Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Addiction, blogging and the slippery slope

I am a bit addicted to blogging.

Like most writers, I constantly mine my own life for writing material. I admit I am flirting with addiction because sometimes, in the midst of an everyday crisis or a funny moment or even a poignant one, I think, This is going to make a really good blog post.

But I don’t think I really have a problem.

I think Lenore Skenazy has a problem.

Lenore Skenazy is the writer for the New York Sun who was all over the media last week after she wrote this piece about her decision to let her nine-year-old son navigate his way home on the New York City subway by himself.

She thinks parents are way too over protective and that they need to let their children be more independent and I don’t disagree, though I do think leaving a nine-year-old child alone to fend for himself anywhere is nuts.

But that’s not what really grabbed me about her story and the resultant controversy.

What bothered me all week is the worry that Ms Skenazy slid all the way to the bottom of a slippery slope that could one day trip me up as well.

I have never put Graham in an unsafe situation because I think it would make for interesting reading and I never will. But I think all writers who document their experiences for public consumption run the risk of falling prey to the desire to give people something truly gripping to read.

I think Ms Skenazy feels passionately that children today are over-parented and she knows that this is a hot-button issue for many people. I think she is a savvy journalist who carefully considered how she could make a compelling statement that would focus a lot of media attention on the subject, spark controversy and ensure that her views would reach a large audience.

I think she gambled with her son’s safety because she knew it would make a hell of a story.

Last weekend Rob and I talked about taking Graham to the zoo this summer. I’m looking forward to it and during the discussion I heard myself say, "It’ll be great. I’ll take so many pictures - it’ll make such a cute blog post."

Not until Rob gave me a look did I realize that without even thinking I had considered whether an activity we all enjoy would also translate into something my readers could consume. In just a split second, I considered whether a normal family activity was worthy of documentation and thought about how I would do it.

Many times, I admit, I have thought about how much great material is sure to be generated as Graham grows and struggles to grapple with the world around him. And then I feel just a little guilty that I so obviously mine his life for writing material just as I have always mined my own.

I will not be letting Graham ride the subway in New York City or anywhere else when he is nine years old, no matter how many people would show up to read about it.

But I have pulled out a camera to capture a temper tantrum rather than deal with it straight away. I did get in a few shots of his discomfort in some designer overalls that I loved but knew didn’t fit him. And I am the one who took pains to point out what may one day make him a target for bullies.

And these things I fear, my friends, may well put me on the edge of the slippery slope that Ms Skenazy slithered down earlier this month.

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66 comments:

MamaGeek said...

Ah, yes. I get this post. I really do. Some things are just left for the "OTHER BLOG" (aka, the scrapbook).

Kupiec Baby Blog said...

I think we have all been guilty of looking at situations and wondering in the back of our mind how they might possibly translate to a blog posting. But, I don't think that is a bad thing. Someday your blog will be an amazing reminder to your kids of their childhood adventures. I think they, probably more than anyone, will appreciate that you captured memories such as temper tantrums and zoo trips in your blog postings.

tommie said...

That woman did more than slip down the slope....she went straight for the Crazyade!

I know I frequently look at things in 'blog-spective'. I think it comes with the territory of when you put your life out there.

Heather said...

Well, I do have to say that I took photos of my kids' temper tantrums before I had a blog. I was just chronicling their lives in photos. Life just isn't all rosy and I wanted photos of real life not just the special moments.

I also catch myself composing blogs in my head, usually when I'm driving somewhere. Probably not the greatest time, but that's when it happens.

I've tried to make a conscious effort to NOT think about my blog when we're doing family stuff because I want to be present in the moment. If it makes a good blog post, it will later because I remember it well from actively participating in the moment.

I hope anyway.

That woman is crazy. You are no where near there.

Mac and Cheese said...

Apples to oranges. I can't see you ever sliding down that slope.

Amy said...

While we all may be slightly addicted - there could be worse addictions. You shouldn't worry as you haven't crossed the line. The mother of the 9 year-old is surely a cook! No worries for you.

Stomper Girl said...

Only slightly addicted? I know I've had to hold back on a few stories that would have been good material because I have to think of my kids reading it back when they are teenagers!

Karen said...

I know what you mean. While on vacation I couldn't help thinking "this will be a great post!" But I like to record them so that we can look back someday when memories fade and remember the little things that made us laugh.

OHmommy said...

Hmmmm... I blogged about something smiliar tonight. About why I blog.

I can't wait to talk to you. Really, I can't.

LaskiGal said...

You are not alone . . . nope. Currently attending BA--blogaholics anonymous. Care to join? :)

Dawn said...

