Mom, Stop Blogging About Me!
Stefanie: Hi! Everyone! Good morning! Hi! Still kinda loud, because the guys are talking over there.
Tanis: Would you shut up boys? Huh huh. Hahaha.
Stefanie: The main reason we have hot boys here is because of Tanis.
Tanis: Shush, don't say that, they'll think they're hot, and that's a problem.
Stefanie: I feel like I need to apologize in advance for our session.
Tanis: We're sorry.
Stefanie: Welcome, and thank you for coming. I'm so glad to see so many people because I was worried since it's you know, not everyone you know has teens and tweens yet and how this would turn out. So welcome. I'm going to give each of the panelists a second to introduce themselves, tell a little story about themselves.
Stefanie: I'll start with Mary, so Tanis can think about herself a little bit.
Mary: My name is Mary McCarthy, on Twitter I am MaryMac, which people actually call me in real life. A story about myself?
Stefanie: A story about you, or your kids?
Mary: I had this planned out, what I was going to do.
Stefanie: Very professional, Mary...Stefanie's going to start. Honestly, I'll just do it. You guys just go on, I'll do this thing myself. So obviously, the panel is called, "Mom Stop Blogging about Me." And my kids are 17, 15 and 6. The 6 year old is still is in that place where he wants to be blogged about, "take my photo and put it on your blog". Which I don't do, because I don't blog about anything about teens and tweets. About three -- four years ago, my oldest son was 13 and my second was 12, and the New York came a calling, because I used to constantly bag on Axe body spray, cause I don't know about you guys, if you have teens or teen boys-
Tanis: Oh god, it's putrid. Don't do it.
Stefanie: It's that instead of a shower, so they smell like sweat, and embedded with Axe Bodyspray. The New York times a calling, and I was so exciting. It's "Oh my god, it's the New York Times".
Tanis: Name dropper, name dropper...
Stefanie: Can you stop? Can you stop interrupting me? I don't even get two minutes in...Anyway, so they came calling. We did the interview, and they said, "hey, can we take photos of your kids to go along with it?" And I'm like, "Sure you can!" So by the time they left, my kids were naked from the waist up, spraying each other with Axe body spray in front of the bathroom mirror. When the New York Times article came out, it was the entire, Life and Style portion, was the entire, their photo, their half naked photo was the entire upper portion of the paper above the fold. When they went to school the next day, it was not pretty. And all of a sudden, "Oh gosh, I have to think about what I put about my kids online, because they are old enough to really care". So that's where I really changed some things about the way I was blogging. And I think this is an important topic.
Mary and I have talked about it a lot, Tanis as well, the different reasons, and how to do it, and how to protect their safety. We have different opinions, the three of us, which we'll get to. That was kind the formation for me.
Do you want to try now?
Mary: I'm going to try again. I have four kids, 17, 14, 9 and 6. Three girls and my 6 year old like Stefanie's is a boy, thank god, finally, at number four. Because if I had had four girls I would have lost my mind. I did this thing on Twitter, and it's kind of serious. Something awful happened to my daughter, and I accidentally tweeted something that I meant to DM somebody. So that's as related to particularly blogging about, however, the crossover between your private life and your online life, sort of hit me in the face, really hard that day. A lot of people saw the tweet that wasn't supposed to be public and knew what was going on with my teenage daughter which was a devastating family crisis situation. And, you know, at one point, who is on Facebook, my now 18 year old, just sort of said to me, "Don't talk about me on Facebook where my friends are going to see it". And it's just kind of this, but I have been writing about you before you were born, and before I was a blogger, I was a humor columnist, and I wrote about her from the time she was born. So it's kind of weird to have your teen look at you and say, "Stop talking about me". Luckily, she had three younger siblings, but there is a time, in our kid's lives where they recognize their own privacy and they need to protect that. I sort of ran into that at that point, and we've struggled how much to listen to them, or are we in charge.
