Wednesday, May 28, 2008

On Me

We are currently parenting three children, one of whom is a lot of work, and that is all I am going to say about that.

Meta Interjection

I sat down last night to write a post about the mommy blogging brouhaha, and then I stopped, because I know how I feel but, really, who cares? Only it seems relevant here. The (shopworn) issue is whether mommy bloggers are bad child abusers (uh, that's a summative paraphrase), and I found the latest iteration on Katie Granju's blog, which led me to Dooce, and then Cecily wrote about it and apparently Kathy Lee Gifford is involved, but that's as far as I'm going to go.

Obviously I have something of a dog in this fight (my least favorite phrase of one of my least favorite ex-colleagues who used to deploy it faux-negatively, i.e. "I don't have a dog in this fight," whenever he most obviously did) because I am something of a mommy blogger, though you may have noticed a lot less of my kids here, corresponding, not coincidentally, to a lot less of me.

Referencing Dooce and Cecily's defenses of mommy blogging, I agree that the danger of exposing your kids on the internet is overrated. In this day and age, our kids are exposed everywhere: just to take mine: in photos from children's theater plays on the theater company website, in camp promotional materials, in school directories, etc. The kids who are really overexposed are Suri and Shiloh, and I don't see anyone going to town on celebrities the way they attack mommy bloggers.

I'm also not too concerned about making money off your kids (see Suri and Shiloh). We all need to make money somehow.

I do have to say that the "we are telling the truth about motherhood!" argument doesn't do much for me. Women have been telling the truth about motherhood since Erma Bombeck and Jean Kerr (I'm pretty sure I stole this argument from Dawn), and certainly since Annie Lamott, and the truth is pretty much out there by now, making this particular brand of truth telling not so much the radical act people claim. We could also go into the history of feminism and the original meaning of the personal is political, but we won't. Then again, I find Bitch old hat and boring and the 23 year olds I know love it, so maybe I've just been around too long.

But the issue which Cecily never addresses and Dooce addresses only to dismiss is the issue of a child's autonomy. To write about your child--really, to write about anyone else--is to coopt their experience and hence their control over their experience. Dooce says in her post and I've heard Catherine Newman say in person that they're going to hate us anyway, so they may as well hate us for this, but it seems to me that sharing your child's difficulties in school with the internet (random choice of issue) is very different from dressing your child in a funny hat or refusing to let her watch Disney. Both, I think, are about us controlling our children, which is surely our right as parents, but in the latter instances we are doing what we think is right for our children, and it's pissing them off, at the moment or later. Whereas in the former...hmm, what are we doing? I think maybe we are taking control of our children's narratives, which are, I would say, I think, much more their own than their bodies or time. Actually, maybe I want to say that their narratives should be their own, that they have a right to their narratives that they don't fully have to their bodies or time (oh man, that's kind of messed up: obviously they have a right to their bodies, especially when it comes to abuse, but a child does not, I think, have a right to decide to wear sandals in winter, though an adult does--again, maybe I should say SHOULD not instead of DOES not).

I'm not being my usual incisive self here, but I hope my point is clear. And it applies to more than children: it's why I try not to write about my husband, parents, or sister in anything but complimentary, humorous, or generically complaining terms (i.e. it is OK to complain about S putting the butter away in the dish cupboard, which combines #2 and 3, but I would never blog about the things he does that truly make me crazy). It's why I'm not Emily Gould, though I will say that Emily Gould is largely writing about people who have also chosen to put themselves out in public. It's also, of course, an issue with memoir, and I'm thinking in particularly of the bad parent memoir, and for some reason in particular of The Liar's Club, which I quite loved but which nevertheless makes me uncomfortable, except that I think I might say that Karr's mother gave up some of her autonomy by her actions, in a way small children simply can't. Same thing for Without a Map. I guess the other thing I think about memoir is that there's a lot more lag time in creation and production, so that I would assume (hope!) Meredith Hall reviewed her book with her son and got his OK, which is simply not going to happen with a blog post about a nine year old.

Anyway, there's my raggedy opinion, and it's one of the reasons this blog is dying, and it's why you will hear no more specifics about there now being three children in this family, though you may continue to hear the occasional cute E story (like her falling asleep at the KT Tunstall concert).

Back to Me

Oh man, I went on with that a lot longer than I meant to. If anyone is still reading, what I really wanted to write about is the effect that a much more intensified parenting life is having on me. Right now, I think about kids pretty much all the time. I go to bed thinking about kids, I wake up thinking about kids, and I work really hard not to think about kids when I go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, because I know that if I do I'll never get back to sleep. I'm thinking about three kids and their issues and their schedules and when their projects are due and what they need for camp. I'm thinking, constantly, about whether everyone is getting enough attention, and who I need to call to make sure everyone is getting what they need. Just about the only thing I don't think about is what they're having for lunch and whether they're getting off to school on time, because that is S's domain, and that's when I go running.

I tip my hat to parents of three children and parents of children with needs.

But you know what? The main thing that all this parenting does is make me want to work. I'm dying to get to my work. I love going to work, even with my cellphone ringing constantly about these children, because I love thinking about something that is not these children and I especially love getting things done. Solving work problems is the best thing in the world, especially when there are home problems that you just don't know if you will ever solve.

Sometimes I've thought that one of the reasons I can work and be so committed to work is having easy kids, but clearly that's not it at all.


Jenny Davidson said...

Yes, DEFINITELY don't start thinking about the kids when you go to the bathroom in the middle of the night!!!

M said...

what about cute M stories?!?

Robin Aronson said...

I have to say, I disagree with you on the point that when you write about someone you coopt their experience. When you write about someone, you tell how you experienced what happened to someone else or how you experienced something that happened between you and that person, which is different, I think, from attempting to say what that person felt when she experienced the thing you're describing. (That's the work of biography.) That said, there are limits we all could and should think about, limits that allow us to draw the line between being self-conscious (or self aware) about how when we tell a story about someone we love we risk hurting that person and making them feel like we've coopted their story (even though we can't) and just blustering ahead and saying "This happened to X and this is how I think about it. For example, I believe that when his daughters turned 12, Calvin Trillin stopped writing about them. They were their stories, then, he wrote. So maybe Trillin is proving me wrong, or maybe he's just showing where his line was drawn. All this makes me want to re-read Janet Malcolm's book The Invisible Woman. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it. The point is, even biographers can't tell other people's stories, only their versions of them...and that possessive pronoun means something more significant than we usually allow.