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I Dread My Child's Thirteenth Birthday — but Not Why You Think

Is there nowhere I can hide from my children?

There are lots of reasons I dread the thought of my eldest son turning thirteen. Sure, I’m scared of the hormone surges, the puberty transformation, and the anticipated acquisition of a semi-permanent surly attitude, but, if I’m being completely honest, I am mostly dreading having my online life turned upside-down with his appearance on Facebook.

I have been building a work and social life online since 2008, almost completely independent of familial prying eyes — and I like it that way. My parents rarely venture past my blog, my husband doesn’t so much as read my status updates unless I send him a link with a plea to read, and my siblings and cousins might catch something here or there. Overall, though, I produce way too much content for anyone other than a fellow blogger/Twitter/Facebook obsessive to follow.

Or, perhaps, a curious kid who has lots of free time on his hands.

My fear is that my children will fall headlong into the online rabbit’s hole … and end up following my every move. Even on Twitter! The last bastion of pure social media geekery (and the place where I do the majority of my bitching). Will I have to resort to only voicing my true thoughts on LinkedIn, for crying out loud?? Or worse, will I actually have to tone it all down so the privacy of my family is never infringed upon?

It is, of course, an unnatural dilemma. One that may prove to only be a figment of my egocentric delusions, if I’m lucky. I hear that children soon become bored by their parent’s Facebook lives, so I hope that my online shenanigans won’t be of interest to my kids … but I know that I would’ve been obsessed if, at 13, I was suddenly offered a peephole view into my mom’s secret life. I mean, if she was only writing about the latest Vogue pattern that had yielded a really lovely blouse, that would be one thing, but if her Tweet stream was filled with links to her favorite things, photos from her dates out with dad, Instagrams of wild, late-night dancing at local gay nightclubs, and occasional intimations of what life was like *gasp* before children?

I probably would have turned into my mom’s #1 stalker.

But maybe that’s just me?

I’ve talked to other bloggers about this dilemma, most notably Tanis Miller, a.k.a. Redneck Mommy, a woman who has found a lot of success by letting it all hang out, so to speak, on her site (and Babble Voices) and around the web. As her kids have grown into teenagers, they are still willing to be photographed occasionally and are a topic of discussion on her blog fairly regularly, so they must be at least mostly okay with what their mom does for a living. Everyone in her house seems to be in on the joke, at any rate.

So, the consensus seems to be: If your personality online is the same as your personality at home, your family will eventually roll with you.

Which is cool, but I censor myself in front of the children quite a bit more than I do online. And I’m not sure that I want to give up my (hopefully not-too-old-fashioned) belief that until my kids are adults and out of the house, I need to be their parent more than their friend. And I’m not sure if being full-fledged online buddies on Facebook is conducive to maintaining that important distinction.

In a perfect world, I could be both parent and friend — hopefully I will! — but I fear that if they know me too intimately, too soon, they will use the facts they discover about my youth to annoy me and, more destructively, torment my more conservative husband, a.k.a. their father.

In the end, I suppose I will end up dealing with it like so many other moms: I will send them a friend request with the hopes that they will share a little bit of their life with me (and so I can see what they’re up to), but first I’ll make sure that I can clamp down my profile so they won’t see anything but my name and birthday. And then I will be hyper-vigilant about checking my Twitter followers to block them if they try and follow me. Some secrets are sacred, after all.

Does anyone else worry about the separation of the parent-child state in the world of social media? Is this something only weirdos like me who are online constantly worry about or is it something that concerns everyone these days?

Photo Credit: ©Mike Licht “Circe Surfs the Web” via flickr Creative Commons.

Read more of Amy Windsor’s writing at Bitchin’ Wives Club.
Follow Amy on Twitter and Facebook.

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