Yesterday I took Monkey to the post office with me to mail some packages. We frequent four different post offices, depending on where the errands of the day happen to take us, but yesterday we hit the one we go to most often, and the clerk recognized us. She chatted up Monkey (“How old are you now? What grade are you in?”) while I piled items on the counter.
She began going through the stack and stopped to look at the return address on one of the packages. “Now, what’s Want Not?” she asked, peering at my handwriting with a furrowed brow.
“It’s a bargain shopping website I run,” I responded, automatically, while digging for my wallet.
She nodded, but before she could respond, Monkey bounced into action.
“Yeah, my mom’s a blogger,” he told her, the same way I imagine he might say, “My mother is a total rock star.” I smiled weakly at the clerk, but before either of us could say anything, he continued: “She does that shopping blog, Want Not, and she has another blog where she writes about me and my sister, it’s called Woulda Coulda Shoulda! And then she writes for lots of other people and she is on the computer a whole lot. Doing writing. Woulda Coulda Shoulda is awesome.”
I put a hand on his shoulder and murmured, “That’s enough, honey.” The clerk was chuckling and I was waiting for a large hole in the floor to open up and swallow me.
“Oh, I don’t know… I might have to check out a site with deals, but then I might go spending…” she said.
“Oh, you totally should!” I responded. “WantNot.net. I’ll save you tons of money. Promise. And look, these boxes are prizes people have won from me for free, so, that doesn’t cost a thing. Here you go!” I handed her payment, collected my change as she promised to check it out, and still with a hand clamped onto my son’s shoulder, left the post office as quickly as possible.
“Hey Monkey,” I said, keeping my voice casual as he bounded down the steps, “it means a lot to me that you’re proud of what I do. But when we’re talking to people, I would rather you only mention Want Not if you want to tell them abut my blogging.”
He stopped cold. “Did I do something wrong?”
“No! No, honey, of course not. I’m not upset. I just mean, for next time, I’d prefer if you didn’t mention Woulda Coulda Shoulda.” (I did not bring up his proclamation of this blog as “awesome,” which is a little puzzling given that he’s never, ever read it. Maybe he just intuits its awesomeness? More likely he assumes that if he’s one of the topics, it can’t help but be awesome. That’s probably it.) “It’s just…” I struggled to pick the right words. “You know how I use pretend names for you and your sister, there?”
“I’m a MONKEY!” he crowed. “Oooh oooh ah ah!”
“Right, well, why do you think I do that?”
He thought for a moment. “Because you don’t want anyone to know who we are?”
“Kind of,” I said. “More like, this is something I’ve chosen to do, with my name on it, but you guys don’t really get a say in it, and I feel like it wouldn’t be right to just expose you to the world in a way where people could look you up for the rest of your lives and find out what I said about you when you were five, or whatever. Does that make sense?”
“Not really,” he said.
“Okay,” I said, “well look at it this way: If you tell that lady at the post office about the blog, then the next time we go in there, maybe she goes HEY, YOU’RE MONKEY! And then she hasn’t just been reading about some boy named Monkey, she’s been reading about YOU, and she knows things about YOU.”
“And then maybe someone would come kidnap me!” he added, as if that was the next logical conclusion. (Oh, McGruff, what in the world have you been telling my kids??)
I couldn’t help laughing. “No, sweetie. I don’t think anyone is going to kidnap you. Not even if they knew you were the Monkey from the blog. It’s more… it’s just about privacy. There’s nothing wrong with people knowing it’s you. But I’ve worked hard to keep you and your sister kind of private from the world, even though I write about you a lot, because I want that to be a choice you can make when you’re older, whether or not you feel comfortable with everyone knowing it’s you. Does that make sense?”
“I guess,” he said. “But I don’t care if people know.”
“I know you don’t right now,” I conceded. “And maybe you never will. But I kind of do. Maybe it doesn’t matter, but I kind of like just being your mom, running errands, around town. Sometimes I don’t want to be Mir Kamin The Writer With Kids Named For Animals. Sometimes I just want to be Random Lady At The Post Office. And maybe someday you’ll be glad that you get to pick to share my blog with other people or not.”
“Do you think there could ever be a Pokemon who sets things on fire with his BUTT?” he asked. Because clearly that was the next logical topic of discussion.
“I’m glad we had this talk, too,” I said, rolling my eyes and putting an arm around him.
I’ve been unable to explain the public/private dichotomy of my writing to plenty of adults, so I’m not entirely sure why I thought I might be able to explain it to my 10-year-old. But it did occur to me that we are, in some ways, suspended in a little bubble of anonymity despite my very public work. I like that. No; I love that.
The truth is that if I go back to that post office and that clerk has read my personal blog, I likely will stop going to that branch when I have the kids with me. Not because I think they’ll be abducted, but because I’m a little weird and superstitious when it comes to this topic, and the last thing I want is people looking at my children like they live in a fishbowl. Lord knows the world hands out enough trials without adding that to their plates.
Related: My new imaginary rock band shall be called Theoretical Fishbowl.