Tanis: Hi I'm Tanis, also known as Redneck Mommy. I have two, teenagers, and a little boy. And, soon to be my daughter's to be 16 and she's getting her driver's license and that's awesome. By awesome, I mean, not at all. I have a very soon to be 15 year old girl, they are only a year apart, and a boy. And he's in love with axe body spray. Oh, and it's so gross. Even the shower. He's always drenched in split scent. It's just gross. It's disgusting, it's so sick.
Stefanie: Yeah, it's grossed.
Tanis: He's never, ever going to get kissed by a girl ever. Ever. That's when they stop spraying it on themselves is when they get kissed by girls. Because they tell them. I had my come to Jesus moment, one more recently than the other. The first one, I started blogging relatively late in the game for my children. They were almost tweens by the time, when I first started blogging. So I had written a story about my daughter who wasn't a tween at this point, about, she had pinworms. Which was was awesome. So I was diagnosed with pinworms, because pinworms go through the entire house, because it's awesome. So we're all like cats dragging our asses on the carpet, okay? So, it was the itchiest thing ever, I know it's horrible! I know, it was funny! And that's what I do, I write funny.
So I wrote this blog post about my daughter getting pinworms, and me getting pinworms, and how we all had to take medication and everything. I didn't really understand that children who were 11 and 12, could read? And knew how to use the internet. So she went to school, and some of the kids knew about my blog. My kids cannot keep a secret, and they were like, "Oh my Mommy's a blogger!" So these kids read it, and they read this post about us having worms crawling out of our arse, and so they chased her around the school, like this..... For weeks. For weeks they did that. She was mortified. Like tears, horrible, so it was after that I learned really fast, that there was ramifications for what I write on the internet, so I've always been much more careful about what I say, and how I say it. Just because it's hysterical to me, it might not be hysterical to her.
And I thought I did really well. I had no more issues, and then a bunch of us, Mary and Jason they big piping bicep guy in the back. So we all decided to post naked for a charity calendar. Because the was the best thing ever, and it was for the National Eating Disorder Society, wasn't it Mary?
Tanis: And it was all a very lovely thing. And it was all tasteful. Some of us had....and I didn't even think about it, so I'm Canadian, so it wasn't a charity in Canada. It was not being marketed in Canada, this was far away in the states. But there's such a thing called mail, and I didn't understand that teenage boys would find this, and order the calendar. And, they ordered one copy of this calendar, and they photocopied it. And so my son who is on the JR high basket ball team, and it was wall to wall pictures of his apparently naked mother...so it was yeah...So it is not something I would recommend for charity. So....it's been a learning process. So no covers on playboy. I'm not saying no to that, because I will do anything for money, I am a whore that way.
Stefanie: Chow and ching! Okay so we're going to take a quick poll from everyone. How many of you have kids? Wow, almost all of you. Okay, okay, no keep them up, keep them up. We're sorry.
Okay if you have kids over the age of 8 keep your hands up. Jen, if you have 12 kids, if you have triplets...
Mary: 12 kids?!
Stefanie: Yeah, she has triplets. If you have kids over 12, keep them up. 13? 16? 20? Wow. Alright.
A lot of you with teens and tweens. And we're all still here. Good. So I'll just start here, and we'll just ask some questions, but I want you to know we're going to run this pretty informally, so if you have questions or something you want to contribute, just get your hand up. We want you to be a part of this, this isn't just about us up here, and talking non-stop. Because frankly this is an interesting topic and there is no right or wrong answer to it. It's more just discussing the ways we can get around it, or lessons to each other. So, I'll just start...
Tanis: I feel like I'm going to be in trouble the whole time.
Oh she will be. So I am just going to start with the boundaries. You said something when we first started talking and you said you run your family like you run your blog...do you remember what you said?
No, remind me.
You said my blog is not a democracy.
