In this day and age it seems as if no one has any secrets any more. Facebook and twitter and blogs and texting – well, some people use the internet to record every waking moment, every thought, every event. With some of the new applications out there, you can even update your location with maps and everything. (I briefly signed up to foursquare. I deleted the app from my Blackberry yesterday. Not for me).
Some of my friends have their kids as Facebook friends. I don’t allow my children to have Facebook accounts, so I am not worried that they will read something on my page I don’t want them to see. In fact, I won’t add a friend’s kid unless they are over 18 and I know them well.
Our kids are used to knowing everything real time. But how much is too much information? We sit down and talk to our children about the dangers of drugs and smoking. It has to be an honest conversation if we want them to really understand the consequences of certain types of behaviour. But then again, if you were a pot-head as a teen – and your child / teen asks you if you ever inhaled – do you tell them the truth? Perhaps a sanitized version? Perhaps the truth with a huge disclaimer along the lines of “we didn’t realize back then what consequences it could have had, and now I regret it”?
I have told my kids that smoking is bad for them. They know their grandfather smoked a heck of a lot and died at a young age. They also know that if I ever caught them smoking they would be in trouble. “It isn’t the cigarettes that would kill us, Ima would kill us first”. But it’s totally hypocritical of me. As a 17 year old starting college I smoked. Silk Cuts to be precise. For 3 months. I tried hard but I couldn’t get addicted. Thank God!! If the kids ask me if I ever smoked do I tell them the truth? That I did it to fit it with all the other students who were puffing away? That it did nothing for me except make my clothes and breath smell? Or do I lie and say I never smoked? I try so hard to be honest and open with my children – but where do you draw the line?
How about disclosing a previous marriage? Do kids need to know about that? Sometimes people have had a “starter marriage” – first marriage, totally wrong for each other, lasted all of 10 seconds, everyone moved on to bigger and better things, leaving just a tiny little blip on the horizon. Do children of the subsequent marriage have a right to know about the first one? Is it any of their business? Is it a part of what makes them who they are, or is it not necessary to their life? I have a couple of friends who had babies in their teens as unwed mothers and gave them up for adoption, moved on with their lives, got married, had more kids – when do those kids need to know about their mother’s story? Never? What if that child comes looking for his / her biological parent?
As the children get older the boundaries seem to blur a little – their maturity level makes them more understanding and trustworthy. They can handle uncomfortable truths. But does that mean we need to share all those family secrets that we have been withholding up until now? How much is too much?