I've been given that look by my husband also when he thinks I'm going down that slippery slope. I make up little rules for what I'll blog about and not but I do admit I'm a little addicted ;)

HRH said...

Sign me up for the slippery slope...hopefully not completely slid to the bottom.

The Boyds Family said...

I think we are all guilty of looking for blog stories in our daily activities - and when you have kids (as most of us do) that usually includes them and their lives too. However, I think you have a pretty firm footing on that slippery slope and as long as you continue wearing your safety belt, you're gonna be just fine.

Take care.
Yvette

JCK said...

Just the fact that you are aware of it will keep you from sliding. But, I do hear what you are saying and you just have to find out where you feel comfortable drawing the line. And I think you already know that. :)

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I think planning a situation to blog about is totally different from making sure you've got the tools to blog about something you would do anyway.

I'll probably get crucified for saying this, but I'm not sure I think her letting her son ride the subway was necessarily bad. It really depends on the kid, and the environment he's been raised in.

Many years ago, when my husband was out of town, I got very sick. For a solid week my kindergartener got his younger siblings fed, dressed, and packed lunches while I lay on the couch. If we were New Yorkers I might have trusted him on the subway.

flutter said...

can I beat the hell out of her, please?

Kat said...

Yeah I totally get what you mean. I also think most of us bloggers have been there (and never left).

Tootsie Farklepants said...

Seriously? I'm 36 and would be very nervous to navigate the NY subway system alone. Good grief some people.

What? Why yes it is 1am on the west coast. Problem? What problem?

Sass E-mum said...

I've been on the end of that look. Keeping the blog in perspective is very important.

I don't think I've thought about the whole bullying aspect of things. I may need to be more careful with what I post particularly as Ellie gets older.

Momma said...

I, too, think about how something that occurs will play out on my blog, whether it will be a good post or not. I suppose it can be a slippery slope, but as a writer, I love that it keeps me sharp. I notice the world around me. I interpret it consciously. Would I do that as much if I had no daily creative outlet? Maybe not.

But yes, my son has said to me once or twice, "You put that in your BLOG?? Mom!"

:-)

Peace - D

chelle said...

When I read the article I had a completely different approach to it. I remember walking to school on my own when I was five. That is absolutely unheard of now. Why must our children be monitored every moment of the day? What happened to some independence and childhood exploration? Must we live off the grid to make that happen? Or can we teach our children how to navigate their environment safely?

I am totally addicted to blogging. I love sharing my world.

Melisa said...

I agree with Jenn @ juggling life: although I may not have necessarily made the same choice with my own kid at nine, I live in the suburbs and not the city. I do think that a city kid needs to have certain skills, and determining what a kid is ready for should sometimes be decided not by numerical age, but more by level of maturity and street smarts. (Obviously a youngster could be attacked by an adult while riding the subway alone, but this could also happen while walking home from school.)

Lenore was on the Today Show with her son Izzy a couple of weeks ago (Here's the link...http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23935873/) and although I would agree that she probably knew in advance that it would make a good column, I don't necessarily think she's a bad mom because she let her son do it.

In regards to my own "photos for blog posts", I admit I have said, "That would make a great photo for a blog!" too...but I am a chronic photographer anyway when it comes to my kids and I've always taken photos of them crying or being dressed unusually or whatever...

Tracey said...

I have definitely thought that an outing or a certain picture might be great for a blog post, but I also used to scrapbook all the time (supplies are getting really dusty now!) and I used to take pictures with THAT in mind, too. I figure, any way that you can document your kid's life that isn't harmful to them (ie, too much personal information on the net) is a good thing. This part of our lives passes so quickly, and they change every day. If you don't record it every chance you get, you will lose it!!

I know that I would NEVER let my 9 year old do the subways, but that is me. However, what exactly IS the "right" age to do that? 10? 12? Is 13 suddenly and magically old enough to be responsible?

And I read your post on Graham's feet, and my heart just broke for your new mama's realization of how exposed our babies are to the world. Sigh... I never thought that being a mom would make me want to hurt any kid that makes mine feel bad. But it has, and I literally COULD strangle an 8 year old for picking on my babies!!

Holly said...

I did not read through all of the comments (yet) so forgive me if I say something in duplicate.

We all struggle with that slope, but I'm sure you and I and the rest of this gang have enough brainpower to know when the slope is about to turn into a mudslide.

Blogging is like scrapbooking. I used to work in a Scrapbook Store and I heard over and over again how people matched up their kids clothes just so it would match the paper they wanted to use. I know we're all guilty of repeating in our heads "this is gonna make a great blog". Harmless if everyone stays safe. NOT harmless if we turn into crazy New York chick. Eek.

