All The Blogs A Stage

October 23, 2009

It started as a discussion about Balloon Boy and reality television and the corruptive effects of the pursuit of fame and whether children should ever be compelled to live their lives as performances, the better to line the pockets of the entertainment industry, but it became a discussion about whether writers – memoirists, bloggers, whomever – who deal in family anecdote can be said to be guilty of the very sins that we deplore in the Gosselins or the Heenes or the Duggars or whatever slimy, child-eating producer we imagine lurks in the offices of TLC. In writing about our children, some of you asked, are we guilty of the same kind of exploitation (if, in fact, we can call televising the lives of children for profit ‘exploitation,’ which I think we can), the same kind of troubling opportunism that is displayed by the Gosselins and the Heenes and the parents of Toddlers wearing Tiaras?

I’ve wrestled with this issue before. I always come down on the side of no. Which is not to say that I don’t sometimes lay awake at night, interrogating myself about whether I am always perfectly conscientious in putting the best interests of my children before my impulse to tell stories, but it is a more or less clear-sighted ‘no.’ My children figure in the stories that I tell here, but they are not, for the most part, the main characters. I’m not writing their stories; I’m writing mine. And to the extent that they appear in that story – and, obviously, they do appear regularly – they appear as (as I said the other day) narrative constructions. Emilia and Jasper are not, like the Gosselin kids or the Toddlers in Tiaras, compelled to perform upon a literal or figurative stage. They live their lives, they do their thing, and I write stories about motherhood in which they sometimes appear – characters, sketches, reflections of their real selves.

But, but… can it not be said that living under my writerly gaze imposes a kind of (to mangle the term) performativity to their daily lives? They do not perform, but do I not take their movements and moments and weave performance out of these? Can story be understood as a form of performance, in which it is not just the storyteller who performs, but the story itself and the characters therein? In which case, does my role as a storyteller not put me in a relationship with my children whereby I view them, and the things that they do and say, through a performative lens? Do they not live under (and here I jumble Foucault and Lacan and others into a postmodern psychoanalytic jumble that I may not be able to disentangle) performative gaze? And if this is true, is it any better – any less harmful – than living under the lens of television cameras? Do I exploit my children for my own creative (and, yes, to some extent, material) gain?

Ah.

I don’t know.

That’s not entirely true: I do know that, as a writer, I view my children – about whom I write – somewhat differently than I might otherwise. I view everything differently, inasmuch as everything is potential fodder for narrative. The question is whether my ‘writerly gaze’ has any kind of troubling effect. Is that view distorted? Does it distort? Do I – in engaging with and responding to and thinking about my children – or anyone/anything else, for that matter – amplify or ignore or construct certain details in the experience to better prepare it for narrative. When I watch my children play, am I watching them play, or am I observing them as subjects? Both? Am I more attached/detached in one condition than in the other? Can I be attached to the experience while retaining my critical, writerly eye? Does it matter?

I think that everyone imposes something of this gaze on their lives and the experiences and people in those lives, inasmuch as we are all conscious of what other people think. We are all, after all, bourgeois in the sense that Rousseau meant when he criticized modern, Western man for being constantly preoccupied with the judgments and opinions of others. We think about the stories that we will tell our friends and families about this incident or that, we are alert to what any given experience looks like to outside observers (my children are behaving badly in this restaurant; do people think I’m a bad mother?/my children are behaving so well; does anybody notice? doesn’t this reflect well on me?/I wonder if anyone has noticed how awesome my shoes are?) and in that way, arguably, we are constantly viewing our lives through a critical lens, imposing narratives, editing the details, worrying over the visuals. But is there something different going on for writers, if only because those narratives make it out of our heads and onto the page?

I don’t have a good answer to this question. I worry about it, sometimes. I worry about thinking too much about story when I watch my children strut their lives upon the figurative stage. I worry about how my own narrative impulses impose a certain form and structure and feel to my life and the lives of those around me, not least when I consider writing about the most difficult things, like depression and anxiety and grief  – have I written myself and my loved ones into a story that is all about sadness? Am I turning my struggles into spectacle, and to what effect? (I turn off comments on some posts – some posts about my father, for example, some others about my children – when I want to remain clear with myself that I am writing for myself, and not for reactions, when I want there to be no mistake that I am not writing a given story for attention or positive reinforcement. Why, then, not close comments on all posts? Because the dialogue that emerges from commentary is important to me, as is – obviously – the community. Turning off comments sometimes is just a reminder to myself that I do not write – primarily – to generate vocal response; it keeps me honest about why I’m writing about certain things, i.e. because the story demands to be told, and not because the story will yield tons of comments.)

