So what’s so bad about bragging? It depends on your audience. If you are writing for your parents, who already adore their grand-kids, then there’s nothing wrong with it.
However, if you’re writing for a wider audience, i.e., loved ones that have kids of their own, a little finesse might be called for. Why?
1. Your readers will like your writing better:
Most of us are incredibly proud of our kids, regardless of their level of achievements. “Most of us” includes your readers, even your family members. At all costs, avoid intimating that your children are in any way more precious than theirs, even if you secretly think it’s true. Intentional or not, bragging about your child often carries the implication that others’ kids are not quite as good.
An effective narrator is usually a likeable one. Outright bragging may cause your readers to be less receptive to what you have to say—and you want them to know your son or daughter. (This is code for “They might think you’re obnoxious.”) When you write about your kids without bragging, they’re more likely to delve in.
2. You’ll do no harm:
This, to me, is the most important reason to resist bragging. Your goal in writing about your children is to connect; you want your readers to form a bond with your child. What you don’t want is to cause someone to feel their child is inferior, or to call attention to the opportunities that their child will never have.
3. Your kids will like it better:
The subject of your acclamation will appreciate the boasting abridgement too, and will be less likely to threaten to disown you. Ironically, despite the fact that they are accustomed to receiving accolades in their area of achievement, many academically or athletically gifted youth crave validation and appreciation for who they are as individuals. They wonder why no one notices things like their compassion, clear-headedness, responsibility, or the fact that they don’t beast up their siblings. In Eve Pearlman’s (of WebMD) words, “Focus on child, not achievements.”
4. Your readers will like your kid more:
Bragging implies perfection. Perfection is boring. You want your love and admiration for your child to be contagious. Since so few of us are perfect (or have perfect kids), it’s hard for us to connect with the perfect child. We’re much more likely to connect with the young person who is “people like us.” Those who don’t know your child will relate much better to them if you talk about their personality and passions than all the ways they approach perfection.
5. Your readers will know (and maybe even like) you better.
You’re more than a medal rack. You’re a parent. You’ve cried, prayed, stressed, nagged, and made tons of mistakes. You’ve never cared so much about a job nor had so little grasp on whether or not you’ve been doing it right. When you let some of this subtext shine through your writing, you let readers get to know you better. That, in turn, gives them insight into your child.
6. You want to foster conversation, not competition:
Ideally, when family and friends read your memories, they’ll be inspired to write their own thoughts about their children. This is a wonderful way to have meaningful and honest conversations about parenting and child-rearing and, if enough time has passed, over the antics of your children. It’s an opportunity to bond. You don’t want to introduce competitiveness into the mix.
© Laura Hedgecock 2013