Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have blocked their own names as search terms on their children’s computers. I, on the other hand, am straightforward with my children about what they might find when Googling my name. How do you toe the line between protecting your children from the ugly truth and burdening them with it?
That’s all it takes, using Google, to find a picture of me wearing only a bra and underpants.
Anybody, anywhere around the world, who has access to a computer can access my usually clothed parts by typing eleven letters.
And there’s more. An article about how I used to be in the adult entertainment industry. Another piece about my experience with a sexually transmitted disease. A column about my struggle with obsessive compulsive disorder.
And don’t even get me started on my love life.
My private life is public by choice. I tell stories about the things that have happened to me–from grand adventures to the mundane–because it makes me happy to connect with people through shared experiences.
But I am not an island.
I have two teenage children, parents, siblings, friends, and no dearth of ex-lovers. What about them? How do they feel about being included–sometimes tangentially, sometimes quite directly–in my stories?
Well, that depends. Sometimes, it’s really no big deal–in fact, they are flattered. Like when I wrote about my family trip to the California desert to watch the landing of the very first Space Shuttle. Sometimes, it is a big deal and has to be discussed. Like when I wrote about how as a child I wished for different parents.
Then, there are the stories about my own perils in parenting. My insecurities, my foibles, my outright mistakes. I reveal more than I conceal in my writing and that includes ways I fear I might have ruined my kids’ lives. Am I continuing to do that thing by telling the whole world about it?
Brad Pitt recently told Germany’s Bild that he and partner, Angelina Jolie, have blocked their names from being searched on their children’s computers. From the story in People.com:
“On all the kids’ computers we had our names blocked. They can’t Google their mom and dad. I don’t want to make myself dependent on what other people think.”
He also explains that he and Angelina don’t frequently search themselves, either: “We don’t even notice all the noise,” he said.
Sounds sort of…healthy.
For better or worse, I don’t keep secrets from my kids. Of course, they didn’t always know everything about me, and still don’t, but at 17 and 19 years old, I make sure to tell them the things I write about before there’s even a small chance they could hear it from their friends.1 I talk to my family members about their feelings, while making it clear that I own my stories and will tell them as I need.
Is it the right way? I don’t know. But, for me, it’s the best way I’ve figured out how to combine the two things that bring me joy: family and writing.
Granted, I don’t have thousands of people talking shit on the internet about my relationship or parenting choices, so Googling my name is not exactly comparable to punching in “Angelina Jolie” or “Brad Pitt.” Plus, their children are much younger than mine. But, when the time comes, I suggest they sit their kids down and explain mommy’s uncomfortably intimate relationship with her brother, what the hell is up with Billy Bob Thornton, and the meaning of the phrase “Team Aniston.”
Because, I suspect it takes a lot fewer than eleven letters to find those secrets.
- For what it’s worth, they don’t go around telling their friends that their mom writes about her private biz on the internet, and we don’t share the same last name ↩