seeds of doubt

So a while back, one of you asked me if my kids read my blog.  Dutifully, I went and asked them and they all answered with some version of a resounding, "Uh, NO!"  I believed them and that was that.

But the other day, I got an invitation from Middle to a presentation he was giving for his history class.  And he signed the card, not with his name, but with "Middle."

The thing is, I don't call him Middle in real life – only here, in blog life.  Suddenly, I found myself wondering, is he reading these here scratchings?  And what if he is?

Well, first off, if he lied to me about not reading the blog (which I doubt) I would be disappointed.  I always expect my kids to tell me the truth and have on a few occasions felt compelled to tell each one in turn that I only know how to mother children that I trust and if I can't trust them, I'm not going to know how to mother them and we are all going to be in for a very nasty ride.  So really, could they please do us all a favor and remain trustworthy?  And with the exception of a few little glitches, they have done just that. (It helps that I have a truly uncanny ability to know when they are lying. They each have such a cute tell.)

But I digress.  It is of course also possible that Middle started reading the blog after I asked him if he read it in which case I need to ask him again.  And I will. 

But in the meantime, I had a post I was going to write today.  It was about Middle and trust me, it would have been funny and sweet and explain who he is right at this moment: a drop-dead gorgeous jock who retains just enough nerd to make him impossibly endearing.

But I don't feel like I can tell the story because I realize that if he read it, he might be embarrassed by it.  He might not want total strangers imagining what it was like in his math class, when the teacher made a math joke – a math joke! – and my Middle laughed heartily while his classmates stared blankly, not getting it. Not getting it at all.  And who knows, some of the other kids involved might read it – and then what?  I remember, oh how I remember, the infinite black hole of high school shame.

So now I feel oddly hamstrung.  Much as I want to tell the story, I can't – or won't. 

Instead, I am going to throw out to you all the questions I have been pondering. I think they are important ones for us blogging mothers and fathers to be asking ourselves:  How much of my children's lives is it appropriate for me to scatter like seeds into the blogosphere?  Am I somehow abdicating my primary job as Middle's mom if I use his life – even in a loving way – for what is fundamentally my own purposes?  Isn't it possible that the act of blogging about my children at all – or featuring them in a post the way I would have with this story – is a kind of exploitation?

Do you ever ask yourself these questions and if you do, how do you answer?

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21 thoughts on “seeds of doubt

  1. This question becomes more important as they get older. It strikes me that you’ve done a good job of keeping yourself and your children anonymous – so you’ve got better than average freedom to tell tales.

  2. This is truly a question that *our* parents never had to deal with…I think it’s going to be interesting to see if or how it changes relationships. Think about it: do you really know what/how your parents felt about you, in terms of those daily interactions? We never got a window into our parents long-view perspective of us.
    I know my parents loved me to death — I don’t know if they chuckled over my attempts at first love, or appreciated my gawky qualities, or recognized something in me that I didn’t know they saw.
    One time, first year in college, I happened to find a book where my father was starting a journal. He wrote about taking me to my first day of college. He wrote his observations as I navigated that scary and confusing day. He wrote how proud he was of me.
    If I hadn’t read that, I would have never known (my dad was not forthcoming about stuff and frankly I didn’t think he gave two thoughts to his kids). Knowing that he thought that actually healed a lot of wounds.

  3. this is a tough one. i’d been posting less and less about ben, and then i started sliding a bit…
    my goal is to start removing ben from my posts (except incidentally) as he approaches adolescence. he will be a minor character at best.

  4. My parents read my blog, so I labor over policitical correctness. I learned less than a month ago, my in-laws read my blog.
    My girls could care less–but I think you can blog about whatever you wish–as long as you edit, edit, edit.

  5. This has recently bitten me in the ass.
    I’ve been posting for years about my kids. I’ve told charming stories, I’ve told funny stories, and I’ve told loving stories. And THEN I blogged about Middle’s video work and he got upset with me. I think he’s embarrassed and his brother is not far behind him.
    I tried to discuss it with him to tell him that I write about his stuff because I’m proud and he heard me but I guess they reach an age where it’s not comfortable for them.
    Thank god I never mentioned toilet training.
    Exploitation? No. It’s not all I write about and I don’t do it for my readers (or to get more readers) I do it for us, to record moments.

  6. You have to be careful what you post, first of all. Second, I have found blogging makes me a better mother (see tomorrow’s post). My husband reads my blog and would tell me if I went over the line. But, I find I am really writing more about my experiences as a mother and then recording some cute anecdotes, rather than their lives.

  7. I request permission to post about anyone in my family-my kids are teens and they read my blog everyday-occasionally people get a little dirty (graphic) in the comments and I find myself cringing that they will read a particular word or phrase, but eh…I’m their mother. So at my house, I ask-same goes for photos.

  8. I think it’s important to protect your children and so one thing I would never do is reveal real names or post any pictures. You have to remember that anyone can access your site unless it is private. I deleted a blog I wrote in where I revealed too much personal information and started over. I just think it’s dangerous to post too much information because once someone takes a disliking to you, they then have lots to harass you with.

