age. I had plenty of practice. The secret didn’t have to be a big one; I simply didn’t tell her about anything unless she asked a direct question. I went to see my school friends at their houses, but they rarely came to visit me at home. I never told her about the boys I liked until they started calling me at home. It wasn’t unusual for her to be surprised by something at a parent/teacher conference in elementary school because I made sure she had only a limited idea about my schoolwork and assignments.
As you can imagine, my mother and I were not close. But I want to be close to my children. So I feel a great sense of responsibility to my son to not follow this path.
He has asked me not to post certain pictures or stories about him on my Facebook page. I admit, this is hard for me. He’s funny. And cute. And my Facebook content is kind of, well, dull without him.
But I respect his need for privacy. I thought I had a little more time, but there you go. The rules have changed.
And my Facebook page is now being censored by my son.