End of the day, I take the temperature of my integrity by appealing to my gut: why am I telling this story? Do I tell it out of love and/or joy and/or enthusiasm and/or fascination? Out of sincere concern or worry or heartfelt handwringing? Will my children read this someday – or my husband or mother or sister or friends read it now, or my father read it on whatever iHeaven app they make available in the great beyond – and recognize and appreciate the feeling behind it? Will their reactions be informed by (so far as possible) a clear awareness that they appear in my stories because I love them, because they are important to me, because I wanted to remember and understand every moment with them, because I wanted to share all of this, because I wanted to the world to know? Are the stories that feature my loved ones gentle in their treatment of them as characters? Are they – so far as is possible in narrative construction – true? If I can tell myself – honestly, as honestly as possible – that the answers to these questions is yes, then that is the best that I can do.

I hope that it is enough. Is it different enough from what goes on in the cruel and shallow money trench that is reality television? I think so. My writerly gaze, as it falls upon my children and my family and my friends, is a loving gaze. This cannot be said of the gaze of a television camera, and that difference, I think, is key. It is, in any case, enough to help me sleep at night. Mostly.

(What do you think? Do writers invariably exploit their subjects, and if so, are parent-bloggers guilty of exploiting their children? Are we all just Gosselins now?)

(Excellent discussion on this very subject can also be found chez Mom-101. And she doesn’t trip over her words as much as I do.)

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    { 52 comments }

    Adventures In Babywearing October 22, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    I feel a lot of the same things you do about it. I never deliberately put my children into a situation just so I can blog about it. My writing is a journal of my life as a Mom, and the things I observe on the way, what I have learned from the past, and what I hope for the future. Often that includes writing an awful lot about my kids. It’s real life, though, no manufactured or seen at many camera angles- just my own mind’s eye.

    I have a feeling I’ll look back at it all and will be so thankful for what I’ve captured into words.

    Steph
    .-= Adventures In Babywearing´s last blog ..The Great Rescue! =-.

    Beth October 22, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    I ask myself why I write about my children and I ask what the benefits are or aren’t of doing it.

    I’ve come down on the side of writing about the things I struggle with (juggling priorities as I type this at my sleeping daughter’s hospital bedside; their sense of privacy as I repress myself from writing in some detail about certain issues my son has).

    I try to remember that my children are small now; but one day, they will be big and they will have friends who can use the internet. I never want what I’ve written about them to be a point of embarrassment or hurt. I never want them to question whether Mommy loved them at least as much as I love my writing and my work.

    I think people like the Gosselins and to a lesser extent the Duggars, don’t take that into consideration and their children will pay the price in the future.

    Her Bad Mother October 23, 2009 at 8:26 am

    that’s the key, I think – being guided by concern for our children and by the concern that they someday look back on this and get the LOVE – for them, for the writing, and for how writing allows us to express our love for them in ways we otherwise couldn’t.

    After Words October 22, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    I’m a small-time blogger, but I do what I can to protect my kids’ (and my own) anonymity to a large degree: I rarely post pictures, I don’t use their names, etc. I’m not judgmental of bloggers who do these things and I don’t think it’s at all comparable to the madness over on TLC, but I’m sort of a nut about my own privacy so I feel like I also need to be nutty about my kids’ privacy.
    .-= After Words´s last blog ..A Red Shirt? =-.

    Laurie (@GoodByeGracie) October 22, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    I fall on the side of ‘no’ as well. I blog about my children but, for the most part, they are anonymous. Unless you know us personally, there are no images of my children attached to the antics I chose to share and they are not being asked to say or perform anything for the benefit of anyone. And we get to edit what we feel we want to show the world not someone else who’s sole motivation is money. So yes, I do agree that to a certain extent we share our children for our gain but what we decide to share–and that is key–is entirely up to us as we keep our children mostly anonymous.
    .-= Laurie (@GoodByeGracie)´s last blog ..Why the Balloon Boy hoax outraged the nation =-.

    Her Bad Mother October 23, 2009 at 8:28 am

    My kids are semi-anonymous: as I said in a comment on the post of the other day, I use my kids’ real names, but as they don’t share my last name, they’re not particularly googleable. No more than they would be if I used pseudonyms – my name is out there anyway, so anybody who knows I’m their mom would put two and two together regardless of what names for them I use.

