When I first started blogging at Portrait of an Adoption, my oldest child was in kindergarten; my youngest child wasn’t yet born. There was no end to acceptable fodder for my parenting blog, and every day I shared funny stories about what my toddlers said and did. The kids were so very young that when I analyzed their lives online, nothing too terrible was revealed. After all, when your daughter’s worst transgression is throwing a shit-fit because she doesn’t want to stay with a babysitter, there isn’t a huge feeling of invading her privacy by writing about it.
But the kids are growing up.
My oldest is a nine-year-old now, and her life is her own. In the past year, I’ve noticed that I have made a subtle shift in the way that I write my blog posts. I increasingly write about my 2-yr-old girl and my 5-yr-old girl, leaving more and more room for my 9-year-old to live offline.
Maybe I wouldn’t worry about this so much if my blog weren’t so widely read (a good problem, I do realize, most of the time). Many kind and loving people have taken a keen interest in my oldest daughter ever since she became an icon for Geek girls in November of 2010. My adopted, Star Wars-loving, glasses-wearing first-grader was catapulted into the public arena, all because of a blog post that I wrote, and it has changed her life. I wrote that post for my small loyal group of followers – at that time, about 125 friends and family members—and it took on a life of its own.
Overwhelmingly, the response was and continues to be positive. Katie has been the beneficiary of an outpouring of love and generosity, the likes of which still astonish me. I have restructured my own life to devote hours and hours of time to doing anti-bullying advocacy, and I know I would never have had the platform to do this work without my blog. Thank you for that.
But there have been drawbacks. Katie never asked for any of this. She is inherently a publicity-shy person who would much prefer to have nobody ever recognize her. Does she adore her Star Wars toys and costumes and books? You bet. Does she want to do a TV or radio interview? Not on your life. She is just a kid.
Do you ever wonder about all those kids who are the unintentional participants in viral blog posts or viral YouTube videos? The kids whose parents uploaded a cute video and suddenly the whole world is watching and sharing it on Facebook? The kids whose moms wrote a blog post and now national TV new shows are calling? The kids whose name you Google and there are thousands and thousands of blog posts that have been written about them?
I can tell you about those kids. I know, because I have one of them. She often wants it to go away. She loves that I have a blog, and she loves what I write about, especially adoption and bullying. I know she is proud. But she doesn't want to talk about anything with strangers except on her terms when she initiates the discussion. I respect that.
In hindsight, I wish I had given my kids cute code names back when I started my blog—names like Jedi and Abraham Lincoln and Fuzzhead. Clueless at the time, I used their real names, because I assumed that only my mom, my mother-in-law and Katie’s birthmom would give two craps about reading my blog about my kids. The blog started as a chance to write about our open adoption and keep the family in the loop.
In our pre-blog life, my kids were happy having a mom who worked during the summers at her art shows but was largely available to them during the rest of the year. Now they have a mom who works all the time -- all the f*ing time – and they hate it. We went around the table on New Year’s Eve and we each said what our New Year’s resolutions would be. When it was my turn, I said that for my first resolution, I would try to work less. Katie literally exploded out of her chair in joy, screaming yes!!! and pumping her arms, telling me that if I worked less, that was the only resolution I needed.
I am sitting here in the library, plunking on the keys, pondering the animal that is the mom blog. It is a hungry beast. The Facebook page for the blog is always waiting to gobble down the next amusing status update. For a few hours, it is satisfied with a hilarious photo or a sentimental story, and then it starts looking for more, more, more.
You see, a blog isn’t just a blog any more. It’s a social media business, with divisions run by Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Huffington Post, and more. It’s a business that doesn’t look back at the three little kids upon whose back it was built, except to ask them to feed it early and often.
But as the CEO, I get to control the monster I’ve created.
As my blog has become more widely read, it has morphed into a forum to discuss far more than our family’s open adoption. And that morphing is where I think I have found the solution to my concerns.
Portrait is no longer just a Mom Blog. It is a Contemporary Culture blog, a Parenting blog, an Adoption blog, a Bullying blog, a Girl Empowerment blog. The freedom from the beast comes in realizing that it is no longer dependent on the lives of my girls as its fodder. I learned this two years ago when I began hosting a wildly popular guest post series each November called 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days.
I will continue to write about our wacky and amusing home life, but there will also be more guest posts on Portrait going forward, as well as my musings on increasingly broad topics. For the past year, I have asked myself before every post I publish, how would my children feel if this post went viral? How would my kids feel if this post didn’t go viral, but their friends could find it and read it one day? As a result of this litmus test, I write about a lot of things, but there are far more things in our lives that I don’t write about, and I am glad to have these boundaries.
Actually, I recommend to EVERYONE that you ask yourself, before you post a picture or video or blog post or Facebook status, How would I or my loved ones feel if this were to go viral? I certainly plan to teach my girls to ask this of themselves when they are users of technology.
There is nothing that I have ever published that I wish I could delete, and as a blogger, that is a really good feeling. I intend to keep it that way. I will be referring to my girls less and less by specific name in my blogs, and more and more as “my daughter.”
Additionally, I will mostly feature previously published photos of Katie, so she will be somewhat frozen at her current age, offering her a measure of privacy from being identified by the mass public as she grows older and older. When my younger daughters hit their tweens, I’ll do the same for them. I will change and grow with my girls. After all, even the kids of Mommy bloggers have to grow up.
Portrait of an Adoption is hosted by Carrie Goldman, author of Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear.