originally written December 2016
I rarely talk about mean comments or ‘hate’ or snark that is prevalent online. I try to be as positive as possible because I know life is hard. kids are hard. marriage is hard. jobs are hard. parenting is hard. being alive is sometimes hard. And I don’t think across the board, nonconstructive, nonpositive comments come from haters. I think they sometimes, they just come from hard times or hard feelings. I don’t think all people that make mean comments are jealous. I don’t think that all people that make uninformed comments are rude. I don’t even think that all mean comments are mean. Sometimes they just don’t translate in typed form. So sometimes I feel like it’s not really fair to label every comment as one thing or another.
That is all a preface because I got a message this week from someone and I honestly don’t think they were trying to be mean or judgmental or even pushy. I think they spoke from a place of concern and honesty and I wanted to take a minute to address this topic. I wanted to talk about my thoughts when it came to this….because 1. I think it will encourage some of you mamas out there and 2. it’s important for us to really understand that everyone is different when it comes to online sharing and 3. I think we could all learn something from it.
Okay….so let’s get to it. The comment was this….
“Katie, long time fan. Please stop humiliating Weston. It has been going on a long time and it is sad to see you always comment on how “difficult” he is. He is going to look back on these moments when he is an adult and be mortified that you put all his embarrassing moments on public display. It’s so sad. From one mamma to another please stop. My heart aches for him.”
So yeah. I took a moment and sat back and tried to understand why the topic of Weston keeps coming up. Over the years, I have gotten so many comments judging the number of photos I post of him, the frequency of photos, the way I talk about him, etc. And the fact is….they are wrong. Plain and simple.
This week I posted a photo of him at his preschool Christmas pageant. He was looking so handsome in his Christmas best. He got to stand in the front row and sang his little heart out. He rang his jingle bells and did all the hand motions with such pizzazz. I literally could not be more proud. My parents came and Jeremy and I were there with his little brothers. We got lots of videos and pictures and waved like those crazy parents and cheered when he waved back. At one point at the very end, he grabbed his black pants at the ankles and pulled them all the way up, exposing his black socks and bare legs. It made us all laugh and we snapped a photo of his silly antic and posted it on Instagram Stories with an caption that said we told him to not pull his pants down…we didn’t know this was an option. And then a laughing emoji. Just a little back ground for you guys.
First, I would like to explain something. You guys get a GLIMPSE. A glimpse. Nothing more than a flash. That’s been our situation for a long time. You don’t really know my kids. Not really. You don’t get to see our interactions, our parenting style, our kids real personalities. You get very very little. And I don’t mean that in a snarky way. I mean that in a very practical way. So to say that I think he is individually pointed out as difficult is not fair or true. Do I think that certain aspects of parenting in general are difficult? Absolutely. Do I think that Weston has moments – like ALL my kids? Absolutely. Do I think that Weston is also a very good boy that has a very good heart? Oh yeah. Oh heck yeah. That kid needs a bigger chest cavity because his heart is HUGE. And do I think I shamed my child by posting his silly moment on Instagram? No. I do not.
So now that we have discussed that the ‘view’ is very different than the reality….let me share something else with you. You get the highlight reel. You get our highs. Our moments of joy. You don’t see photos of me crying in the bathroom. Or videos of my kids hitting or biting or fighting. You don’t get to see the arguments that Jeremy and I have. You just get the happy stuff. And honestly – EVERYTHING I HAVE POSTED OF WESTON, I AM DANG PROUD OF. I am so happy he was just himself up on stage. He did everything I expected….and yes, I have come to expect him to do something unexpected! That’s him! He makes me laugh so hard that I have peed. He makes babies giggle and cuddles like nobodies business. He is a talented little artist that has more creative spirit than most professionals. He is physically advanced in every way. He can do things with his body that adults still can’t do. He is passionate and aggressive and does everything with 3000% of his little being. He is my wild fire! He does the unexpected….not out of disobedience…but out of creativity! And I ADORE THAT. So when I post something that is a little out-of-the-norm…it’s because I LOVE THAT HE DID THAT. And yes – that is me yelling right now.
You may see those antics as naughty. Or embarrassing. Or something your grandparents would frown at. I see that as my Weston being my Weston. And I personally would not have it any other way. If I took away the things that others see as embarrassing, that is taking away the true him. And that’s not okay. I would never say that to another mama. NEVER. I would never tell a parent that you want to ignore or hide the special qualities that make your child unique. That would be wrong!