    Teresa October 22, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    It’s not just kids. I don’t have a blog – I just wrote an email update to family and friends a few years ago describing things that had been going on, including my mom’s brief illness. She was horrified to have what she saw as her private matters “hung out like dirty underwear on a clothesline.” But for me, it was an event that was part of my life, and I was talking about it from the perspective of my experience. It wasn’t really about her at all, but as soon as you tell someone else’s story – even if it’s also your story – you are putting them on display.

    I don’t write about my mom, or any of the other people in my family, or really anybody at all anymore. That’s probably why I don’t have a blog.

    I do have a Facebook page for my son. I created it when he was a couple of months old, and now he’s a little over a year, and for much of my family it’s the only way that they get to watch him grow – I post photos and videos, and I update his status occassionally to reflect recent happenings. I also use his account to comment here and there – saying how proud ‘he’ is of his aunt’s success in nursing school, or how ‘he’ felt about my cooking the night before. Everyone knows that this is not *his* voice, but his personality as filtered and interpreted through me.

    And I keep him very guarded. He doesn’t appear in search engines, not even on Facebook. He is only really accessible to the people I allow, and there is a clear understanding of the content that is shared. Once he’s old enough (not by age, but by maturity), I’ll teach him how to develop his own identity, and I’ll co-control it with him.

    I know that I can be found easily – I’ve even had people contact me looking for family members because I have a web presence and they don’t. I try to manage it, as does anyone whose web identity is significant to them, but there are things I wrote years ago that I can now trace back to myself in searches, and I wish there were some way to take them back. I don’t want to leave my son with a legacy that he wants to take back, so I’m playing it safe for him.

    Alexicographer October 22, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    Oh, yes.

    Both similar to and different from your mother’s experience, when my son was born, my mother emailed a member of our faith community to let him know that she needed to miss a meeting she had scheduled for some committee or other … on which committee the message recipient also served … because I was recovering from a long labor and c-section and she was helping me and my new son. I have no problem with that, but it happens that said recipient is the same person who manages a listserv with news for other members of the community, and he emailed the news (which had been sent to him in a private communication and NOT intended for anything but that) to the list. This had two effects, both negative. It prevented my father, who otherwise would have enjoyed announcing the news the following Sunday following the worship service, from doing so, as the news was no longer new. And it meant that many of the preliminary remarks from friends I got on the arrival of my son focused not on the joy of his arrival, but on the difficulties it had involved. I was wildly irritated. But what can you do?

    Similarly, like you, I now try to keep my son’s identity and image off the internet. But with plenty of family members very comfortably posting pictures where all can see them, it’s pretty much impossible.

    Her Bad Mother October 23, 2009 at 8:51 am

    Control over our own stories – and our children’s (existing or future) right to control over their stories – is tricky territory. Sure, these stories are MINE, but from another perspective they’re others’ stories as well. This can be hard to navigate.

    Notaspanker October 22, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    But…but…but…You do need to remember that there is money involved in this, you do have advertising on your site. I am not sure it is fair to judge others so harshly when you do profit from what you do. I am not saying I think what you do is wrong, I am just concerned at the harsh judgement of tv families vs blog families.

    Her Bad Mother October 22, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    I don’t think that profit is the determining factor in questions about whether any of this stuff is exploitative. Yes, I make money from blogging, but in this case – the writer’s case, as opposed to the reality TV case – I am making money for *writing*, not because (as I said in my post earlier this week) my children are performing in front of the camera. I write about motherhood, and they figure in those stories, but they are not the only characters, and end of the day, they *are* characters, sketched-out narrated versions of their real selves. The Gosselin kids, on the other hand, are paraded in front of the camera every day and told to perform their lives. There’s a difference, I think, between a child appearing in her parent’s written work as a character, and a parent compelling her child to perform for the camera (which reality TV really is, however much it is contrived to look like real life.)

    notaspanker October 24, 2009 at 8:26 am

    Do you think you would have as much of a web following if you wrote about gardening, or food as opposed to your children? Would you be paid to write about those things?

