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.
You have a Wii – your actual RockBand can be called Theoretical Fishbowl. I want pics of Otto headbanging on guitar. :)
I can definitely see your point with regards to privacy…even though I don’t keep it too anonymous, I don’t ever put anything in my blog that directly identifies the city I live in or which airline I work for…and I don’t even have other people’s privacy to worry about in my writing, most of the time. BTW, I think your rock band name idea is awesome, and I think their first single should be called “Flaming Butt Pokemon.”
Totally get this — doubly so because I live in a small town, the definition of living in a fishbowl. :)
Even though nobody recognizes me from my blog (ha ha ha-remembering my t-shirt idea), I absolutely agree with your theory on blogging & kids. I don’t question any other blogger’s inclusion of their children on their sites. I’ve just decided that for me and mine, the blog is mine and the kids are separate.
Also, slighlty disappointed that you didn’t respond with “WantNot is a site that could save you 8 Million Dollars, just ask Elz.” For the record, we’re at $8,000,063.52
Get it completely. Reason I use my nickname when commenting but real name when emailing. Have asked my mother on numerous occasions to stop blogging about her kids and grands without express permission and even had to ask her stop lifting pics from Facebook and sending them out to her world. She says if they’re posted on FB they are free game. I say everyone chooses their level of privacy and by taking pictures off there she is subverting their choices. I believe everyone should have a choice in how much of their life is on the ‘Net. Good for you for sticking by your choices. And giving your children the chance to make their own.
OH! WE MUST HAVE BATTLE OF THE THEORETICAL BANDS, as Scott is in a band now called Schrodinger’s cat that simulaneously exists and does not exist, and it stays that way, suspended, until someone goes to the gig and CHECKS.
Oh, I think you’re doing all the right things with the privacy issues.
And I’m ROTF – and if Monkey wants to invent that pokeman with the flaming butt, he might make his millions doing just that.
LOL at Theoretical Fishbowl!
SQUEEEEE! I thiink one of the packages is for me!!!
Oh wait…isn’t that the point of this post?
packages and PRIVACY. See I was paying attention!
Flaming Butt Pokemon. That kid never fails to make me smile.
Monkey WAS right about the awesomeness, anyway.
I completely and totally understand why you do what you do. I personally, don’t blame you! But I’m very thankful that you do share. It makes it worth knowing that other people have similar issues that I have. And so, do you think Pokemon will ever be able to set fires? Just wondering that myself….. :o)
That’s so adorable that he was quick to tell the clerk how awesome you were with your writing. One day he’ll understand what you were saying.
Joshylin – that’s not FAIR! I was going to have a Schroedinger’s Cat band. Well, I was until my daughter dreamed she was in a band called Tinkerbell and the Psychedelic Cats and we all agreed that was the Best Band Name Ever. Still, in an existential kind of way I’m gutted that I can never be a Kitten in Schroedinger’s Cats.
Privacy/Publicy (is TOO a word) is something I struggle with a lot, in fact it’s a major thing to me because, through no fault of my own, for a brief time I was in a very small way a very public person and it caused huge trauma to me. There’s still a Wikipedia page somewhere with, peripherally, details about my life and lemme tell you, that’s a very weird thing. So my kids have pseudonyms and I self-edit a lot before posting anything about them and yet? They’re very casual about ‘outing’ themselves to their friends – or even online. Symptom of being of the Facebook Generation? Not sure, but hey, at least it’s their choice and not mine!
Privacy concerns aside, isn’t it crazy how kids are PROUD when their moms are bloggers? And, yet, many of us wouldn’t dare tell a person we have a site because we don’t want to find out if they’ll judge us for it.
I get the whole public/private dichotomy thing, but really, what I want to know is, IS there a Pokemon that can set things on fire with its butt? If so, you really might want to slip it some Beano. Because man, THAT’S some bad gas.
I think your next blog should be called Random Lady at the Post Office.
I rarely post, but let me say that if anonymity makes you more willing to share I am very cool with that. Out of all the bloggers I read, I feel the most connected to you, and I think it is because you share so much. The other bloggers I read aren’t as anonymous with their kids, and perhaps their feelings and struggles. So I respect your privacy because hearing your stories makes me feel human.
Speaking of fishbowls (especially theoretical ones), have you read The Elegance of the Hedgehog? If you have, you’ll know why I’ve mentioned the fishbowl (and a theoretical one at that). If you haven’t, get thee to a library and check it out!
It’s really funny when you mention this just when I have set up my new blog that will be one I’m willing to give out to anyone. I felt the same about my previous blog that you are talking about here, but my husband and I wanted one we could give out to anyone, so here goes the attempt. (Then again, we don’t have kids either, so maybe that’s part of the reason we are comfortable attempting it.)
(Joss, I didn’t comment on your post about the possible/maybe not band, but I read it to my husband and he said that it sounds a lot like a conversation we could have had ourselves, but with the roles reversed. If you ever find out if the band is alive or not, let us know. :) )
When I’m trying to decide what to include on my blog my rule of thumb is it’s okay to include something that might embarrass the kids at a later date, but nothing that would mortify them, as far as I can predict their future reactions.
For a long time, I wrote a newspaper column about my family called “I’m the Mommy.” I started when the kids were little. At the time, I was working from home and didn’t socialize a lot in the community where the newspaper was published. The people where I lived didn’t get the paper with my column. For some odd reason, I never thought that people might read my column and realize it was me when I was out and about in my real life.
That is, until one day in the grocery store. It was a store right by where I worked, so the paper was sold there. The store clerk had just rung up a couple of hundred dollars worth of groceries, and I pulled out my checkbook to write a check. She recognized my name, and she immediately started gushing about the column and how much she enjoyed it.
I, however, was stunned. I immediately started worrying about what I had purchased and said before I realized someone knew me as the person who wrote the column. It made me feel very strange. Was there too much junk food? Had I been polite or cranky?
And once, at an Erma Bombeck writing conference, I was going into a seminar and someone leaving recognized me from the internet. And that was the strangest moment in my life — having a complete stranger know me and squeal when seeing me. She recognized me for a journalism site that I used to run for small town journalists not my blogging.
And by the time I realized I might not want to write about my kids with their names; it was too late. They had grown up that way. They love reading about what I write.
But one thing I wonder — how do you KNOW they haven’t read the blog? Or their friends haven’t read it and told them about it? My kids’ friends read my blog after finding it on their own. My kids even read and comment.
Okay, so if Schrodinger’s Cat and Theoretical Fishbowl have a Battle of the Bands, I will totally come all the way from California to see it. I think you need to lock the bands in a building and have the audience stand outside and try to guess if they’re playing or not….
@Joshilyn- the first thing I thought when I read about Mir’s imaginary rock band was that they should team up with Scott’s, because Schrodinger’s Cat and the Theoretical Fishbowl would be a huzzawesome name for a band. Loved that post, btw- hilarious conversation. :)
And please remind Monkey that there IS a Pokemon who can set things on fire with his butt: Chimchar.What else would a flaming tail be used for?
I think your anonymous cone keeps people from asking how Chickie’s rash is and adding their own two bits of wisdom into your life. I mean really you get enough of that from us.
er, um, but we LOVE you. :)