Secondly, I really believe that we live in a culture that celebrates sweet and gentle and quiet children. We do. Children should be seen and not heard, right? (that’s sarcasm by the way) Historically, we think that ‘passive’ should be the nature of all girls. And when we see it in boys, we celebrate it. Our culture expects them to sit still, speak sweetly, never act aggressive or wild or overtly physical. Our culture wants them to be domesticated kittens when sometimes, their temperament is not naturally gentle or quiet or kitten-esque. Here is the thing I like to preach…OUR CHILDREN ARE ALL DIFFERENT! If your kid is a kitten – awesome! If your kid is a tiger – awesome! If your kid is something completely different and you have no idea what it is – awesome! I am a crazy proud parent of four AMAZING boys….all with different temperaments and different personalities and different strengths and weaknesses! And just to be clear – I have a kitten and I have a tiger and I have a whole household of animals. It’s a zoo over here 🙂
In that context, I think our culture is wrong. I think we need to shift our view. Instead of looking at the outside…instead of looking at the ‘performance’ alone, let’s look at our children’s hearts. And let’s stop labeling them. Just because a child obeys in a creative or aggressive way – that doesn’t mean they are difficult or embarrassing or bad. If I ask a kiddo to pick up a room so that we can do something special together, and they are exhibiting a bad attitude (maybe with grumbling and anger) but does it quickly….that is a heart issue….even though they obeyed. But if I ask a kid to pick up a room and they want to pretend everything are basketballs and they throw them into the basket yelling SCORE! the whole time….this is not a heart issue….they obeyed and they are being loud and aggressive and fun-loving. But somehow in our culture, we allow for the complaining and grumbling (or whatever the bad attitude is) but we punish the kid who throws. We think of aggressive as bad. We think of loud as obnoxious. We think rowdy is wrong. I don’t agree with that. As a parent of boys who are rarely kitten-esque – I want to teach them, self control is a good thing to learn and exercise and it’s sometimes really hard…but it is my job to not change who they are…but to teach them to do all things in love. They can be loud, aggressive and rowdy and still love God and others REALLY WELL.
Both Jeremy and I have talked about all of our boys and we know that they are being taught that we as a family commit to loving others and honoring God first….and that dictates our actions. Not doing things out of fear or ‘because mommy said so’ isn’t our carved in stone rules. Do we want them to understand obedience? Yes. Do we want them to obey because we know the path already? Yup. But we also want them to desire to do things out of love, empathy and generosity…not because we said so but because we care for others. There are a lot of great books that preach this message. (And Shepharding a Childs Heart is one that I always highly recommend among others.)
All that being said….I post things about my kids and some folks will see that and think ANYTHING other than overwhelmingly positive culturally appropriate pics and captions will be seen as embarrassing to a future Bower kid. Let me tell you something – it’s not your job. You may be a mama who wants to protect your kids….do that….do that as your heart and gut and partners desire….but as a fellow mama, let me do my job. I may do things differently than you….you may not agree with me….but you didn’t get picked by the Man Upstairs to be be my mama or the mama to my kids. I am not worried about my kids being embarrassed…you don’t need to take that job onto yourself. I fully believe my kids will not be embarrassed of their infant and elementary years. My kids will be embarrassed of EVERYTHING I DO when they become tweens and teenagers. But my job isn’t to protect them from all embarrassing moments. It’s not. They will be embarrassed eventually and probably pretty often. It’s my job to teach them to laugh at themselves and to realize that as a Bower, our job is to encourage others and honor God.
And if that is hard for you. If you struggle with feeling upset at me and my choices as a parent….because I know that there are some of you out there….remember that this is a very optional thing….reading this blog, following me on social media and investing your time as readers. I don’t want to push you away because I love having such an amazing diverse group of online friends. But I realize that this may not be the blog for you. Just sayin. I think almost every blogger out there wants to ENCOURAGE. They aren’t blogging to tear down people. They want to connect and build others up. And that includes me.
Lastly – we live in a very connected way. A very public way. Not just me….but most of the people I know. The internet is very different place and creates a new world than what I grew up in. Most kids today will be exposed to more information, photos, and facts about their friends than ever before. The new generations will be able to google one day and see so many details about classmates, colleagues and potential mates….and I know that. I personally have asked myself….how do I find that balance between sharing our life and not sharing too much? As a mom, as a blogger, and as a wife, I committed myself to not post information that changes my families personal relationships, limits their job opportunities or discourages my family members. We have always asked our kids and we will continue to ask them if they want their photo online at all….if they say no, they will never be posted. That doesn’t mean I love them less.
Personally I hope that the kids never say that….because I like showing them off. But I realize it may happen. And when my kids are older, they will probably understand that this was our story. Our family story. Bower Power is part of us all. And one that right now, they LOVE seeing. They love seeing their Instagram photos. They love seeing the blog posts they are in. And they celebrate their own antics just as much as I do.
And so with that being said – I hope that if someone out there….a fellow mama who was shamed for a child’s picture on Facebook or a blogger who was criticized for a quirky personality nugget she shared of her kids….if you are feeling down and maybe questioning if you are doing it right or doing it all wrong….remember, you are doing awesome just by simply taking a step back to analyze the situation. And YOU get to teach your kids how to respond….not just in theory but by actually experiencing a hard situation. This is your story just as much as it is your kids. And if we can teach that next generation that respect and love even in the face of adversity and accepting wildfire (and kittens and everything in between) is what we should do….we as moms are look back at our children and know that we rocked this thing called motherhood.