    As for the Gosselins, I am not a fan but I bet that Kate would have some very good arguements for why she accepts money for doing what she does. Supporting 8 kids is not cheap! I think that you need to challenge your own assumption that her kids are, “told to perform their whole lives”. We have no way of knowing what the quality of life is for her or her children and I am reluctant to judge other mothers as much as possible (refer back to your own post re the breast vs bottle). I think if our values do not match Kate’s then we as a society need to change the channel, and for me it is that simple.
    It does not bother me that you accept money to blog, but like I said above I am not sure that what you do and what Kate does are all that much different at the end of the day

    Her Bad Mother October 24, 2009 at 10:45 am

    We don’t have any way of knowing their way of life – except for the whack of it that is paraded in front of us in the media. I actually am not so disturbed by Kate herself – I can totally see why a family would do a reality TV deal to support themselves (I see less why they would stick with it when it causes their family to implode, but whatever) – as by the whole culture of family-oriented reality programming, as I said in my post earlier this week. Children being compelled to live their lives in front of the camera (and our culture imposes a lot of incentives to this) is, I think, a potentially very problematic thing (arguments spelled out in aforementioned post), and IS different from children having their parents tell anecdotes about them, online or otherwise. In the former, the children are made to be active participants in the televising of their lives. There are cameras and crews and paparazzi literally intruding upon their lives. In the latter, they’re not, and there is no (or little, if we want to debate this) intrusive element.

    But as I’ve said, I’m not letting myself off the hook here. Bloggers need to self-reflective about how they write about their families, for sure.

    (Would I be as successful if I didn’t write about my children? Dunno. I’m a partner in another blog that covers pop culture and feminism, and it does very well.)

    Carrie October 22, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    Well done!
    .-= Carrie´s last blog ..It Cuts You Up =-.

    Alison October 22, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    I remember going on holiday and there were a whole load of tourists with video cameras permanently glued to their eyes. They never put them down for a minute. I was like “just experience what you’re looking at! Stop looking through a lens!” But I think if you are a writer, and you most certainly are a fine one, that it does immediately put you at one step removed. Every thing becomes potential material. Of course, you don’t engineer situations (although when my friend’s daughter got her head stuck in the railings and had to be cut free by the fire service, her dad was so busy taking photos to post online he somewhat ignored her distress).

    But I think you personally are highly conscientious as to what you select as potential material. Those poor Gosselin children have had their personalities cemented for millions to gawp at.
    .-= Alison´s last blog ..What Kate Did Next =-.

    Her Bad Mother October 23, 2009 at 8:53 am

    I don’t engineer situations, but I’ve been guilty of at least *thinking* of the narrative yield of certain experiences as they’re happening, which I worry causes some detachment, in some moments. On the other hand, it can be argued that that writerly attention is just an *added* layer of attention, that I am actually thinking more closely about my experiences with my children, etc.

    Liz@thisfullhouse October 22, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    If you mean, have I ever thought to myself, “Wow, I can’t believe that just happened,” and then grabbed the camera, in further thinking “This would make a GREAT blog post!”

    Then, yes, guilty as charged.
    .-= Liz@thisfullhouse´s last blog ..Nearly Wordless Wednesday: You’ve Been Ghosted – The Puking Pumpkin Starts Here! =-.

    Her Bad Mother October 22, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    You and me both ;)

    Mom101 October 22, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    This is the same topic I discussed on NPR earlier this week – I was the guest standing in for a reality show advocate it would seem. But the comments on my post are really insightful.

    “Exploit” means to use a person in an unfair and selfish way. I hope I only do that in real life when I get my children to clean up the living room for me by calling it The Pick-Up Game
    .-= Mom101´s last blog ..Because trust me, you don’t want to see me naked, Chicago =-.

    Her Bad Mother October 22, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    I actually meant to link that post, ma’am, but in the haze of sleep-deprivation and Lacan references, I forgot ;(

    Your line “I don’t want to reveal anything here that I wouldn’t share with their entire preschool class live and in person” is exactly what I meant when I rattled on about writing ‘with love’ – I want the stories about my children here to be no different, really, the ones that I would tell in any community setting, with *their* critical eye upon *me*

    Susan (5 Minutes for Mom) October 22, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    When all this mess started happening with the Gosselin’s, my first reaction was that I ought not throw many stones because as a mom blogger, I’m not that far removed.

    I do think there are some similarities in our platforms – TV and blog – and I think there are positives and negatives and extreme negatives in the case of the Gosselins LOL.

    I think as mom bloggers we do need to ensure that nothing we share would embarrass our children or put them at any disadvantage.

    But overall, I think parent blogging is a powerful and positive movement. But we just all need to take care that our children are our first priority. And I think all the blogs I read do take care.
    .-= Susan (5 Minutes for Mom)´s last blog ..Our Finalists In The Elefun & Friends Silly Kids Photo Contest =-.

    Her Bad Mother October 23, 2009 at 10:10 am

    There’s an interesting question there, too, about whether there’s some good that comes of reality TV shows featuring families – for example, does *their* sharing of their lives open up spaces for discourse that wouldn’t otherwise exist? Get us to talk about stuff we might not otherwise?

