One of my favorite things we do as a family is eat dinner together every night. And by together I mean everyone (including babies) sitting around the table sharing food and each other’s company. There was a time when we would sit on the couch and the kids would “picnic” on the floor while watching TV. Is that convenient – yes. Is that relational – no.
Dinner together allows us to connect with each other and grow deeper in relationship together. One frequent request we get from the kids while we eat is tell stories about them as babies, or to tell them stories about when we first met them. The kids love it when we share those stories. They delight in hearing them and we love telling them. Connecting our kids to their stories is our responsibility. Protecting their stories and everyone in them is our responsibility as well.
As we shared these stories with our kids again last night again I was reminded of our responsibilities.
Responsibility #1 – They deserve to know their stories
This seems like an easy one but it often surprises me how many people disagree on this point. I think that our kids deserve to know their stories. I can’t imagine growing up without knowing my past. So why would I hide the details of our kids lives from them? Why would I pretend that our kids lives started the first night they slept in our home? That’s dishonest and therefore a potential trust killer. As parents we get to decide how much is appropriate to tell and to tell it in an age appropriate way. I don’t believe that we get to decide if they get to know their story. It’s their story not ours. We only get to decide how to tell them.
Responsibility #2 – They have a right to their privacy
I think that this is key and often forgotten by adults. Kids are entitled to their privacy. Just because someone is five doesn’t mean that they don’t have feelings. Very many of their feelings are shame based and it is not right to share the details of their story with everyone.
What if your child is in foster care because they were abused? Consider how they would feel if they heard you telling that very personal information to someone. Perhaps you could consider how you would feel if something personal about you was broadcast. You wouldn’t want that and you shouldn’t want that for your kids.
Sometimes friends and family struggle with this a lot because they want to know everything about the newest member of the family. I get that. You have to remember that your responsibility is not to them but to your children.
Responsibility #3 – Their birth family is entitled to their privacy
This is the hardest one for most of us. Why would we want to protect anyone who harmed or neglected a child? Our natural response is to be harsh and judgmental. I get that too but we have to remember that our kids are connected to their birth families. Anything their birth family did (good or bad) is a part of their story and for that reason alone it should be protected.
What are your thoughts on bringing your child into their story? Have you told them or are you waiting to tell them?
Related post – Where is the Trust?