One afternoon a few weeks ago, I was sitting downstairs on the computer trying desperately to sift through the hundreds of mostly junk emails in my inbox, when I heard Henry shout from the bathroom upstairs, "Mom! Mom!".
It was Ella's naptime so immediately I whisper-yelled, "Shhhh, Henry. Not so loud. What's wrong?"
"Mom, I need you to come up."
I figured it was just a post-poop clean up, so I contemplated a few more emails, giving him a little time to finish up. Then thinking it best not to leave a pooping four year old alone for too long, I ran upstairs. Much to my dismay, he hadn't even hopped on the toilet.
He looked up at me with a frightened look on his face and asked quietly, but very seriously, "There aren't any Muppets in the potty, right Mom? They're not going to come up out of the potty, right?"
Henry has recently developed a real case of "mupaphobia." I'm not sure how it started, but Kermit, Gonzo, Miss Piggy, even Elmo, are not his pals. I suppressed my urge to laugh or even break into an Elmo impression. Instead, I just looked at him very seriously and said, "No buddy. There are no Muppets in the toilet."
Later that day he asked me the same question again. In the back of my mind I thought, "Oh this is too good not to share on Facebook. " So I pulled out my iPhone and updated my status:
Henry's latest manifestation of mupaphobia - says to me now every time he goes potty, "There aren't any Muppets in the potty, right mom? They're not going to come up out of the potty right?" I wonder where that one came from. Any psychotherapists out there with a theory?
I love when my friends on Facebook share the funny moments about their kids too. They make the best stories. One of the reasons I joined Facebook was so that I could use it as a journal of the quirky and sometimes profound thoughts that come out of my kids' mouths. It keeps our extended family up to date on their developing personalities and I usually don't think twice about sharing them.
However, as my kids grow older I'm having to reevaluate when I share and when I don't. The other night, we sat down and had the big discussion with our 9-year-old, Zack. You know the BIG one - the birds and the bees. We sat down with him, got out The Visual Dictionary, and had a very frank discussion about how babies are made, what sex is, the whole nine yards.
It was a proud parenting moment, as my husband and I were both on the same page and I felt like we really had a good discussion. Zack asked a lot of good questions and we really engaged him in the conversation. There were a couple of questions that probably would have made good status updates. However, as we ended the conversation, we told him that he could come to us and ask us any question he had about sex and he could feel safe that we wouldn't judge him or make him feel embarrassed if he asked.
I wouldn't want to break the trust that he has in us, so I didn't share any of those questions or thoughts, quirky or profound. Right now, he is separated from the world of Facebook and it's easy to think that he would never see or hear anything that I would share, but that's not true and it's not the point.
Our little kids are developing into people with their own level of privacy that should be respected. In only a few short years, they will likely have access to Facebook, and once something is on the internet, it's very hard, if not impossible to remove. It's a lesson that I want them to learn as they begin to decide what to share about themselves and what not to.
I want to also respect them as individuals. So while it may be cute to laugh about what a four-year-old says, as they grow older, they may not appreciate being the butt of a joke. They should be able to take a greater role in the image that they project in public. I definitely would not want to jeopardize the open lines of communication that we have with them over a couple of laughs that might come from a funny status update.
So for now, I'll continue to share the two-year-old and four-year-old funnies about Muppets in the toilet. But with the content of conversations with my older ones, I'm going to be a lot more respectful of their privacy and them as individuals and keep their private funnies off of Facebook.