    Lydia October 22, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    Very interesting discussion. I am a TV news journalist and find that my TV eye colors so much that I do and the way I tell my own stories.

    in a sense–we aren’t capable of standing completely apart from ourselves and deciding whether our actions meet or fall short of any standard. we perceive everything through the lens of our experience. We can try to be objective and unbiased, and to some extent we can recognize our tendencies–but we can never truly regard ourselves from the outside.

    that said, i think there is a difference between the words and pictures in blogs and the video that appears on reality TV. with just words and still photos, the reader has to work to create the narrative mental “video” that links it all together. but in the case of actual video, it’s all out there (although not the true reality, of course, since it is edited).

    but a very interesting discussion!

    carrien (she laughs at the days) October 22, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    I’ve been a mom a lot longer than I’ve been a blogger and I can say with confidence that if I did not blog I would be recording these things somewhere, probably in journals as I used to, and my children would read them some day.

    If anything, the awareness that there are people reading simply causes me to choose my words with more care and to tell a story more gracefully than I would if I were unsure that anyone would read. I can’t see how that is a bad thing.

    Choosing the story I tell, and therefore the details I notice in daily life has been transformational for me. Choosing story I tell has changed my meta narrative, for the better. My blog records the journey I have come through from self pity toward a deeper gratitude for the everyday moments I manage to record. Writing here, in this forum was key to that journey. I can’t see how this has been anything other than beneficial to my family.

    Her Bad Mother October 23, 2009 at 10:11 am

    “If anything, the awareness that there are people reading simply causes me to choose my words with more care and to tell a story more gracefully than I would if I were unsure that anyone would read.”

    Hear, hear.

    Amira @ DefineMature.com October 22, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    I am no Gosselin and I don’t think most of the blogs I read are either.

    What’s that saying? Blogging is cheaper than therapy?

    Yeah, that pretty much sums it up for me.

    When I started my blog, I had to clarify my intentions and reasons for wanting to start one.

    Some of the stories I tell, and I try to be very conscious of what I tell, have my child in them because he’s a very large chuck of my life, so it’s inevitable that I write about him. But again, they are carefully chosen stories.

    Also, both my husband and I are not comfortable with showcasing his pictures or videos on such a public arena for various reasons. So that’s that on that issue.

    But in the end, I need blogging more for therapeutic/creative/chronicling purposes in all aspects of my personal growth, not so much that of my child(ren).
    .-= Amira @ DefineMature.com´s last blog ..Me, Myself, and I =-.

    Her Bad Mother October 24, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    I said in another post on this subject (linked above) that what I write here is mostly about ME, about my experiences, as a mother and otherwise. There actually aren’t a whole lot of kid-anecdotes here, relative to the other stuff. My therapy, indeed.

    No Mother Earth October 22, 2009 at 9:19 pm

    As an actor, I tend to have the viewpoint that everyone is always watching my actions in public. That is what makes it “public” and not “private”. As such, in public, we cannot be said to live an entirely natural existence. Only when we think/know that no one is watching to we bring about our true selves.

    Personally, as long as you are telling the stories of the children as they actually happen – and not as you are directing them to happen – then it’s just an account of your/their life, not exploitation. If you choose to make those stories public, thereby reaching out to others in the same boat who may need to see that they’re not alone, where’s the harm?

    (However, if the children get older and ask you not to tell the story and you still do, then it’s exploitation..)
    .-= No Mother Earth´s last blog ..Totally Bad Ad. Really. =-.

    Her Bad Mother October 23, 2009 at 11:12 am

    The actor’s perspective is an interesting one, especially your point about public/private, because the reality phenom messes with exactly that distinction – or, we might say, just underscores the fact that in contemporary society there isn’t one. But, yeah – the absence of ‘directing’ – of compelling a certain kind of performance for the public – is an important difference between blogging/writing and being onscreen.

    What, then, do we make of kids on YouTube?

    Sharon October 23, 2009 at 7:01 am

    Mom 101′s line, “I don’t want to reveal anything here that I wouldn’t share with their entire preschool class live and in person” seems to me to be the perfect barometer.

    I just started blogging recently. I don’t have much, if any, of a following, and that’s fine. I do it for myself, mostly. Maybe that’s why I just don’t see the comparison between story-telling about our children, and parading them in front of cameras 24-7. It is, essentially, the same reason I prefer still photographs to video footage: with our photographs, or our stories, we take the raw experience and shape it, frame it as we wish; with video there is not protection from reality (that’s the point, isn’t it?), no privacy.

