October 1, 2012

Question 3, which is not really a question

Question 3: I don’t have a question but I do admire the lengths you go to, to protect your kids’ identities. I have always thought I have so much to say, but I never found the balance of what is their story and what is mine to share. I think you walk that tightrope as well as anyone.

This one isn’t a question, but I think it deserves an answer anyway.

I’m going to be 100% frank with you. It is hard for me to read people’s articles in prominent places (Huffington Post, anyone?) on topics that I’ve experienced with my children. I read these articles and think “I could have explored the topic as well, if not better.” I say this knowing it sounds conceited, but I’m going for full honesty. I see these writers getting publicity and agents and book deals on topics near and dear to my heart, and I’m not getting any piece of that pie.

But, here’s the long view. In two decades, the pie I want is not 15 minutes of fame in the absurd world of parenting writing but children who love me and – more importantly – have always known they could trust me. How the hell am I supposed to manage that if I’m airing their various anxieties and insecurities in public? Two of my kids can read fluently, and the third will learn soon enough. I try not to publish anything that they might feel uses their innermost lives for my career gains.

More importantly, I try not to write anything that they don’t want their peers knowing, because there are plenty of local parents who read my writing. Some of their teachers read my writing, although why they’d want to know more about my kids after 6 hours in school with them is beyond me. I also try not to write anything they won’t want to have known about them when they are older. Google is forever. I use pseudonyms that protect them from direct searches, but I’m not naïve enough to think that gives me free reign.

My husband used to read everything I wrote about the kids before I went public, but we both feel that at this point I am vigilant enough to self-censor. I am so cautious that I leave out many things I wouldn’t find embarrassing with the understanding that perhaps my threshold is a bit higher than most people’s (witness last week’s post in which I covered my bra size). The problem is that I want to be totally honest in my writing, and I think I am… about myself. Yet, I feel that a lot of parenting writing these days is about who can get the most shock value in the guise of honesty. To say you’ve written about your seven-year-old declaring himself gay in the name of total honesty (or supporting your kid) is disingenuous at best. At worst, it’s pigeonholing your kid while patting yourself on the back for being so accepting without thinking that maybe first-graders change sometimes and just maybe some people prefer not to have aspects of their (hopefully future) sex lives posted on the internet by their mothers. A kid feeling comfortable with his sexual orientation is awesome; a mom broadcasting it over the internet is self-congratulatory and rude. I try to support my kids in private when the occasion warrants it.

This is why I have recently chosen to stop competing in the world of parenting writing; the stakes are too high and the rewards are too shallow. Why would I tell stories about poopy accidents or mental health issues just to raise ad revenue for someone else’s publication? If you’re not going to pay me enough to cover the future therapy the kid will need because of what I’ve written, it ain’t worth it.

What I’m trying to say is “thank you.” The best compliment I could get is that you think I walk the line well. I can only hope my kids feel that way when they’re older.

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  • Reply melanie October 1, 2012 at 1:49 am

    I wasn’t expecting an answer but thanks for the response. I wonder what this next generation is going to think of their lives broadcast on the internet. Heck I am so grateful things like facebook weren’t around during my high school years, and I worry about how to explain to my kids (when they are teens) to try and think long-term before posting. Yours is one of the few blogs where I feel like the kids feelings are thought of first and foremost.

  • Reply fiwa October 1, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    I will never understand why your writing hasn’t been snapped up. You write honestly about parenting; you don’t try to hide the the rough spots or make it seem like all lollipops and butterflies. If I were a parent, that is exactly what I would want to read. I want to read it anyway, even though I am NOT a parent.

    At any rate, I could never come up with a good question that wasn’t horribly invasive, so I’m going to fall back on something that I am actually interested in knowing. You’ve lived in many different cities and moved around a lot because of work. Is there anyplace you’d like to live, just for the fun of it? Where have you enjoyed living the most, so far?

  • Reply boliath October 1, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    That story made me very uncomfortable too as did the pink boy blitz a while ago, seemed to be more about the parent than the child. As usual, you articulate that thought better than I just did.

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