  9. I don’t write about my kids very much–they are 16 and almost 20. It’s a privacy thing mostly for me. I removed a post I had written about #1 daughter when she had to have her beloved horse put down. It was just too close and too raw.

  10. I deliberately avoid writing much about my friends or family due to a crazy stalker situation from a few years ago. But I write openly, with my name, so its a little different.
    However, this blog is about your mothering. It’s only exploitation if you’re changing your mothering habits or every day life in order to create entries here.
    (that said, I often behave differently offline because I know I’ll be able to write about my actions later online… but this usually relates to customer service reps, local politicians, etc.)

  11. Tricky. That occurred to me for the first time recently. I like the notion of gradually reducing them to ‘minor characters’, though a parenting blog where the kids were minor characters might have a bit of an issue. Not that my blog ever manages to stay on topic for more than a day or two in a row as it is…Perhaps asking permission? Tricky. At the moment, nothing gets written that would *seriously* annoy supermum or her family – possibly I’m already self-censoring. Of course, if I’m still writing my blog in ten years, they may well find bits of it interesting. And if they never find it…Whoa – that’s getting morbid.
    Excellent question. Don’t have an answer. But your kids sound like they can manage their reactions to things like this pretty well and I think you actually do self-censor a little – there might be things that embarrass them but there’s nothing that would make life impossible.

  12. I think it is THE question in front of us -particularly as they get well into high school – I’m not so sure they have an obligation to tell us whether or not they’re reading what we are posting for all the world to see. Keeping that information to themselves isn’t necessarily a reflection of whether they are trustworthy.
    For whatever reason it may not seem kosher to them – that we write about them – just like it wouldn’t seem kosher to them were I to take an uninvited look at their facebook pages. But were I to get a gander at what they’re writing – my guess is that whatever it is, it is not about me.
    Anyway, because my husband was been blogging long before me, we have a rule at home, no posting about another family member without running it by them first.

  13. Yeah. Tough one. I haven’t posted a picture of my son since he was in 7th grade. And I mostly stopped using his real first name, too, except when I forget. And, honestly, I don’t post about him much any more other than kind of obliquely and generically. I used to say more when he was younger.
    Not that I’m that anonymous online. But I didn’t want his friends (or enemies) to stumble on things I would say about him and do that “high school shame” thing you’re talking about.
    Mothers have written about their children forever. And, on the one hand, I’m not writing this stuff for my son’s classmates, you know? But, on the other hand, the onlineness of it has a kind of immediacy (and searchability) that, say, a local newspaper column or a printed memoir does not. So I am cautious and I edit more than I did when he was still in elementary school.

  14. I am a sort-of-anonymous blogger with a very small audience–mostly my far-flung friends who all know my name. I tell a lot of stories about my now-10-year-old daughter. Essentially, I love bragging. I tell myself I am aiming for some generalized insight. I do avoid topics that would be most acutely embarrassing to her. She doesn’t go and read my blog independently, yet. But I often read entries aloud to her. And I don’t complain about my husband (yet). He does catch up with my blog eventually.
    Blogging brings this problem out of the exclusive purview of professional artists and writers to, um, the hoi polloi? The rest of us, anyway.
    I am thinking of all the memoirs of family life I’ve read. And I just saw the latest Annie Leibovitz exhibit…things that I’d keep private are there in glossy black and white. Including a death portrait of her father. I;ve had the uncomfortable experience of recognizing myself in a friend’s fiction.
    What’s my point? Hmm, is it exploitation to reveal stuff about your family in a blog about your family? Maybe, but I am not sure exploitation is necessarily bad.

  15. My kids are still too young to read the blog so I haven’t given this a lot of thought, but now that my son is 7 and out in the world (in public school), I do think twice when I write something about him.
    I have refrained from writing about my parents though because I know my father reads the blog. It’s hampered me enought to consider starting another blog and not telling him about it. (I’d tell you, though.)

  16. Two thoughts:
    – They take up all our time, so what else do we have to blog about?
    – Just imagine what they’re writing about us on Facebook.

  17. Well, everyone has a pseudonym on my blog, but I do post undoctored pictures (I think my kids are gorgeous). I try to keep the focus on things of interest to me. So, yes, I blog about them often, but when I do, it’s pretty much things that I am a part of. So, for example, I wouldn’t tell the tale of Middle laughing at a math joke in school. (Unless it was Parents Night and I was there as well, see what I mean?)
    I know the girls read my blog. As does the Consort. My sisters visit. My mother has visited in the past, so I am careful about what I say, and form time to time I wish the blog was unknown to my family, so I would have a place to vent about them!
    If they ask me to stop writing about them, we’d discuss it so I would know what boundaries they are comfortable with.

  18. What’s the difference between the traditional publication of a personal essay/memoir and 21st century blogging?
    I think the answer has more to do with accessibility to the internet and how many people read a blog than the actual content. People have been writing about (exploiting?) their personal lives, children, and families for centuries — their writings just never reached such a broad range of people as blogs do.

  19. Re blog vs personal essay, in Robin’s comments. I am not sure the audience for personal memoirs is broader than for blogs, but there are clearly way more bloggers than published essayists, and so more of us faced with those writerly decisions.

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