    Does anyone really think there is any harm in it, if a (relatively small, actually) bunch of strangers find some enjoyment or comfort in our stories? While it may be an interesting discussion on a theoretical level, I just don’t see the gravity of the issue.

    Her Bad Mother October 23, 2009 at 10:51 am

    I would agree that the issue can seem a bit overblown, but as someone who HAS been called (more than once) exploitative, I can tell you that the discussion persists for a reason. Some people have as strong judgments about bloggers as they do about the Gosselins.

    Sharon October 23, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    Sorry Catherine – I certainly didn’t mean to imply anything against the mommy bloggers. I know that many have been attacked for what they do. I just don’t see why the attackers get off on it, so their attacks are pretty impotent in my view.

    (Easy for me to say…I’ve never been the victim of an attack).
    .-= Sharon´s last blog ..the heartbreak begins =-.

    Her Bad Mother October 23, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    No offense taken ;)

    Bokker October 23, 2009 at 7:28 am

    Like another commenter above, I also work in TV. Personally I wouldn’t work on a reality show, for many reasons, many of them ethical.

    My instinct, like yours, is that blogging is not the same as putting your kids on TV, largely because the physical experience of being filmed is much more intrusive and involving that being written about. The act of producing writing doesn’t impinge on the kids’ lives.

    Having said that, I think you are/I am/most of are making assumptions about the nature of the filming . Do we know for sure that these kids are filmed every day? You can get a lot of footage from one filming day a week. Do we know that they are asked to perform, any more than one of your kids is performing when you video them and put the video on your blog?

    I have to confess that I’ve never watched the American-produced shows you are talking about- they’re not so popular here in the UK. So it may be quite evident from watching the shows that the experience of being filmed is a negative one, full stop.

    But speaking as one, I can say that TV producers and crews aren’t always the unfeeling slimeballs they’re made out to be. We don’t know what the families’ experiences of being filmed are (I’ve always found that kids enjoy being on TV- but then the content I make involves us entering and leaving their lives swiftly), or that the scenarios they are filmed in are contrived, or that the kids are asked to perform. It might- MIGHT- be done sensitively. Maybe the families get some editorial control; maybe the producers think carefully about what goes into the shows. Maybe they DO just “follow them around”.

    Again, my instinct says that this is probably wishful thinking, and certainly the entertainment producer is often a different breed from the TV journalist (she says, nose turned up!). But I don’t think we can say that putting kids on TV is 100% A Bad Thing, just as we can’t say that putting them into blog posts is 100% fine.

    Her Bad Mother October 23, 2009 at 10:50 am

    I agree that it’s not necessarily 100% a bad thing – I don’t know enough about it to be able to say (Kate Gosselin would probably say that the kids love it, it will pay for their education, etc) – but I think that it nonetheless warrants critical analysis. Just as blogging does.

    My husband is a TV producer/production manager, actually, in commercials, which is another breed entirely, sort of. He’s worked with children many times, and feels that in most circumstances (with all but the most grounded kids with the most grounded parents) working on camera messes them up. But again, it comes down to the parents – a grounded parent knows how to protect their child. Parents like the Gosselins, who parade the breakdown of their marriage and their squabbles over kids in front of the cameras, with the kids – are they grounded?

    Again, I’m not close enough to say with absolute certainty, but I have my doubts.

    Bokker October 23, 2009 at 7:28 am

    Wow that was long! Sorry
    .-= Bokker´s last blog ..Not content with one blog, I’ve selfishly bagged myself two. =-.

    norm October 23, 2009 at 10:13 am

    Perhaps another way to look at this is that you are writing not just for yourself (if so you could keep it all completely private) but for your family and friends. For a broad definition of friends.

    I’m loving your posts this week (well, always loving them). Shakespeare! Plato! Foucault! When I’ve got to go haul out my notes from the philosophy class I snoozed through in 1984 to properly appreciate your references, that’s some quality blogging, ma’am.

    az October 23, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    “End of the day, I take the temperature of my integrity by appealing to my gut: why am I telling this story? Do I tell it out of love and/or joy and/or enthusiasm and/or fascination? Out of sincere concern or worry or heartfelt handwringing? Will my children read this someday – or my husband or mother or sister or friends read it now, or my father read it on whatever iHeaven app they make available in the great beyond – and recognize and appreciate the feeling behind it? Will their reactions be informed by (so far as possible) a clear awareness that they appear in my stories because I love them, because they are important to me, because I wanted to remember and understand every moment with them, because I wanted to share all of this, because I wanted to the world to know? Are the stories that feature my loved ones gentle in their treatment of them as characters? Are they – so far as is possible in narrative construction – true? If I can tell myself – honestly, as honestly as possible – that the answers to these questions is yes, then that is the best that I can do.”

