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Should We Be Writing About Our Kids? Part Two

posted Thursday July 22nd, 2010

My kingdom (why doesn’t anyone ever say queendom?) for five minutes alone in the bathroom.

Not to be. Sophie barged in this morning and started asking questions.

My favorite: “What are those dots on your face?”

Not interested in explaining the fundamentals of foundation (which I later managed to squirt all over the bathroom, really not my finest hour) I tried to gently push her out the door, but she would have none of it. Clearly sensing my annoyance, she edged over to the counter and picked up my imitation Spanx. I could feel the frustration rising  — is nothing sacred? –when she smiled and remarked, “These are cute, Mommy!”

How could you not melt at that? I cracked up, instead of just cracking, and finally — on her own terms, as always – Sophie left the bathroom.

OK, so here’s my question. How harmful was that to Sophie? I can’t honestly tell you. I’m way too close. In thinking more about this “should we be writing about our kids” thing, I’m realizing I can’t really speak to my own work.

I am grateful for the insightful comments you’ve left. The most obvious topic for discussion is how to identify your kids. I feel strongly that this is a completely personal choice. I certainly don’t judge anyone who chooses to nickname (or not name) their kids in a blog — in fact, I wonder from time to time if I’ve shared too much. (And here I can’t say more about what I do and don’t share, or what details I change, for security purposes.)

All I can do is share my own philosophy. I figure that in the end, everyone’s going to read everything. And even if I change Annabelle’s name to Petunia, she’s still going to know it’s her. Chances are, her friends will, too. Ever since I wrote a rather personal piece about my father and our relationship, and my dad’s relationship (to use the term very loosely) with John McCain (yes, that John McCain) and figured my dad would never see it and he did see it (and wasn’t thrilled) I try to write with the expectation that anyone/everyone will eventually read any and everything I write. (Really, we should all be so lucky, huh?) 

And so that means that while I share an awful lot (some would say way-TMI) on this blog, there is much, much more I don’t share at all.

The kid thing, that is a moving target. Particularly when it comes to Sophie. I have a general idea of what Annabelle will and won’t “get” when she’s old enough to happen upon this blog (which I suppose could be any time — she can read, after all) and how much she’ll understand as the years go on.

With Sophie, I’m not so sure. I did a lot of writing about her when she was much younger, and that was pretty raw. Like the public radio piece about how I don’t think mentally retarded people (and yes, I used that term) should wear overalls.

What will she think of that when she gets older? I have no idea. I stand by the overall thing, even today, but now that she’s growing up — and getting smarter every day — I wonder if I’d write the same way now that I wrote back then.

I can’t turn back time or scrub the Internet, so I try to focus on moving forward — on being true to my subjects, honest with myself and also a good self-editor (the hardest part) when I write about anything, but particularly about my kids.

My goal in writing about Sophie has not changed: I have an urge to document our life, to try to figure it out, to show it to people who are the way I was before I had her — people whose greatest exposure to a person with Down syndrome was Pink Slip, an instructional film made decades ago to teach developmentally disabled girls about their periods, but which fell into the hands of a middle-aged male friend of mine who spent years showing it at parties.

It makes me a little sick to think about Pink Slip now. (For the record: I laughed.) I don’t know how much of all of that Sophie will ever grasp (probably a whole lot of it) or what Annabelle will think about any of it.

Last night, the girls and I went to my mom’s for a swim, and out of the blue, Annabelle began quizzing my mother about her childhood in New York in the 40s and 50s. “Tell me about Uncle Arnie,” she urged. “Tell me stories about your dad.” It was beautiful and as I watched Annabelle listening to her Gaga I realized she has the reporter instinct in her, just as Ray and I do. So maybe she will get it. Maybe she’ll be pissed about some of it, too.

In any case, I know I don’t always succeed, but I try to be the hardest on myself, when I write about our family. And I try to constantly question whether doing this blog is the right thing at all.

Up next: Since it’s too close for me to talk about my own stuff (even though, hmm, I think I managed to pound out 800-plus words on the subject here) I’ll share examples of how other writers and artists cover their families well.

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Tags: Filed under: Down syndrome, family, mothers who write by Amysilverman

5 Responses to “Should We Be Writing About Our Kids? Part Two”

  1. sorry I didn’t weigh in on the first post…

    personally I like to think of my blog as MINE. I fully admit that blogging is really narcissistic, and lets face it, my blog is about me and my life. I try to keep my kids out of it (but sometimes they slip in) for 2 reasons:

    1. i use my blog as an outlet to remember that I am a person BEYOND being mom.

    2. I worry about the psychopaths/pedophiles that lurk the internet reading crafty mom blogs so they can hunt down my children and molest them at the park.

    I don’t use their names and am very selective about publishing photos of their faces. I mentioned something about blog archiving once to my mom and she responded my telling me I absolutely must publish a copy of my blog for archive purposes. When I questioned her about why she said this: “If I wrote a blog when I was your age, would you want to read it today?” My answer was a loud yes…so I suspect someday as mundane as I think my blog is, my kids will want to read about it. I guess I keep that in the back of my mind when I write.

  2. Totally agree with you. I would be happy to read your blog if you were talking about me! I’ve never read anything offensive. You are honest and thoughtful- what more can you do but sanitize the heck out of your life? It is completely personal how much people want to share and it’s all good! Thanks for a thought provoking series!

  3. re: the video. WHOA.

  4. Amy, wow on the film, and mostly because they kept repeating the phrase
    “…once a month I bleed through an opening between my legs?” Oh, and the toilet scene.

    On the issue of privacy I’m finding, unfortunately, that my son likes being written about and has a great sense of humor. My daughter? Not so much. She’s taking the attitude of the traumatized adolescent but I concur in that one day my blog archive will be a wonderful, loved record of their lives.

    I enjoyed reading the Dani Shapiro piece and was agog at the Larry Rivers film. I was happy to see in the postscript that his daughter prevailed.

  5. Since Ricki does not read English, I feel that it is a bit different for me. I try and remember to post all pics in a way that they can not be copied.
    I feel also that the good that hopefully comes from the blog is enough reason to do it, even if somedeay Ricki asks “why”.

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