Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Overshare

Recently, Kathleen over at AMOMENT2THINK took the ControverSunday reins and was on a mission to bring it back from its summer slump. We all voted and commented and agreed that we would post once a month instead of once a week, so as not to feel overwhelmed. Additionally, to minimize the tendency many of us had to rely on the lax posting schedule and decide on Tuesday that everything had already been said so there wasn't any point in participating, posting will need to happen ON Sunday from now on.

Kathleen gave us all gentle reminders. She gave us a month's notice. And this slacker right here somehow still managed to not be ready. While the rest of you are dressed, showered, off to your corporate jobs, writing your ControverSunday posts, I'm sitting on the couch smoking pot and watching cartoons. And I'm all, "Oh, riiiigght. ControverSunday. Can I have an extra day? I just poured a new bowl of Cap'n Crunch and this episode of The Smurfs is my FAVORITE.

Oh, relax. It's a metaphor, people.

In any case, I'm going to give it a go. It is still Sunday, after all.


First of all, you should head over to Kathleen's ControverSunday post and read her post as well as those of the other participants she's linked to. I haven't read them yet because I'll just get intimidated and decide I have nothing of value to offer.

The topic this month is digital privacy. How much of our children's lives is it fair for us to share? Does it creep you out that most children have an online presence before they are two? In what way will this affect them in the future?

Given the outrageous number of times I've plastered Charlotte's bouncy, blonde curls and crooked smile all over this blog, I think you can guess where I come down on this. I have almost no qualms about sharing my life, and consequently, Charlotte's life, on the internet.

Obviously I am not alone. There are plenty of bloggers, all of whom have MUCH higher traffic and exposure than my little blog sharing pictures and embarrassing stories about their children to the delight and dismay of many readers.

Of course, there are just as many parents who keep the anonymity of their children (and themselves) protected. I suspect there are concerns I haven't even considered that prevent many moms and dads from exposing their kids to the big, bad internet. I respect any parent's decision to keep their loved ones away from prying eyes. Maybe you are concerned with safety. Maybe you don't like the idea that some pervert is walking around armed with the knowledge of your kid's likes and dislikes, location, schedule, and all other kinds of information they could use to lure your child into a van.

I get that. I really do. I think, though, that if you want to keep that information private, you need to be insanely diligent about your Facebook. In my mind, all the crazy privacy loopholes on Facebook are more dangerous than a blog by far. But, that isn't the point. The point is that even before all our kids lived on the internet, my mother warned me about strangers. She told me she would never send anyone to pick me up that I didn't know. If she had to, she would personally give me all the information I needed about this person. I was never to take anyone's word for it that they knew my mom, no matter how much information they seemed to have. I realize that social networking and blogging has exponentially increased these dangers, but my point is that teaching your kids lessons like that is essential, no matter what your stance on internet privacy happens to be.

I think, though, that for the most part, people keep their kids' identities a secret to respect their privacy. I'll admit, this one gives me pause occasionally. every once in a while I will be confronted with the admonition, "Your children will read your words one day." And, I'll think about it. I really will. But, I just can't, no matter how hard I try, make myself believe that Charlotte will resent me for telling stories about her keeping me up all night and saying cute toddler things. I don't even see her getting worked up over the occasional poop explosion cautionary tale. At least I don't provide visual evidence.

Parents share stories about their kids. They always have. Granted, these days the audiences are getting wider, but I don't see what I do as any different from swapping stories at the playground with the other moms. The only difference is that now the playground is limitless. The swings are in San Diego or Wisconsin, the slides are over in Canada. There's even some monkey bars in New Zealand! I love the way we can create communities for ourselves now based on common interests and like-mindedness, or even just with those whose opinions we value even when they differ. It's so much more rewarding than being limited to a Mommy and Me group based on nothing more than zip code.

Now, it gets a little different when you're talking about bloggers with celebrity status. Even though I am technically exposing Charlotte to potential haters and making her vulnerable to negative comments, let's face it: it just doesn't happen to me because no one knows about me. So, if you read my blog, it's because you either know me personally or have decided you like me. You don't read it because not reading it would be like missing the latest episode of Project Runway, and you don't want to be out of the loop. I can see the arguments against exposing your kids to the masses. But, I tend to think of it as inevitable. I think some kids have celebrity parents, and their lives are a little different from our kids' lives. And, all you can do is use as much tact and grace and decorum as possible.

I used to think it was arbitrary to stop writing about a child when they turned five or started kindergarten. I mean, they don't just become a person who deserves your discretion one day. They have always been that person. But, the more I think about it, the more I get it. As kids grow, they become more self-possessed. They have a greater understanding of who they are, and their wants and needs get more complex. If Charlotte ever came home from school upset with me because one of her friends made fun of her for an anecdote I shared in my blog, I would feel awful. So, it seems only fair to never share anything Charlotte hasn't expressly approved beforehand.

Is it unfair that she has no idea what I'm sharing now and might not give me permission if she could? Perhaps. But, I am willing to take this risk. I think the odds are in my favor. And as long as I never post a picture of her sitting on her potty, I think I'm golden.

Exploiting my husband AND my child in one fell swoop


  1. Yay, you posted!

    When my first son was a baby I was so insanely frustrated with my parents and in-laws, none of whom could remember CRUCIAL information about my babyhood (and my husband's babyhood) like - did I ever scream all night and was I ever calmed by a vacuum cleaner and when did my first tooth come in...this is the kind of thing I am happy to record for my kids in the event they ever have their own kids. It will be archived and searchable. Come on! How cool is that!

    "And, all you can do is use as much tact and grace and decorum as possible." Yes. Exactly.

  2. Well, You already have some knowledge of this. How did you like having YOUR life shared with 50,000 newspaper readers? I never identified you by name, although many people knew who you were. Your sister was only really annoyed that my column caused "unnecessary conversation" with her Latin teacher, whom she disliked. Did you feel exploited? Did you ever wish I wouldn't share things? I did attempt to not share what might expose you to ridicule (unless you were able to laugh at it yourself).

  3. I didn't think about the things I say about E as an angle of this, which I should have. Pictures are one thing, but if we're looking at the eventual "Mom, I can't believe you said that!" ramifications, well...E's privacy is probably less of an issue there. But I have talked about the rough time I had after his birth, and I do wonder what he would think about that. Not now, but when he's 10 or 20 or 30.

  4. I love your point about community and the slides all over the world. It is true, we are sharing the same stuff, but the audience is just bigger. Such is life in this digital world! And I agree that the community is so worth it!

  5. I love the intro. Smoking pot and watching smurfs. GOLD!

    I'm in the exact same thought boat as you too :)

    AND... Yay for monkey bars in New Zealand

  6. Oh, how I love your playground analogy. Seriously, I don't know if I've heard a better way to explain "mommyblogging" or parenting blogging.

    And I love how we pretty much are all on the same or similar page. I guess asking a bunch of bloggers was bound to have it happen :-)

  7. Wait a minute? I am not supposed to be as obsessed about your blog as some people are about Project Runway?