    Note that essentially all of these questions – all of the questions which create the justification for blogging about one’s children – come to down to one person: “I”, i.e., you. Of course, the “I”s are sometimes about them, and being children it might not make sense to ask them to answer these questions at this point either. But still, all of your questions are really questions for and about yourself, even though there are multiple parties involved. Regardless, I think that its blindingly obvious that some children *will* resent their parents for blogging about them in this way. They have good reasons, they may have bad reasons, they may change their mind. So, in a way, maybe the “I” questions are the right ones to be asking, for this reason: it seems like blogging parents need to be able to say “even if my children resent me for this, even if it creates a wedge between us that would not otherwise have existed, even if it exacerbates other problems in our relationship, etc, its still o.k., because *I* was doing it for the right reasons, and if *they* don’t understand that, that’s *their* problem”.

    Her Bad Mother October 23, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    All those questions are ‘I’ questions because only I can ask and answer them – *I’m* the one who needs to be interrogated – and interrogated by myself – about this. My children are too small to formulate opinions about this, and I can’t rely upon my own ability to forecast those potential opinions. All I can do is gauge my own motivation/intention/spirit and hope that that’s enough. Because, really, it’s all I’ve got.

    az October 23, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    Yeah, I acknowledged that point in my comment, which is why I said that it leads naturally to another “I” question, namely, “will *I* be o.k. with having done all of this even if and when it turns out that *they* are not” – which surely happen in some cases. So I think the “I” questions may be the best one can do for now – it just may have some rough consequences over the long run. That’s in the nature of the situation, or the disparity of power/knowledge between the bloggers and their subjects, as you point out.

    Her Bad Mother October 23, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    no, you’re right – and that ‘unknown’ *is* the source of the difficulty. Maybe my kids will be among those who will chafe at having ever been subjects. Or maybe not. To a significant degree, my intentions have/will have absolutely no bearing on that.

    SIGH.

    Sarah @ BecomingSarah.com October 23, 2009 at 6:42 pm

    We all consider that blogging may potentially be damaging down the road, but has anyone ever stopped to wonder if the opposite might be true? There are a shitload of parent blogs today and there will be more still in five, ten, fifteen years. I don’t want to minimize the reality that yes, like every other media, this too could be a problem for some children, but I have a feeling that it won’t be for most. After all, what you blog about your kids isn’t news to them – not only have you been discussing these things in your home, but you’ve been discussing them with your friends AND YOUR KIDS HEAR THAT. I don’t know about you, but I loved hearing my mom tell stories about me to her friends, even the humiliating ones.

    I do my best to be cautious, I do, but at the end of the day, I also believe that my daughter will be okay with all of it too. I would never do this if I thought she wouldn’t. It’s just a stupid blog, after all, and I could live without it.
    .-= Sarah @ BecomingSarah.com´s last blog ..Before. =-.

    az October 23, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    “I don’t know about you, but I loved hearing my mom tell stories about me to her friends, even the humiliating ones.”

    For some it creates a bond, for some its part of a lifetime of resentment. That’s what it makes the issue of parental blogging so sensitive: you just don’t know who these people are yet.

    Sarah @ BecomingSarah.com October 23, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    Az – Do you think he barometer of “only blog what I would say out loud in front of my child, family, friends, etc” works for blogging, then, or do you feel that because we know not yet how our children will respond when they are older that blogging is never a safe activity?
    .-= Sarah @ BecomingSarah.com´s last blog ..Before. =-.

    az October 24, 2009 at 11:01 am

    I don’t think the analogy quite works, simply because what one says often disappears into the ether. And when its conversational, one can say later on, “well, what I was trying to say…” Doesn’t work that way on a blog, because its there on the screen, and I think that people will expect a bit more forethought than they would in idle conversation. I’m not saying that you’re thinking about it the wrong way: hopefully some children will grow up to see it that way. But the dynamic is a bit different.

    Kristine October 23, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    I cannot say I disagree with you, but I cannot let go of this urge to raise a question: do you think any of these Mom’s think they’re doing harm to their children?

