Friday, October 02, 2009

"Jon & Kate," Christopher Robin, and "mommy blogging": An Unscientific Survey

During my recent blogging hiatus, I may have stopped posting but I never stopped reading.

One article that I read, in Newsweek, was by Julia Baird, entitled Stealing Neverland, and subtitled "Parents, children and the wages of betrayal." The article appeared in the September 21 issue of the magazine (where I saw it).

I encourage you to read it.

Ms. Baird writes about a controversial British author, Julie Myerson. Myerson used to write a column for the Guardian called "Living With Teenagers." The columns were written under a pseudonym but someone figured it all out and her children paid the price in teasing.

Were that all, perhaps, it might have been alright: Look, she might have said, you were ostracized in school, but it put you through college. Although even that might not have been sufficient for the son who was dubbed "Mr. Three Hairs" from a column "about her kids sprouting pubic hairs."

But the end of the column was not the end of Myerson's revelations about her family. One of her children has had some serious troubles in his life and Myerson has written about that, too. An excerpt from Ms. Baird's column:

Undeterred, Myerson went on to write a darker, more dramatic and awful book about her teenage son's drug use, Lost Child, just released in the U.S. In it she claims that her son Jake became addicted to skunk, a particularly potent form of marijuana. She was forced to kick him out of the family home when he was only 17, she writes, after he lied, stole, got a girl pregnant (his parents paid for the abortion), and hit his mother so hard that he perforated her eardrum. The subtitle is A Mother's Story.

For this, Myerson has become one of the most vilified women in Britain. Her son says he feels betrayed, and told one reporter he wants to change his last name to Karna, after a Hindu warrior who was rejected by his mother.

Baird's column begins with the sad example of the real Christopher Robin, Christopher Robin Milne, son of A.A. Milne, who came to hate and loathe Winnie the Pooh and all the other denizens of the Hundred Acre Wood that your kids, and mine, so loved. Milne fils felt as if his father had robbed him of his good name and left him with the empty fame of being his father's son.

And in the last couple of days, of course, we have had a fresh eruption of the Greek Tragedy of Jon & Kate Plus 8 and Assorted Lovers on the Side. (Is that the current title of the show or am I misinformed?)

Of course, I've never seen even one minute of that show, nor will I ever, unless tied down and forced -- but it is impossible to not see articles about it in the press.

You have to wonder how those kids can hope to grow up normally -- to even survive relatively uninjured.

But all this makes me stop and think: Are we "mommy bloggers" hurting our kids by writing about them?

I include myself as a "mommy blogger" because I think the term has come to mean anyone who chronicles their family life -- although usually the chroniclers are women.

I have the cover of anonymity -- which I've said from the start was assumed to protect my kids from embarrassment.

Not that I can hope to do this completely.

As those of you with teenagers, or now ex-teenagers, know, teens are embarrassed merely by their parents' continuing existence. Publishing virtually anything about them in print or on line, where one of their own might see it, would presumably be mortifying. At the very least.

(And this even with the abuse they heap on one another daily with Facebook -- or even with their own cell phones -- injuring others and often themselves worst of all.)

Baird's column and the ongoing Jon & Kate debacle are both good starting points, though, for discussion: Mommy bloggers are doing on line what moms have done for decades -- centuries, surely -- over the back fences, at the grocery store -- after church on Sunday -- talking about their kids. Sharing the kids' struggles and foibles as well as their triumphs.

But now it's in writing.

And anyone can read it.

And it may be around forever.

So the question: How much online revelation is too much?

I'd like to hear from you -- and anyone else you can prompt to comment -- on this.


susan said...

Marking this one as "unread" because I think it will take a fair bit of mulling over before I can figure out where my lines are drawn. Quite a provoking way to start the weekend... Thanks? :)

dick7517 said...

I am a American living in the Philippines. I never thought I would enjoy a blog like yours but I read it everyday it is available

Shelby said...

well.. pausing.. this is a touchy subject for me.. more pausing.. I try to be kind in writing about my kids.. it would sometimes be easy not to be kind (and perhaps I have not been so kind really).. but I too am somewhat anonymous. Although I am somewhat anonymous to the world, my kids do know my blog address. I don't think they read it tho.

I am fairly certain my kids's friends (or t heir parents) do not read my blog. If, by chance, they do happen upon it, I don't think they'd find it all that interesting quite frankly.

But still.. this is something to think about.

katherine. said...

my kids are between 19 and 27. They all know about the weblog...but only the oldest has ever objected to something I have posted....and then only once.

I wish that digital cameras and weblogs were more prevalent when they were little. The adulthood is much better documented. smile.

My mother would be less than thrilled with a few things I have posted...and if my sister ever stumbled across the weblog there would great consternation and possible litigation.