Are you “over sharing” and “under living?”
BY BOB AND JUDITH WRIGHT
We all love seeing pictures of our grandchildren. All those sweet newborn babies swaddled and sleeping, wide-eyed toddlers discovering and experimenting, and little kids with their toothy grins on the first day of school…
When you look through your Facebook feed, I’m betting you see all kinds of photos of your friends’ kids and grandkids.
But there can be a largely overlooked downside to all this sharing. Too many of us are no longer just sharing, we’re OVERsharing—and the real kicker is it’s not only damaging our future relationships with our kids and grandkids, it’s also preventing us from fully living our OWN best lives.
Yet, we still want to celebrate our grandkids and share every milestone and memory, from sacred, private moments to sonogram photos of our grandchildren in-utero—for all the world to see.
Too many of us are no longer just sharing on social media, we’re OVERsharing.
Author Ariel Patel interviewed psychologist Dr. Jillian Roberts in her article on parents and social media. Dr. Roberts cautions that we should be “…carefully thinking about what we post online—especially as it pertains to our kids (and grandkids).” We agree with her emphatically, from personal experience.
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t post on social media, but when we do, we should consider the short- and long-term implications on our relationships with our grandkids.
Kids Need the Space to Cultivate Independence & Identity
When Bob was a sophomore in college, he was thankful for his parents’ and grandparents’ support, as it allowed him the opportunity to study in Germany. But he also longed for independence. He wanted to establish his own voice, make his own decisions and experience his own mistakes. He didn’t want to be smothered by his parents’ involvement. In fact, “When I was younger, I would’ve been flat out embarrassed or at least irritated if my parents had hovered too close or shown up at every baseball game and posted it on social media.”
When he went to school in Germany in the late 60s, “It was a really big deal for me and my family. My parents hadn’t graduated from college, so in many ways, I was living out my father’s dream. I wrote to my family every week, sharing many personal thoughts in my letters. I reported very intimate details, but not too intimate, to share with them and show my appreciation.”
In the spring of 1969, he returned home to find that his mother had been typing out all his letters and sharing copies with close friends and people he didn’t even know.
He continues, “I was thrilled to share every new discovery as well as mundane details, but Mom went too far. I was profoundly hurt and angry, especially when people I barely knew would come up to me and comment on things that were none of their business. I felt like my privacy had been violated. I felt like her actions cheapened the connection I’d privately cultivated with her and my dad. I had no intention for my story to be entertainment; my letters were meant to include my parents in the excitement and discoveries my family had afforded me.”
“The internet and technology didn’t exist then, but my mother could type around 100 words per minute on a manual typewriter! She used her work mimeograph machine to make (what seemed to me like) endless copies.”
Nowadays, parental and grandparental over-involvement has become the norm.
Of course, sharing is fine, but let’s think about the long-term impact of how we share the intimate, loving joy of our privileged family life.
How many of us have shared photos or messages from our children and grandchildren, only to find they were embarrassed and uncomfortable? Of course, supporting our kids and grandkids is wonderful, but there’s a difference between fostering growth through support (as Bob’s parents and grandparents so generously did) and oversharing private moments that our children and grandchildren might well want to keep private and intimate.
Perhaps worse, with all this oversharing, we’re creating online identities, labels and personality profiles for our kids—way too early.
In a bizarre reaction to this oversharing, kids today see over-involvement as the status quo. They’re hypnotized into being grateful when grandparents and parents hover close by because it’s become the new normal. They even expect it.
Unfortunately, learning to rely on omnipresent parents and grandparents has led to many overly dependent children who “fail to launch,” a term we never heard in our childhoods. Some universities are so plagued by students’ overdependence that they’ve even developed extended family dorms. They don’t dare alienate the families on whom they depend.
Let’s ask ourselves if we are unwittingly participating in today’s children’s arrested development and delayed independence. Too many of them are accustomed to and expect someone to swoop in to save them and cheer them on. They don’t develop the grit and coping strategies that lead to resilience and the ability to deal with and learn from setbacks because they’re rescued from ever facing them.
How Oversharing Holds Us Back from Living GRAND Lives
Let’s ask ourselves why we’re really capturing every moment. Is it because we’re feeding our online persona, rather than engaging and experiencing life in the moment, fully being with our grandkids and drinking in the joy of these fleeting moments? Are we taking too many pictures because we’re attempting to save the moments we’re failing to fully embrace and enjoy as they happen?