    Well, wait…let me rephrase…

    I’d bet that most of these “deplorable” parents, at least in some sense, think that what they’re doing is going to make their kids’ lives better.

    I’d bet a lot on that.

    So then where do we go with the argument? Who’s in the best position to see when “good” goes “bad”?
    .-= Kristine´s last blog ..Some Consider Me Manly, I Suppose =-.

    Her Bad Mother October 23, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    I think that you are absolutely right, and that you raise a very good question – one that sort of torpedoes my ‘best intentions’ argument.

    No tyrant ever really believes he’s a tyrant, after all.

    red pen mama October 24, 2009 at 8:06 am

    I disagree with kristine’s last point. I think the Heenes put “do no harm” as a secondary consideration to Dad’s fame. It’s true he did not go up in the balloon, but they forced him onto national television — puking. The Gosselin’s put their own fame (and happiness) before their children. While I do think that none of the parents who seek “fame” on reality shows would actively hurt their children, I wonder to what extent their children’s emotional or mental health is a consideration to them.

    Mommy bloggers are telling stories, stories that involve our children (often). I think they are important stories whether they are about our struggles with our children or our triumphs. The stories are important for the other parents that find us. I know for me that I have discovered a community of like-minded moms and dads that have helped me feel not alone, and have encouraged me to persevere.

    We don’t put our children in situations for good or ill simply for the sake of the stories. Our children’s lives are lived, largely, off the stage.

    I haven’t read all the comments, though. Off to do that now. Also, I’m only half way through my coffee intake, so this may be less than coherent.

    ciao,
    rpm
    .-= red pen mama´s last blog ..Pictures from the Pumpkin Patch, 2009 =-.

    az October 24, 2009 at 11:03 am

    I think most reasonable people would have to agree that what (at least) parental bloggers is deeply different from reality show parents. Its just that other problems remain.

    jacob October 24, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    Two questions: 1) Do you or your kids behave differently to provide/avoid providing good blog fodder? 2) have you invaded their privacy in a way they object to now or will object to later in life?

    If the answer to both is “No”, what’s the problem?

    verybadcat October 26, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    This question bothers me, albeit from a different perspective. I do not believe that blogging about motherhood and related antics exploits the children who are written about. I believe that reality tv possibly does. You can choose not to share things. I do not know all of the inner workings of reality tv, but it appears to me that if one does not negotiate from the forefront regarding what will be shown and what will not, there is little choice when a questionable situation arises.

    The real question to me, for all bloggers, is are we violating the privacy rights of other by sharing their roles in our stories? Do I violate my mother’s privacy when I blog about her bitterness and how it helped to make me who I am? Do I violate my father’s privacy when I bemoan his alcoholism (as I did today) in such a public forum?

    I come back to my own gut check. If my father read my blog, and he confronted me about what I’ve written there? Well, that would have more to do with his shame regarding his behavior than it would be about his privacy. When I decide not to share something to protect another’s privacy, as I did regarding the decline and demise of my marriage, I feel choked, I feel gagged, I feel silenced, and in an indirect way, abused by that silence. If you are willing to engage in said behavior, then why not own it too?

    Of course that argument is muddled when it comes to children operating without the capacity to regulate their behavior to the extent that adults can. All I can say about that aspect of it is this:

    My mother has told any number of private and embarrassing stories about me to friends and coworkers, insofar as they have mentioned specific details of those situations to me in casual conversation. I’m fairly sure every Mom has done that, and there is not *too* much difference between that and blogging, in that she can’t control who then shares those stories with someone else, and I was given no choice in what she shared or did not.

    Also. If I could look back at my own mother’s blog and read her thoughts and feelings regarding significant events in her life and thus my childhood, I would cherish that insight at this point in my life.

    As bloggers, as writers, we have no choice regarding how our loved ones will react to our written words. I think it’s a lovely way to live, though, to be open and honest and to keep a chronicle of life. I think in the end, sum all, more good is done than harm. Bad things live in the dark, but the light gives perspective to everything. Even the messy stuff.
    .-= verybadcat´s last blog ..Oh What A Week =-.

    6512 and growing October 26, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    Interesting…all of it. Some blogs almost function as Reality TV, keeping people hooked through shock value.

    I recently wrote a very flattering and true post about my parents and my mom was horrified by a picture I posted of her and demanded I remove it. It opened my eyes to how my words/images can affect others. (And then there was my husband editing a post of mine and insisting I absolutely could not use the phrase “Wall Street shmucks”
    .-= 6512 and growing´s last blog ..Hunting season, then and now =-.

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