Monday, February 1, 2010

Meet Mike, or, Responses to the Exploitation Post

I got lots of great feedback through Facebook and personal email, and I thought I'd share readers' thoughts here, too, and my responses to them:

Stu has the same ambivalence about this subject as I do:
It's one thing to voluntarily open your own life to the rest of the world, another someone else (your mother of all people) doing it for you. Assuming that he is able to mainstream in the next couple of years, is he going to want to keep it quiet that he used to get Special Ed and "rode the short bus" for his first couple years of school? The question is whether he gets to make that choice himself, or have we already done it for him? There is also the various phases of life where your appreciation of these things changes radically - he might be indifferent as a child, mortified as a teenager, and understanding as an adult.
As Stu is my son's father, I have to give his opinion greater weight than anyone else's.  So in light of this, I went through all my 81 previous posts and changed our son's name to the alias Mike in every freaking one.  It felt totally dishonest and unnatural writing that way, and re-reading our stories that way.  When I revealed to Stu that "Our son's new name is Mike," he was even more uncomfortable with my choice than I had been.

"I wouldn't change his name," he said.

"Then what would you suggest I do?"

"I don't know, but it wouldn't be that."

He suggested that I leave things alone for now, and that a couple of years from now I password-protect the blog to make it available to approved subscribers only.  This idea is appealing, but I don't know if changing the access policy also limits what strangers can stumble upon during a Google search.  Any of you have experience with this?

There were several of you in the this-is-not-exploitation camp.  The common argument was that we're living in a different world than the one in which Molly grew up - kids today grow up with everyone's personal business exposed online, and all parents who post photos/stories about their kids on the web are in the same boat and have the same questions to answer that I do, special ed or otherwise.

Yeah, but, like Stu said, there's a big difference between choosing to put your own info on the web and having your mother talk about you.

One friend wrote,
It seems unlikely that some middle schooler will find your blog and torture your child with it. I'm sure my kids are equally mortified by the stories I tell about them. 
I don't know if I want to bank on that.  It seems totally plausible to me that middle school kids would Google a classmate for the purpose of finding fodder for torturing him.

I chatted with my friend Will (who insisted I use his real name) about this, and he offered this:
After my mother passed [he was 18] I read her journals and I was glad to have had them ( I know this is not the same - but nonetheless).  what I realized was more of her full life outside of mine, and that my struggles were her struggles and vice versa.

that being said, i do think it would help the conundrum should you anonymize. I think that you should take whatever measures you think are necessary to protect your blog from his friends' eyes later on, which could be fairly simple.  perhaps real names and photos would be best on a personal and protections-enabled webspace like your facebook page, and the able-to-and-should-be-widely-publicly-read blog should have made up names along with a stressed point that the pseudonyms are not a result of shame but a result of the public/private struggle, because what's amazing about your blog and you is the honesty, and you dont want to have to sacrifice that because of worry about what your child may read in the future.

And there were lots of supportive, broadly positive comments, for which I am grateful.  Like this from SN:
I don't think you're doing anything wrong. As mothers we are each other's greatest support and greatest resource. Sadly, because life has changed so much and people no longer have the time to sit together in their living rooms to talk, we now have to use the internet. I think you help other mothers with your blog, and not just the mothers of neuro-atypical children. Many of your posts resonate with me and my parenting experience...

In short, I'm totally confused and don't really know what's best for me in the present and my son in the future.  So for now, the kid shall be referred to as Mike, and the blog shall be called Not An Affliction. I'm not really happy with that, and I haven't ruled out the possibility of changing his name back again in all my old posts, so I'm just going to sleep on it.

A bit of housekeeping: the Facebook group now has the wrong name, and FB doesn't let you change the name of a group, so I'll probably have to invite you to join a new group, called "Not An Affliction."  Also, I don't know how to edit the comments attached to old blog posts, so I might just have to delete the ones that reference Mike's real name.  I'm in no great rush to do this, as Mike and his peers can't really read yet, but these changes are on the horizon.

1 comment:

  1. There are so many mom bloggers out there who discuss intimate details of their family's lives purely to gain hits to their blog and elevate their "journalistic" status. I'm sorry that some of your critics can't see the difference in what and why you are sharing. I believe your son will grow up greatly benefiting from the cyber-conversation his mother is meaningfully contributing too. I applaud you for actively seeking new and better solutions to help your son cope with his tangled world, and also for being brave enough to open yourself up to every angle of the dialogue that will inevitably take place when you openly share your thoughts. Your son will grow up to discover that you are not just his hero but one for the community as well.


Keep it civil, people.