“Mama, look at this book. It’s called ‘Tell me your story.’ We need to get it,” Rosie held the journal high.
“Um, no. We don’t,” I said. ‘”Let’s just buy the book for your friend and get outta here.”
“Yes, we do,” she squealed as she flipped through the pages. “This will let me know everything about you.”
She then proceeded to work me over for another ten minutes before I caved and paid for the darn book. A week later it made it into the back of my car so I could flip through it at a tennis match and decide what to do. The journal presented me with a dilemma. How much do I actually want to tell my child? Do I really want to tell her my story?
The initial answer was no. I really didn’t want to tell her about my childhood because it wasn’t that happy (and a lot of it I don’t remember). I had serious asthma and the drugs that they used over 30 years ago weren’t like the ones of today. They made me jittery and messed with my emotions. I was the kid that didn’t really get along with the others. And, the one that had a hard time paying attention in class. Now, as an adult I’m convinced it was the meds, but back then I was just labeled as a difficult kid.
So, when I opened the book and it asked about my favorite childhood memory. I couldn’t really come up with one. That’s sad. And, it’s something that I really don’t want to talk about with Rosie. I’ve used much of my childhood as life lessons (take bullying for example), but I didn’t know if I wanted to share anything else. I didn’t really know if she needed to know more.
Then there was the fact that my parents fought. A lot. Once I got into middle school I don’t remember much about their relationship but the fighting. Rosie knows that her Nana and Papa had an unhappy marriage (they divorced when I was 18), but how much did she really need to know? That was a big question.
And, then there were all kinds of little things like who was my first love (obviously, it wasn’t the K-Man. We didn’t meet until my mid-twenties) that got me stuck. My first love was a wonderful guy (who dumped me because he “felt that I needed a high school experience” when he graduated). My second love was a complete asshole who wound up being abusive and unbeknownst to me for over a year had a coke problem (he wound up getting kicked out of college for dealing drugs out of his frat house). My third love was worse. Did Rosie really need to know about my poor romantic choices? Not yet.
How much do our kids really need to know about our pasts? I turned to mine for the answer.
I grew up in a home where there weren’t a lot of secrets. And, there was stuff that I knew as a kid that I wish I didn’t. I have a very open mother (whom I love dearly), but she didn’t need to tell me some of the things that she did (and to respect her privacy, I won’t say them here). It’s possible sometimes to share too much. And, I don’t want to do that with Rosie.
So, the book has been in may car for a couple of weeks. Sometimes I hear it weeping for attention. Someday, I will pick it up and I will tell Rosie my story. But for now, she only gets some highlights. And, I think that’s fair.
How much about your past do you share with your children? How much is too much?