Thoughts on Telling Stories — Branding? Exploiting? Validating? Healing?

I’ve gone through and edited and/or privatized a good portion of my blog.

I am worried, you see, about turning my family into a brand, about exploiting them and their stories to entice readers and clicks so that I can fulfill my dream of being a paid writer.

I started this blog to chronicle our journey of home learning, especially as a family formed through transracial adoption and birth. I had hoped that by sharing our stories, readers might glean some helpful information, whether about alternative education, parenting within a transracial family, adoption and adoption reform, or other related issues.

That was 2007. We were a little over 3 years into parenting our little ones and my readers consisted of close friends and family.

I have been asked repeatedly since recently expanding the scope of my blog how my children feel about me sharing stories about them (I wrote out my long answer here). The gist of it is that my kids have always told me what I can and cannot share and I have tried not to reveal too much. Nonetheless, I vacillate between the two camps common within adoption (and I suspect many parenting circles): never tell anything because it is their story to tell vs. if it can help someone else, go ahead and share, but do so respectfully (I hope I stay away from the “share because this is excellent click-bait” camp, but I am a person in progress and I can’t say with 100% certainty I haven’t made such mistakes.).

A big reason that I do not adhere completely to the never share anything edict (which sometimes extends to never even mentioning publicly that you formed your family through adoption, not posting pictures on your private facebook, etc.) is that I do not want my children to feel that adoption is shameful. I want them to be proud of who they are, from whence they came, and their culture and ancestry. To never mention those aspects of their identities, especially at this height of social media, when the boundaries of sharing are more fluid than ever, would be akin to shoving their entire person into a closet so as not to pierce anyone else’s comfort zone. If my kids feel content and even excited about sharing a story, with me as the medium, I want them to know that the story is one about which they can feel confident.

Many have written that it is not up to us to use stories about our kids to help or to educate other people. In many instances, I agree — like when people are playing devil’s advocate — (a luxury saved only for those who hold the power) , when people want details that are of no significance to them, or when someone’s “curiosity” is hurtful.

But I disagree when it comes to helping and educating other people.

The fact is that I am raising people who will one day leave my home and venture out into a world where I hope that the parents of people like their peers, spouses, co-workers, politicians, and especially police officers were helped by the stories of others. I hope that the parents of these people in my adult children’s lives, if necessary, listened to and read stories that guided them to broaden their perspectives of people, especially those different from themselves.

One of my favorite quotes remains that of writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the very simply, yet profoundly, put, “Stories matter.”

I wish that every human being on the planet had a means by which to share their life stories. Stories connect us to concepts that we might not have really considered previously, or that we might have despised out of sheer lack of exposure and understanding. When we resonate with the people in the story, we resonate with the concept — we take one step closer to shedding the parts of us that are closed to diversity. When we think about such controversial issues as race, culture, sexual identity, women’s issues, human trafficking, mental illness, and chronic illness, I bet most of us can name that first person whose story helped us come closer to understanding.

(Of course, I wish we were all just plain open and accepting without having to hear anyone’s stories, but we as a society are just not there.)

My reasoning behind sterilizing the blog was to keep it in check regarding over-sharing or disrespectful sharing. Though my children approved the stories, I wanted to be more confident that the information shared was not something they might regret sharing later on. I also wanted to make sure I was respectful of those who did not give permission (primarily their first families). Finally, I wanted to scour the blog for any posts that might feel to them like exploitative or “click-bait”. I hope I have done that (and welcome respectful criticism if you see a story and disagree).

But I have a passion for Haiti, for solutions to human trafficking, for healing race relations, for equality of all peoples, and for reforming adoption. I want people to welcome me into their journeys surrounding these issues and I want people to jump in the circle with me as well — so that the future for my children and their children is not fraught with the misunderstanding, ignorance, and apathy that have plagued us with injustice today.

I am learning, though, to write about these issues in a more generalized fashion, to focus more on the details of the struggle, while still creating connections that might open conversations.

While I wrestle with these issues alongside my family and seek to guide my children to use their voices themselves for understanding and change, I continue to review that which I have already written. I do so wrapped in the precarious web of writing to affect change, valuing stories and their significance for  healing in the world, and on a personal level, the needs of those who have experienced the stories. I do so fully aware just how easy it is to turn an adoption and/or parenting story into a brand. This is especially muddied by the fact that I have ads for potential income on my blog. That my income has been measly is irrelevant.  There exists for me a constant tension between needing to pay the bills, deserving compensation for my work, and not wanting to turn my family into a brand.

 

I welcome discussion about this issue, one that I think all parent and adoption bloggers wrestle with regularly. Do you tell personal stories about your family? Do your kids know about the stories you are telling? How much do you reveal about your child’s adoption, challenges, illnesses, behavior, etc.? Do you think you over-share or are sharing a helpful amount? How does a potential income contribute to or distract from your blog and the stories you tell about your family?

MMIsoapbox

2 Responses to Thoughts on Telling Stories — Branding? Exploiting? Validating? Healing?

  1. […] I’ve received some very specific, pointed questions about my stances on adoption lately. It’s no surprise. Now that my children are older and I have been steeped in some aspect of adoption as an adoptive parent since the year 2000 (and my whole life as the daughter of a birth-mother), both my opinions and my writing on the subject have evolved (though I strive to make sure details that belong to my kids remain private). […]

  2. […] I’ve received some very specific, pointed questions about my stances on adoption lately. It’s no surprise. Now that my children are older and I have been steeped in some aspect of adoption as an adoptive parent since the year 2000 (and my whole life as the daughter of a birth-mother), both my opinions and my writing on the subject have evolved (though I strive to make sure details that belong to my kids remain private). […]

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