Paper Propaganda said...

I'm very much like that though... I do the same thing. Or say to my friends, I'm going to blog about this later!! haha, it's kind of a threat, but not really. I also make my kids wear certain things for scrapbooking purposes. Subway? Never... haha. I like your blog, I found it through Mytwocents blog... it's funny! I'm adding you to my list! :)

Jenifer said...

You have never crossed the line in any way...putting your child on the subway alone...way over the line.

angie said...

Oh crap. I think I'm on that slope too. :)

crazymumma said...

uh huh. At least she didn't justify attending him on the subway because she was too busy blogging.

caramama said...

I've really had to watch my lines, because I would say just about anything while my husband would prefer certain things to be private. He is also much more worried about internet safety in addition to privacy. So I often have to say to myself, would hubby be okay if I posted this?

In other words, hubby is my hand hold to keep me from going down the slippery slope. But he can't help me with my blog addiction. hehe.

Kyla said...

I think all reasonable parents (excluding parents like Ms. Skenazy) know where to draw the line. Sure we blog about our lives, about our children's lives, but I don't feel it is harmful in any way.

Crazymumma's comment made me laugh.

Kyla said...

Also, Bea wrote a post a year (or maybe two) ago discussing how blogging, the act of looking at her life through her writer's eyes, made her more aware of it and more appreciative of it. I think quite often that is a benefit of rifling through our lives for blog fodder. We take the time to really look at things that might just slip past us otherwise.

April said...

Someone else wrote recently about having to watch themselves while talking to people IRL about their bloggy friends because everyone looks at them like they're crazy. I tend to go with, "I read somewhere that..."
I really hope you're wrong about why she wrote the column, though. My friend and I were talking about it because we've both got 10-yr-old kids, and neither of us can imagine it! But neither of us want to be helicopter parents either. We're hoping that something will kick in to let us know when it's time to let go a little.

GoMommy said...

What a great post-I never considered the effects this blog could have on my kids later on. I've been thinking of taking a blogger break for a while now- it's hard to know what to share and where you draw the line.

Kitty said...

I call it 'blog fodder' and am guilty of it. On a daily basis. Something happens and you think 'hmmmm - that'll make good blog fodder'. x

Mandy said...

Well, it's a complicated topic to sum up in a few words. However, I feel that while Lenore Skenazy knew that it would be a controversial topic, I don't think that she put her son in danger. I do think we over-parent our kids. If I take her at her word, she did not put her son kicking and screaming on the subway.

Regarding blogging, well, we all have our own lines. Some people blog about their intimate family details or very personal problems. Everyone makes their own decisions. What is important is what YOU are comfortable with doing.

An interesting topic though, and thanks for sharing your thoughts on it!

Rima said...

I grapple with the slippery slope issue, too. Right now, I think that blogging about "cute things" my kids do is fairly harmless, but I know that the implications of writing about them will change as they get older.

It's not a phenomenon entirely unique to blogging, though, is it? Anyone who writes autobiographically in any venue must surely find it necessary to address these issues.

Urban Daddy said...

Interest assessment of the situation. I had not seen it until just now, and I did at first think, wow that would make a great... scrapbook page because UrbanMummy ran a scrapbook store out of our house and online for about 5 years and that came to mind, but yet, as bloggers, that would make a great story to write about, and it her sole reason for potentially putting her sons life in danger was for something to write about, then shame on her! There is help for all things obsessive...

That being said...

... back to more blogs. :)

Victoria said...

I loved this! I took photos and chronicled my kids' lives before they were born, so blogging feels natural for me.

But I think "This would make great blog material" much too often. =)

common mom said...

Life, yours or anyone else's, is ultimately what inspires every story/book/movie out there, right? It's inevitable . . . but having the talent to take everyday occurances and make them into a compelling story is what makes some people writers, and others not. Writing is a gift and should be shared with the world :-)

Now on to the safety/overprotection of our kids. I loved her article. While I'm with you and wouldn't leave my 9 year old alone anywhere to find his own way home (I don't have a 9 year old yet), I did get reamed for my decision to leave my 7 year old home alone after school for a whopping 15 minutes - the time difference between when the bus drops him off and when I can leave work, get my daughter from school, and get home. 15 minutes!!! I was home all summer with my 8 year old brother when I was 5 . . . and nobody thought that was strange. I'm alive, I'm independent, and I thank my parents every day for the opportunity to learn on my own and make them proud. "We" don't give our kids enough opportunities to think for themselves and learn from the natural consequences. You learn by doing . . . not by being sheltered and talked at.

