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Closed Doors

Yesterday I saw an ad on our local buy and sell for a Jolly Jumper. I’ve always loved these little contraptions and for $10 I figured I’d give it a shot.

This is what happened:

(There is a video embedded in this post-you may have to leave the Tumblr dash to view it)

Needless to say, Olive LOVES it. Initially she spent a few minutes just sort of hanging there, trying to figure out what, exactly, she was supposed to be doing, but once she got the hang of it she was off! Hopping and bouncing, we can not stop laughing at her while she jumps around looking like she’s doing a soft-shoe routine.

Extra points because it takes up zero floor space and we can just slide it to the side of the doorway when it’s not in use.

Despite the fact that the above video is one of my favorites, and brings a huge dumb grin to my face whenever I watch it, I fought a bit of an internal battle about whether or not to post it.

I’m getting into a strange territory here with Olive. Like it or not, this blog has officially tiptoed into mommyblog territory. It’s not unwanted, this shift. I love sifting through my experiences and putting words to the changes occurring in our lives, I like the idea of preserving a record of Olive’s first days, months, years.

But then there’s the shadow side. The fact that I’m writing about a small person who is unable to give her consent. I’m telling someone else’s story. And unlike how I write about Adam – he has complete veto power over any mention of him on this blog – Olive is unable to grant me permission to write about her (or deny me it for that matter.)

As Olive’s mother, I am entrusted with taking care of her. This responsibility includes guarding and preserving her privacy, as well as teaching her to do the same – it’s an increasingly rare commodity these days. So how do I reconcile my role as a mother to protect, with my desire as a writer to show, share, describe? What are the rules, the guidelines for this?

It seems that everyone’s making them up as they go along.

Some bloggers give their children pseudonyms, or avoid showing their faces and other identifying information in photos. Others use real names but draw the line at photos of their children less than fully clothed. And still others offer an all-access pass until the child is a certain age – whether that be five years old or twelve- at which point they limit access, gently fade out the spotlight.

I’m trying to navigate this issue with grace, trying to gradually feel out where I will set my own limits, where I will close the curtain and dim the lights, lower my voice.

I think privacy is paramount. That may seem strange coming from someone who keeps a blog, but I don’t believe on putting absolutely everything on the table. I believe that some things are sacred and there are aspects of my life- our life- that I will never, ever write about.

On the other hand, I don’t believe in teaching a child to fear the world. It’s one thing to instill in them the common sense to avoid dangerous situations and the street smarts to extricate themselves from said situations if necessary. It’s entirely different however, to instill in your child (whether purposefully or subconsciously through your own actions) the fear that every stranger is waiting to abduct them, every man sitting by himself at a playground is a potential pedophile.

Caution is prudent, paranoia is ridiculous. It’s the difference between preparing a child to navigate the world with confidence on their own, and obsessively protecting them from every danger – real or imagined.

For this reason I have chosen to use Olive’s real name (I do avoid using our last names but they’re no state secret and I’m sure you could find them if you sniffed around hard enough). I don’t believe that posting photos of her face will endanger her or erode her privacy any more than taking her out in public would.

Beyond this, I’m still finding my way. Trying to find the perfect place to draw that line in the sand, set guidelines to ensure I stay on the right side of it.

I try and put myself in her shoes, I try and imagine a fifteen year old Olive reading through these archives.

Would she be embarrassed by my writing (any more than a normal fifteen-year old is embarassed by their parents, that is)? Would she feel pride at the words I’ve used to describe her, the moments that I’ve shared? Would she laugh at her poop story as a rite of passage that every baby goes through, or cringe with embarrassment that hers was documented for all to read?

As the first generation of mommybloggers’ children ages, I’m interested to see how this plays out. What are the effects of having your life documented for a public audience? And if the blog in question is fortunate enough to generate an income for the individual writing it, are we exploiting our children by doing so?

I’m curious to know your thoughts, regardless of whether you have children or keep a blog yourself. What do you think?

(To add a comment, click the pink “Comments” link below this post. Scroll down to the end of the post and there will be a field to add your input. It asks for a name and email, but if you feel like remaining anonymous you can simply make one up, like Me, and me@mail.com)

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