The kids had their last swim practice of the season on Tuesday. That morning, as we entered into the now-routine daily wrangling act to get L. off the computer and into his swim trunks and out the door by 8:45, I couldn't help but think to myself: thank GOODNESS this is the LAST day.
Even with all the blood, sweat, and tears that came along with keeping L. going with swim team this summer, it was still worth it. Swim team has been the only organized sport/team/activity he has ever been involved in and as long as we can keep getting him to the pool, we'll keep on chugging along with it--like some slightly-dysfunctional version of the little engine that could.
I haven't written much about swim team at all this summer, not because I haven't wanted to, but because weeks ago, at the beginning of the season, a neighbor read this post and then days after we had worked things out with the head coach, brought it up at a poolside social event that I wasn't present at but the coach in question was and, well, ouch. When I heard about this, it left me feeling a) really bad and b) like woosh! I'd been sucked into some powerful time machine and I was sixteen again. One of the perks of reaching forty is, I think, that you no longer have to be a part of certain types of drama. But still, I felt sobered by the incident--ticked off at first, then sad, then disappointed. But because I love my neighborhood, my neighbors, and I value how important all of it is to us, I decided to add swim team to my list of topics I wouldn't write about.
Often, when people I know hear about this site, they ask me if I have any personal rules for what I write, or don't write about. When I first started blogging, over four years ago (two years ago for Family Education), I didn't think much about any moral or ethical dilemmas surrounding where my material came from. Life happened to me; I was a mom, a teacher, a writer, a wife, a daughter, a sister and I wrote about the things I experienced, in part to make sense of them, in part to practice the craft of writing in a public-enough way that I would feel accountable to myself to try and be as careful and good and consistent about writing as I could be. I have taught writing long enough to know that practice make perfect, and that having an audience is perhaps the best way to toughen your skin as a writer, and to set your own bar, one that you push yourself to surpass.
I write about people all the time. I write about my students, although I give them only initials, and never names. I write about people I see in grocery stores, and other parents, and friends. I write about my own children, and sometimes other people's children as well (anonymously or with permission). I don't seek out people as fodder for blog posts, but if I am moved enough to write about them--usually in positive ways--then I will--I just can't help it.
But because there are inevitable ethical issues surrounding any type of public writing, I have created a set of guidelines I do follow. I think they are important to me, as both a writer and a parent.
I'm posting below only the three most important ones:
I will write about my children, and I'll write about them often. I can't help it. They are by far two of the most interesting people I have ever met. But I will always write about them with sensitivity and consideration first and foremost. I am careful to consider each post I write, and I think--I hope--that they will one day greatly benefit from reading what I have written.
Writing about L. has raised some difficult issues for me, though. I am not wholly comfortable with putting his diagnosis out there, yet writing about the challenges we all face, and putting words to so much that we previously hadn't understood, has been critical--life-saving--for me. And I truly believe that he, too, will appreciate learning more about himself when he gets older, and reading about how much we love him, and hard we work to understand his world, and just how proud we are of all he does. He gave me permission some time ago to write about his AS, in the hopes, in his words, "that people will learn more about kids like me."
I never post pictures of people I don't know, or other people's children. If I choose to post pictures of my own kids, that's one thing, but putting up face-on pictures of other people's children, in background shots, etc. just doesn't seem right to me. I try to crop them out, and if I can't the picture doesn't go up.
Rule #3--A.K.A The Most Important One
Do no harm. While I'm sure I would find it infinitely therapeutic to rant and rave in this space now and again about some issues/people, I would be crushed if I felt I had ever hurt anyone with my words. Writing to me is about making connections, building bridges, breathing life into words and sending them out there to do good work.
If you are a parent who blogs, do you have your own set of personal rules governing what to write, or not write about?