How much of one’s story is too personal to share? When does it go from being a story about personal triumph over adversity (even if that adversity is sometimes caused by our own bad choices) to inappropriate details about our private lives that should remain private? This is the question I faced this morning as I was called in to see the head of a private school in which my 5-year-old son had been offered a spot. He was supposed to start Kindergarten there in twelve days. We would normally not be in a position to attend such an elite school, but because they needed boys in that particular class, and because we were in the right place at the right time, we were able to work out a deal that would benefit all involved. I was hesitant because I am not rich. I don’t run in those types of social circles. The newest car we have is a 2005 and I’m just not that Lululemon-wearing, Lexus-driving, latte-swigging mom. I have nothing against it. Financially, it’s just not our crowd. But, after some interesting conversations with those who had experience with this school, we decided to put our fears and inadequacies aside, and go for it.
At least, we thought we were going to, until a staff member saw a link to my blog on the bottom of my email. Less than twenty-four hours later, I was told this school just wouldn’t be a good fit for us. You might think my blog showed pictures of me hung over at a New Year’s Eve party, or perhaps joking about having smoked weed in my younger days. Or perhaps it might have used bad language, or racial slurs, or had pictures of me in a string bikini with my arm draped around some guy other than my husband. But no. It was this blog, where I write about our adoption experience.
I won’t attempt to include the entire conversation here, as it lasted about 25 minutes. But I will hit the highlights. I was told that there was no good that could come of me putting this kind of personal information on the internet. She asked me several times what good I thought I was doing by airing my “dirty laundry”. And by “dirty laundry”, she was referring mainly to two things (out of almost 50 blog posts over the last few years). The first was that I mentioned that my boys had been exposed to drugs in the womb. The second was that I mentioned my husbandhad been arrested two times before, both of which were thrown out before it even went to a judge because they were so ridiculous. “Why would you share that with anyone?” she asked several times. But the part that really got me was that she said that she was concerned that parents at this school might not want to include my son in playgroups or birthday parties or other social gatherings because he had been exposed to drugs. She told me I should keep that a secret and that there was no reason that even my son should ever know that information. She said that their school was a positive place and that there wasn’t room for the negativity or the “poor me” attitude I displayed in my writing. I explained to her that not one of my posts were about “poor me” and that each one, although perhaps sharing some difficult experience, always took a positive spin and left the reader with an understanding of the good things that have come from it. I could tell by the way she referred to my writing, that she hadn’t even taken the time to read through the blog herself, at least not very much of it. I have written about everything from drug exposure, to the crazy process you have to go through, to our own experiences with invitro, to our failed adoption—every thing you could possibly want to know about this process is there. Yes, it’s personal, but I don’t think it is so horrible that it should be the reason my son is not allowed to attend this school. I am not ashamed of one thing I have written.
I tried to explain that the current research on adoption shows that the secrecy of the past adoption culture has proven to be detrimental to children. Secrets mean shame to a child. If my son were to find out from someone else that he was born positive for drugs, then he would know I had lied to him, and he would assume I lied because something was so wrong with him that I wouldn’t tell him the truth. I told her I will continue to share all of his story with him, age appropriately, and that at some point in his life, he would know every detail. Research has shown this is the better path. She argued that there are adopted children at this school who know nothing about their past, and that these children are just grateful to have what they have and they don’t think about their adoption story. I cannot disagree with this more. Perhaps they don’t ask many questions now, but this school doesn’t take middle school or high school aged children, which is when most of them begin questioning as they are figuring out their own identity. And my guess is that she has not done much research on the subject, or she wouldn’t have made such a blanket statement.
So much more was said, but the point is that it was clearly stated that my story should be private, and there was absolutely no reason for having these details made public. I told her that I was in the middle of writing a book about a lot of my difficult experiences and that the adoption story was only a part of that. I told her that I would be willing to leave some things off the blog, but that wasn’t enough for her. She wanted the whole blog to be removed, and for nobody to ever be able to trace those stories to me. She requested that work on the book be private, meaning it could not be published as long as any of our children attended school there. I was not to write publicly about any of it again. I was floored to hear such censorship in 2014, especially for what I consider such non-controversial material. I told her that I was sad for him to miss out on the opportunity of going to such a great school, but if parents and teachers were going to ostracize my young son for choices beyond his control, then I didn’t want him going there anyway.
I felt a little selfish for not giving up a blog for this opportunity for a great education. But I think it’s more than that. If I am being censored over this kind of information, then what was next? What else was not going to be acceptable? I asked her if there were no other parents at that school who blogged about their life, or who had written anything controversial. She said she wasn’t aware of any. I find it hard to believe that nobody there has a past that is public in some way. You’re telling me nobody has ever posted a picture of themselves on Facebook doing something inappropriate? Or made a public comment that was controversial in any way? Please.
I would love to hear thoughts/comments, even if you agree with the school. I’ve been stewing about this conversation all day, trying to see it from their side, and I just can’t. Read through my blog posts, and tell me if anything is inappropriate or cause for my son to be kept out of a school. I truly want to know.