Please follow my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Livingalifeofintent
Custard, a British digital marketing company released a study about social media use after polling 2,000 people. The survey showed (ba dum bum!) the following:
– More than 75% admitted to lying about themselves on social media
-Only 18% say that their Twitter and Facebook profiles actually represent them
-14% say that Facebook makes them look much more socially active than they are
-43% of men admit to fabricating facts
-31% claim they leave out the boring parts of their life
When I first started sharing my life on social media, I was very guarded about what I put online. I didn’t want anyone to see me struggling…with anything. I was friends with people from work, high school, college and other social circles. I wanted everyone to see my perfect world. I wanted people to think I had it ALL! Obviously, according to these stats, I wasn’t alone.
As a parent of a child with significant needs, I really felt like I was doing a disservice to others. This journey hasn’t been an easy one. I haven’t been the perfect parent. But to look at my Facebook account from 7 or 8 years ago, you would think that I polish my halo every night and place it atop my head each morning as I care for perfect little angels in my picture perfect home. Vomit. What a fake! I was a fake!
A few years ago, I knew I wanted to become a writer and speaker. I was (and am) also confident that there was a reason my son had challenges. I knew there was a reason that we were facing all that we were facing. I believe that my son has purpose far greater than his pre-vocational assessments indicate. I know, without a doubt, that he has softened the hearts of self-proclaimed tough guys and I know he has changed policies for the better for kids who have come after him. I know this because I’ve watched it happen. I knew, and still know, that there is so much more work to be done. There are so many policies that need to change. There are so many more opportunities for people to learn about our beautiful children. There are so many more opportunities for acceptance and inclusion. I decided then, just a few years ago, that nothing will change if I hide behind a false face of perfection.
So I opened up. I decided to share the good, the bad, the ugly and the infuriating. I’ve received comment after comment appreciating my openness and sharing in my distressing moments. I’ve received support. I’ve received criticism. The point is that people are taking notice and, heck, I can take a little criticism! See, the world needs to know what we face, friends. The world, including our inner circles, needs to understand why we scream for funding, choice and inclusion.
If we are quiet and share only the beautiful things about our life and parenting…people assume that’s it. People assume this is a cake walk. People assume we’ve got it under control. People assume nothing has to change.
I know that by now, I’ve lost some of you. Some of you are like, no way, I like my privacy and I’m staying right in my comfort zone. That’s cool. I think we all have to do what is right for us and our families. But, I will still encourage you to step out and give it a try, if not with all 4,000 of your Facebook friends, then at least within your circle.
Know that 75% of the people out there are not telling their whole stories. So, sharing challenges is just sharing the part of your life that everyone has that no one else is brave enough to talk about.
I know it’s hard to be honest. I know it’s hard to be open. I know it’s hard to share the real stuff that happens in our lives. It’s hard to open ourselves up to let people see that maybe your life is harder or less successful or less whatever than theirs. Maybe you haven’t visited the Maldives because there’s no way you can leave your child to travel halfway around the world and you just can’t be guaranteed a wheelchair ramp at the AirBnb or oxygen tank availability to take your child with you. Maybe you didn’t upgrade your diamond ring because you have to buy your child’s medicine because insurance won’t cover it. Maybe you’re driving a 1994 Nissan because you had to spend your money on a converted van to transport your child in his/her wheelchair.
Who cares! YOU ARE DOING WHAT YOU NEED FOR YOUR FAMILY AND I THINK THAT’S SOMETHING TO BE DAMN PROUD OF!
I believe we have to do this. I believe we have to share the hard times with others. I think social media is the perfect platform for this. And you have options, right? You don’t want the homecoming queen of 1987 to see that your child was suspended because he couldn’t control his temper? Fine…block her from your post (custom settings, friends).
Being transparent does a few things:
- Not everyone has experienced the triumphs and challenges of parenting a child with special needs. They don’t understand, even family and friends. So sharing the good AND the bad helps people to understand your life. It helps friends to know why you aren’t as available as you used to be. You can tell them why you can’t attend a party or go away for the weekend, but telling isn’t showing. They need the show.
- Being transparent is THE best way to build awareness. You can post about Fill-in-the-blank AWARENESS MONTH every day, but the impact will not be as great until you share your story. Why? Well, stories build connections. Marketers use stories all the time. Remember that Anheuser Busch Superbowl commercial with the horse and the puppy? They barely even mentioned that beer! But, it still conjures emotion when I think of that commercial almost 4 years later. They told a story. When you are open with emotion and events, it builds a bridge with people. This helps to spread the awareness. This helps people to remember. This helps people to relate. When I posted a story about my son tantruming at Walmart, a friend I haven’t talked to in 30 years, sent me a message. She said, “I have a 4 year old grand daughter who threw a tantrum at Target yesterday. I was humiliated and so angry. I cannot imagine this happening with a 20 year old. You are an amazing mom.” See, I don’t need her props, but what I need is for her to think about supporting and including someone else who may be struggling. I want to open her heart and the other people I’m connected to. I want people to be aware.
- Changing the world. I have met so many parents who flat out said, I never wanted to be a walking billboard. Amen, friends. I gotcha. Neither did I. However, because I’m not a hermit. I am automatically, by default, a walking billboard. My daughter use to get so angry when people would stare at my son. She would literally stare small children down until they whimpered away and hid behind their parents, if they stared at her brother. (There is no stronger advocate with other children that a sibling who loves her brother!) I recognized early on that we were a living, breathing, human pamphlet of how people should address children with disabilities. See, I could have said to that small child, “It’s really not nice to stare. Why don’t you say, hello instead?” But, the reality is that she would probably be upset because I’m a stranger and have no right to discipline someone else’s child. So, I decided that if I was going to be the world’s instructor of how to respect my child, then I was going to do it with love. So, now whenever I catch a kid (or, sadly, an adult…come on, y’all should know better!), I stoop down next to my son and either show him something I know he’d like, ask him a question or give him a kiss and tell him I love him. I am a walking billboard whether I like it or not! I believe that by sharing my life, I’m leading by example. I think we all have this super power.
Some people want no part of the limelight, that’s fine, this post isn’t for you. But, if you are comfortable in stretching a bit, you could have impact on people you’ve never even met. If one person looks at a child in their surroundings differently, offers respect, offers support, encourages inclusion, advocates for change, then every second of my transparency is worth it.
What story could you share today that would impact the world around you?
“Just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into water, the actions of individuals can have far-reaching effects.”
I’m choosing to be a ripple. I think we have the opportunity to share our stories and within our stories is the power to change the world and make it better for our children and the children who follow after.
Sending you perfect parent vibes today!