Oz said...

Yeah, I've had that "this would be good for the blog" feeling, but I also think one of the reasons we have so many pictures of our boy is the blog. Without it, I'm sure I'd let the documenting of his babyhood slide. You're right, though - it's a slippery slope.

kittenpie said...

What I notice is it sometimes makes me pay attention more to details of life.

But it's interesting - I had heard the kid was 11, to which my response was that it would depend on the kid, because I was totally on the subway at 10, but pre-prepped with a few rides with my mom so I knew my way, and I was a very reliable kid. 9 seems young, however, no matter how level-headed or street-savvy the kid is.

Cecily R said...

Well, since I recently posted a picture of Evie screaming her guts out, I clearly understand what you're saying here. I am definately sliding that slope too.

I will say this, it has changed my perspective on the way I handle the little inconveniences of life. When my car breaks down and I have to get a ride home from Gracie's kindergarten teacher, I think, well, at least it will make a good blog post!! Blog silver lining...:)

Elaine A. said...

Interesting post... it's really got me thinking. I am towing that line somewhat myself these days. We had an outing the other day where I left my camera at home and I actually felt sort of "free" without it and I didn't blog about it, even though it SO could have been blog worthy...

Joanna said...

Okay, everyone else said everything I was thinking so what they said. :)

Backpacking Dad said...

Place newly-standing baby on a small table to take a picture to send to the blog? Check.

I really like the perspective you brought to the Free Range Kids stuff: no matter the overall philosophy of parenting that it promotes, if she made a very specific choice to take a risk (even one that I'm kind of ok with) because she wanted to write about it, that's...I don't know...

Muncheusen?

nomotherearth said...

I find that I do the same type of things with photos. It bugs the Boy when I make him go back and do something cute that he just did, so that I can get a photo for the blog. Bad Nomo!

La La said...

I don't have my own kids and my life is pretty dull, but I've wanted to blog about my students and I've had to refrain from it. Their stories are not mine to tell, and even though what I've wanted to write is part of my story as a teacher, I've had to re-evaluate whether or not this would be a good idea.

I've only been blogging for a few months (maybe 6), and at first I did write about them, but recently, I felt compelled to take most of it down even though I was pretty careful about what I did write.

So, alas, I'm still trying to find a blogging voice, or maybe it's that I'm still trying to find a life!

Angie said...

This is brilliant. This blogging thing is making lots of us tread in different waters. I think, when you have an AHA! moment like you just did realizing that an every day fun family or otherwise activity can have an angle, we may be going too far.

KEEP BELIEVING

Lisa said...

I think we've all done that to one level or another. Not neccesarily putting our kids in danger, but thinking about the potential post when something is happening.....the upside of this is that we'll have all of those fun times recorded instead of having them slip from our memories...

Mighty Morphin' Mama said...

I have to say that I have never thought of this issue from this perspective. But I do not consider myself a journalist in any way, in that I do not write for others, mostly, I consider myself a journal-writer who is recording her family life for herself and her children to look back on.
On the over-protective thing? Yes we as a society are definitely over-protective and it is something I personally have to keep tabs on in my life and make sure my kids have plenty of opportunities to take calculated risks and build independence.

SuburbanCorrespondent said...

Ooh, baby, am I ever slip-slidin' away! I've caught myself composing blog posts in my head about things that have not happened, but could happen and wouldn't this be funny to write if it did? That's sick.

krissy said...

I totally agree with you! Her purpose was too engage media attention and was clearly not about her son. I just hope that she really didn't let him navigate NYC and that she was really behind him the entire time. I just think about how scared he was!

I do agree that we over parent sometimes and I am the first to want to kick a 10yr olds butt for hurting my daughters feelings, but there should be a line between that and endangering you child.

I need to get off this subject b/c it makes my blood boil!

Shellie said...

I kinda do it backwards. The blog is my preserving of thoughts and memories, things that I want to "save" before my head explodes. I actually started e-mailing family and when they told me how much they laughed at my kid's antics, I found they weren't so hard to take, I mean at least someone was going to get a good laugh out of my misery. It's much more likely that I will laugh as I go now too, seeing it from that perspective. Then I discovered after I started blogging, it could also be a way to make friends and get some feedback on things and find others suffering similar fates to mine. I figure, if no one likes reading this, my kids and grandkids won't want to either. I see what you mean though, one must be careful!

Tot's Mom said...

Yes, blogging is addictive. Everyday, my mind is in hyperactive drive thinking of blog posts!!

E said...

