My mother has a lot of family, all living abroad. She keeps in touch with them and her friends on the phone, and they discuss their social lives, holiday plans etc. with each other. She always tells me that she makes a point to not discuss details about my children to anybody, as she has no right to divulge information to anybody about them. In the early days, when my elder son was very young, I didn’t really give it much thought. There wasn’t really much going on with him, aside from the usual newborn antics of eating, playing, sleeping. So from my point of view, there wasn’t really much to discuss anyway.
However, another child down the road and a lot of challenging toddler antics, and I can totally understand why she makes a point to not discuss the kids with anybody in detail. We experience a variety of challenges, like most young families, and parenting is an ongoing learning process. Parenting is also a highly emotive topic often sparking conflict due to the fact that it is so variable from family to family.
As parents, my husband and I exercise control over what information we share about our children. When we share information, it is from our point of view, and we give an accurate account of whatever the story might be. However, the everyday challenges that we face as a little family of four are our business and should be kept private by others. Why on earth should a group of people who have never met my children, regardless of whether they are family or not, be privy to the intimate details of my children’s routine, behaviour, sleep habits etc? All of that detail is already highly scrutinised, let alone by people who have never met my kids before.
I believe that gossiping about my children is damaging because it gives people an opportunity to form judgements about them before they’ve even met them, not to mention the opportunity to judge us as parents without even seeing us parent. The judgements that are made have the potential to influence the way in which we are treated as a family if and when people do meet my kids. The thought of that makes me incredibly angry.
So I am eternally grateful to my mother for choosing not to discuss the details of my children with everybody she knows. She tells people that the kids are well, that they’re lovely and growing fast. We share photos. And that’s it. And that is all that needs to be said. My kids are beautiful, healthy, loving, crazy and normal. Like all other children, they have their ups and downs, highs and lows. Mum doesn’t realise how much of a valuable lesson in life she has shown me simply leading by example. When we think of parenting, we think of teaching young children lessons in life. But it never really stops. I’m 33 and my mum is still teaching me valuable lessons in life as my parent. The damaging nature of gossip is one lesson that I will be teaching my children when they are old enough to understand.