A contrasting viewpoint

My comment started to get epic, so I moved the whole thing over here.  Read Mel’s post for context.

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I think that these are important aspects of privacy to consider when we write.  BUT.  The reality is that these are not just their stories — they are my stories too.  It’s not just that they ate a dog biscuit — it’s that I LET them eat a dog biscuit.  If you say that it is not ethical/moral/objectional/whatever to write about your kids without their permission, you are pretty much shutting down the discussion of motherhood/fatherhood/parenting.  My children, and their lives, are the central focus of MY life as well, of my experience of infertility and motherhood.  I think that if you take the notion of privacy too far, you eliminate my “right” (or whatever the best word is) to tell my story.  I’m thinking here of what Catherine Connor writes about over at Her Bad Mother.

I think it was Dooce who said once (when she started giving Leta the right to veto anything posted about her), “The story of a baby is the story of any baby ever told.”   I think that’s pretty much true.  There comes a point where babies become people, but before then, the stories are almost always interchangeable.  If you don’t believe that, ask your own mother which of your sibings did xyz.  I would bet (given my own experience) that she can’t remember.  [There are actually baby photos of us that my mom can’t identify who is who in.]

Sure in 20 years, someone might be able to take my kids, track down that much of this blog was written about them, and find something that I wrote that is embarrassing.  But the reality is that that is a very minute possibility.  And even if someone does track that down, what is the impact of a two-decades-old baby story actually going to be on their lives?  Someone who is that dedicated to finding out about my children’s beginnings is not going to stop if an online search doesn’t turn up anything.  They would be tracking down school friends and family members and whoever potentially has the information that they want.

The truth is, I am creating and editing the stories of my children’s lives now for them, whether I post to the blog or not.  The stories that I tell our family members, the milestones I share with their friends’ parents at playdates, the concerns I share with teachers and doctors, the notes I write down for their baby books, the pictures that I put on facebook or in our christmas cards — that is how 90% of the people in their lives view them.  They have no say in that, and really, I don’t have much say in how that is interpreted.

The ubiquitousness of the internet is a relatively new thing.  For most of us, ahem, *older* people, it’s scary to think about what could potentially happen.  In many cases, those are real concerns.  But I think that any concern that can be boiled down to “But what about the children!” needs to come under some major scrutiny to determine if it is really about the children — or if it is about us.

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7 thoughts on “A contrasting viewpoint

  1. Thanks- this post does give me pause to reflect that maybe its not bad to write as I do about my son but at the same her post does remind me that everything I say is going to be there forever. Good or bad whatever it is, its online and its permanent and there is a chance he may not appreciate it. I have to go into the foray understanding that. At the same time as you pointed out, this is also MY story. My questions about discipline, nursing, sleep issues, are also MY issues. We’re interconnected– and as a commenter pointed out on the post, how much art and poetry and novels and articles would we miss if no one spoke about their children? I guess ultimately its a fine balance. May have to write my own post one day. thanks for the insight.

  2. I see your point. I think it’s just that there are people who are very concerned about their privacy (my husband!) and people who are totally unconcerned about their privacy (those people I work with who announce their social security numbers/bank account numbers/credit card numbers over the phone in an open office). It’s good to think about where you are on that spectrum.

    It’s an interesting cycle, though. As a society, we’ve gone from living in villages where everyone knows every detail about every other person, to living in cities which grants some anonymity, to spreading out to different countries where you can choose to be a part of community or find yourself a cabin in the woods away from everyone else. I think the evolving technology leads to evolving thoughts on what to do with the surfeit of information…and how it can be misused. I think you can liken it to atom splitting – sure, you can make bombs with the information, but you can also make imaging systems to detect disease.

  3. I am one of those older people 🙂 In my day, your parents just spoke about you at the backyard fence, and you liked it.

    I don’t think it’s unethical or immoral to write about your kids, but I think it’s disingenuous to think that it won’t affect them, that they’ll be fine with it, that no harm no foul if everyone else is doing it too. I think it is a fine balance. And it’s one that has to be made individual to individual.

  4. Thank you. You put in to words a lot of what I was thinking. It is a balance of course, but we as humans connect so much through sharing our stories, and I honestly believe (some would say naively) that there is so much good in the Internet that comes from finding others with shared stories and realizing that we’re not alone. But when our struggles involve our children, there is no way to share our stories and connect with others without including at least some of our children’s stories. I think it’s absolutely possible to do so in a way that respectful and balanced.

  5. I agree – there is no simple line between your kids’ lives and your own. If I took Mel’s idea to its extremes, I wouldn’t have anything left to write about. My interesting stories wouldn’t be interesting if they had no human interaction. I have kept the idea in mind that it isn’t fair to over-share about others’ lives so I have written nothing I regret about my daughter. I have written things I regret, though, about my family (but it was part of my IF experience so I felt it was important to be honest about it).

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