How Much is Too Much Information?

There’s been a lot of Life going on at Boweryville.

I think it’s just that pattern of events collecting in waves and crashing at your feet; the spray of details, stress, kah kah and adjustments to reality being the result. Moving, career changes, good news, bad news, it seems we have taken 18 years of boredom and more than made up for it six months.

Which was the nucleus of a conversation had over the weekend with my parents. This conversation evolved into a debate over which is better, withholding information from your children, or providing full disclosure. I, myself, am a big fan of the latter. My parents, the former. Fortunately, The Big Guy sides with me.

My folks subscribe to the idea of not telling kids upsetting information. They feel parents should protect their children from negativity and maintain innocence as long as possible. I can completely respect their position, after all, it’s how I was raised. I never was privy to their decisions, their stresses or the impacts on our family. I’m not sure I disagree with all their choices.

But on the other side of the fence, I remember how I felt when I was a young child and they told me that my dog ran away. Years later, it came out that she didn’t run away, she was hit by a car at the end of our driveway and died. I also have memories of being in my bedroom and hearing my parents having conversations about adult topics – family strife, typical marital arguments and information that wasn’t meant for young ears. This has made me very aware of the things The Big Guy and I discuss within the hour or so after the boys go to bed, and where these conversations take place.

Perhaps it’s that natural sense of betrayal that occurs when one believes ones parents, and when you find out years later that the understanding you had wasn’t entirely accurate, it can be a little off-putting.

I also suppose it is also my background in Journalism, where the philosophy of “No Comment” is the last thing that should be uttered. It never benefits the subject and only gives license to armchair quarterbacks who want to pass judgement. Dozens of times I’ve spoken earnestly with my contacts and said “It’s better to say a little bit of ANYTHING than it is to say NOTHING.”

So when it comes the boys, we do believe it’s best to share information with them – without overwhelming them. I cannot protect them from everything that they will have to face, and I feel it’s a disservice to them to think otherwise. This is not the world I grew up in. It’s not the world my parents grew up in. It’s a world where my youngest child understands that there is drug activity at the highschool based on things he has SEEN while sitting on a schoolbus. He wasn’t with me when he witnessed this – so how could I have protected him from this revelation if we hadn’t already had the conversation of what drug use meant.

Both First Born Son and Second Born Son have similar dispositions. Neither of them deal with negative surprises very well. They both have the need to digest information, ask questions and then reflect. Their father and I support them, answer their questions and give them the love they need to get through the tough stuff as best they can.

Believe me, I would rather never have to explain death, loss, disappointment and failure to them. But parenting isn’t just about the lollipops and piano recitals, and I signed up for the good and the bad a long time ago.

It’s time to follow through.

2 thoughts on “How Much is Too Much Information?

  1. Excellent Sarah!
    So very true. We are open with our kids too… as much as we should be at the ages they are, however its amazing what kids CAN understand when properly explained to them. Like after my sisters dog was hit and killed, we told the 4yo son that he was in heaven now… his response was “with my grama”…
    Kids are very smart!

  2. Thanks Pam! I think adults underestimate kids all the time. As long as you tell them what they NEED to know, I think it’s ok. Very cute story about the dog – that’s so true with pets – the next thing we may need to address, I’m afraid!

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