Look, photographing a tantrum is way better than having your own. He needed to have it and you needed to sit with it.
Thinking about writing about something, really is only a way to observe and stay present with it. Sometimes the present is hard, and removing yourself just a bit into the realm of writing about it, keeps you both in the moment while simultaneously giving you the space to be there.
I think you are fine. And you love to write. And you are good at it.....These are good things Diva

Bea said...

The only condition more alarming than blog addiction is the sudden and inexplicable waning of one's blog addiction. Trust me, it's worse.

Karen C. said...

It is for this very reason that I took a short hiatus from blogging. But I'm back now with a new perspective! Thanks for sharing your stories...I love them!

Amy said...

I am appalled by the journalist. At the same time I can see the slippery slope for the precipice I stand on.

Karen MEG said...

I hear ya Kelly. Sometimes I'll pull out the camera while we're out and about, and hubs will ask if it will be blog fodder. I'll admit before I took my little blog hiatus (of all of 3 days LOL!) the blog came first. But now, especially since hubs realized that there are more than a couple of people actually READING my blog, I'm trying to be a bit more conscious of what I blog about; and what I will keep to ourselves.

Brilliant as always!

Sue said...

Could not, would not, put my 9 year old in that position. She freaks if she can't find me down an aisle in the grocery store. I can't imagine the therapy sessions .....

I don't think thinking "oh this would make a good blog" compares to getting paid for writing articles on how you left your kid at the mall.

Ugh!

SciFi Dad said...

I think there is a difference between manufacturing a post and creating a post. Allow me to explain.

When I say "Creating a post", I mean the process of looking at life as it is happening and thinking, "documenting this could turn into a good post", or perhaps grabbing a photo to capture a moment and thinking, "my readers would probably enjoy this".

Contrast that with what I'm calling "manufacturing a post" (aside: I don't actually use these terms regularly or anything; I just made them up to differentiate between two schools of thought), where you actively make decisions to acquire blog posts.

I think the former is part of the blogging experience, at least the mommy/daddy blogger one. You see a moment and capture it with words and/or photos. I think the latter leads to the slope you are right to fear. When we start adjusting our lives to accommodate our blog, or worse, when we feel compelled to "make something" for our blog, then perhaps we need to step back and reconsider what we are doing and why.

For example, I wouldn't call your post about his potential bullies (which, btw wasn't what I took from the post) manufacturing; it's not like you forced him into uncomfortable shoes to make him pigeon toed (you didn't, right? because if you did, well then yes you have a problem... ;) ).

womaninawindow said...

Wow, it's difficult enough to weigh right and wrong between two parents, let alone dragging the blogging world along for the ride. There's always a line of grey seperating us from ridiculous people, hungry for a story to ruminate 'bout for a blog or our own old age, but let's keep 'em alive in the meantime. I'm with you. I'll lay my camera down a little more often.

zoom said...

Hmmm, I didn't think she was crazy to let her kid take the subway alone. Public perceptions of crime are WAY over-the-top relative to the reality of crime (blame the endless crop of crime tv shows). Kids are being parented as if the public perceptions were accurate, which they are not.

If she had put her kid on the subway before he was ready so she could write about it, that would be wrong - but I see no evidence of that.

On the subject of blogging...I think because we have to come up with fresh topics ALL THE FREAKIN' TIME, we train ourselves to see the blogging potential in every experience. I call it Blogger's Eye, and I see it as a good thing: it keeps our blogs fresh and our writerly minds focused on ideas.

Does it alter the experience? Yes, I believe it sometimes does. Again, not necessarily a bad thing. Unless, instead of being out there enjoying the experience, our minds are already back home writing about it. (I believe it's possible to do both simultaneously though: you can be in the moment while mentally documenting the moment.)

I think a lot of kids got to do a lot of things they might not otherwise have done had it not been for scrapbooking. I know moms who took their kids to the zoo, to the circus, to all kinds of things, because they wanted to do those pages.

It might not have been the BEST reason to give their kids these experiences, but so what? The kids still got to go to the zoo.

Damselfly said...

I don't think you are anything like that. I know you are worried about the "slippery slope," but just the fact you are worried about it means you aren't going there.

Becky said...

Wow! I had not read that before.

You know, we have a saying around our house that goes like this, "Somebody has to be the parent!"

I think you are right on all levels.

amanda said...

haven't read the article yet, but when we lived in nyc i remember being blown away by the kids riding the subway to school. as a small town girl who herself was very scared of the subway - i just couldn't get over it. some of the kids were younger than my class of 3rd graders!!

k - i am going to go read now :)