Could we be living vicariously through our children and grandchildren? Are we oversharing their lives in lieu of living and sharing our own vibrant experiences?
Are we taking too many pictures because we’re attempting to save the moments we’re failing to fully embrace and enjoy as they happen?
Part of living a GRAND life is embracing our senior years as a time to live vibrantly and fully engage with others. We now have the experience and wisdom to live as examples. Isn’t that a gift we want to leave them with, rather than shielding ourselves from life through our online personas?
Spectacular living in our later years also means we’ve moved past the concerns and hassles of being a parent. We’ve learned to let our adult children navigate their parenting without our hand-holding. In fact, it’s no longer our role to step in (or overstep). Instead, we enjoy a different type of enriching relationship with our grandchildren. We connect with them as a guide and a confidant. Isn’t it time we experience joy and discovery alongside them?
Years 50 and beyond offer us the freedom to make some of our greatest memories and to make our greatest discoveries and accomplishments yet. We’ve now built stronger identities and confidence in ourselves. It’s our time to enjoy the GRAND life, drinking in the joys of family and becoming even more engaged with the world around us. Let’s get so busy living that we take and share fewer photos because we’re so busy loving our lives and loving each other even more each day!
Yet, many of us barely share our own personal joys and breakthroughs online. Too often we hardly talk about the joys and discoveries we’re making. We may barely post a photo of ourselves. Not necessarily because we value our privacy (which is fine) but because we don’t feel we’re doing anything worth sharing with others. What are our new discoveries? What adventures are we having that we can share? How are we setting the example for our kids and grandkids of how to live a GRAND life through our own actions and adventures?
It’s Time to LIVE LIFE Alongside Your Grandkids—Not Through Them
The successful GRANDparent engages in life, in person. They’re so involved that they might forget to even take photos. They’re playing catch one-on-one with their grandchild. They’re enjoying and learning in the moment with the grandkids. They’re LIVING their life fully engaged in the moment, not frantically bragging or over-sharing their grandchildren’s milestones because they don’t have enough going on in their own sphere.
CALL OUT: Years 50 and beyond offer us the freedom to make some of our greatest memories and to make our greatest discoveries and accomplishments yet.
Allowing our children and grandchildren to live their own lives is just as important as our own focus on living our best life. Kids may want to be with us and spend time with us, but they don’t necessarily want their activities spread all over our timeline and Facebook feed.
Let’s ask ourselves if we are using our grandkids for our own needs we could be better filling? Are we seeking our own validation from their accomplishments?
When it comes down to it, we should be focusing on living our own spectacular lives.
In this modern problem presented by social media, it’s tough to balance the line. When it comes down to it, we should be focusing on living our own spectacular lives. Sure, we can share news to communicate with friends and family, but we can also live a life worth sharing. Engage in activities YOU want to talk about. Let your children and grandchildren share their own triumphs and news as they see fit.
Bob continued, “I love the baby books my grandmother and mom made for me and I am desperately sad that one of our staff lost them after my surprise 50th birthday party. I am also thankful that my mother saved my weekly handwritten letters from my studies in Germany as well as France. But the pictures were nothing compared to memories of being with my grandparents. I will never forget sitting on my grandfather’s lap, ‘driving the car’ at four years old.”
We’re at a GRAND time in our lives! Let’s embrace this opportunity to go out, get involved and continue to learn and grow with our kids and grandkids. Much research demonstrates that the secret to staying young, healthy and vibrant is to be engaged in fully living your own GRAND life.
For more on living a GRAND life, visit us at www.wrightfoundation.org. We offer workshops, classes, coaching and resources to help you discover your path to living your best life.
About the Authors
“The Heart of the Fight: A Couples Guide to 15 Common Fights, What They Really Mean & How They Can Bring You Closer.Judith Wright and Dr. Bob Wright, are a husband/wife duo and Chicago-based relationship counselors. They are award-winning authors and trainers and have appeared on numerous TV and radio programs including ABC’s 20/20, Good Morning America, Oprah, the Today Show, the Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Marie Claire, Better Homes and Gardens, and Vanity Fair. They are the co-authors of “The Heart of the Fight: A Couples Guide to 15 Common Fights, What They Really Mean & How They Can Bring You Closer.