Tanis: Okay, yes! When we were talking, my blog is not, my family is not a democracy, I am the sole caregiver in my family, 99% of the time. My husband is only home 3 days a month. So I don't take any guff. My kids do what they are asked, when they are told. That's how it run, I run a tight ship. I keep my blog the same way, I don't ask my kids for permission on how to raise them, so I don't ask them for permission for what to write about. I expect them to trust me, having had made my mistakes and learned my lesson, that I'm not going to put anything out there to harm them. Other than those two examples that I gave you, we've actually never had any issues. Because I recognize the boundaries of what is acceptable and what's not. So, I don't ask my kids for permission to post their photos. If they come up to me and say, "Don't blog about that", obviously I won't. There has been, when they were younger, my daughter didn't want her imagine on my blog, so I would either facebar or just not put her on. Where my son was like, "Put me on the blog and make me famous Mom!" So I listen to that, and you know, now they are just, they don't even ask, they have an inherent trust that anything I write is not going to damage them. But my blog is not a democracy, it's a dictatorship. It's my business, I'm going to protect you the same way I do offline and you need to trust me.
Mary: Um, I agree with Tanis. In my family, it's a monarchy in many ways, and I'm the Queen and there is no arguing about it. I think though, if something is going to be controversial, that there is the opportunity to talk to our teens, before we put it out there. Because the landscape of blogging about your teens is changing as quickly as their moods are. They are constantly changing, and as moms and parents, we sort of need to be changing too. In the case of the naked calendar, we chose this foundation because my daughter was sort of suffering from an eating disorder, was an eating disorder survivor, and had been treated for 6 months. Well, I wasn't going to do a naked calendar, benefiting an eating disorder foundation without talking about the girl who inspired me, the very initiation of the project itself. So she and I sat down and we talked about it, and she agreed that the awareness, that could potentially as a result of the calendar was more important to her than her people not knowing she had an eating disorder. I sort of blogged about it in a more generic way, and that's the closest run in I had with blogging and boundaries with your teen. She was very mature about it, and was willing to share her story for the benefit of other mom's out there, who might be able to help their daughters or sons who may be struggling with an eating disorder.
Stefanie: And I am the opposite of the two of them. I don't put anything on my blog without checking me with my tweens and teens first. I do run my family differently, but I run my, thank god, right? I do run it that way, and I think just because of the story I told you originally with the New York Times. I pretty much thought that would be a benign issue and my kids were absolutely harassed for days. My oldest son was horrified by the whole process, he didn't want to go to school sort of thing. You know, kids can be brutal, sometimes they can be awful. Since that time, I have run every story and every photo by them before I post it. I also switched by blog and I don't really write a lot of personal stuff. But I..we'll get to tips on that later. I think that's interesting. The ones that write about your kids, I would be curious by a show of hands- if you run it by them first? So very few. It's an interesting thing, there is no right or wrong, it's just whatever works best.
Alright, so, that brings me to, is there a line you should never, never cross when writing about your kids. I know one obviously, but what are they, I'm curious?
We'll start with Mary, first. What are the things you think are completely off limits?
Mary: I have drawn the line with sex because I can't find any appropriate way to talk about my daughter's sexual activity at all. I cannot. It would be potentially, hysterically funny the way I would write it, but right now, I don't think it would be funny to her as much as it would be to me. So, sort of, you can blog about talking to your teens about sex, but you can't blog about buying vegan condoms for your daughter because she's vegan. I mean, that would be awesome post but it's not going to happen.
Stefanie: She's just sorta blogged about it.
Mary: Instead of blogging about it, in a close personal setting of a conference tell people about it. Now she's over 18, I'm like your an adult and you are on your own and I can say what I want. Wait until they are 18 and all bets are off'?
Audience Question: Unable to hear.
Mary: You know what? That's not necessarily a bad thing. I don't mind social media black out concept, I mean if my daughter blocked me from Facebook and Twitter, I'd be like, YES!
Stefanie: Do you have a question?
Audience Member: Unable to hear first part question...and a daughter who is 17. I am still the mother of the 21 year old, and things I say about him, could still be very hurtful to him. I find the 18 line a little hard to understand.
Stefanie: What was that last part, I'm sorry?
I find that the line when they are 18, it's like it's a little...oh I can say whatever I want about you? I have the privilege of this interesting information about their lives, somehow it's your property? I'm finding that 18 line hard to understand.
Mary: I would like to justify that but I haven't found that because I have a great relationship with her, and I don't want to piss her off.
Tanis: I don't write anything about my children that I wouldn't write about myself. If I wouldn't want to read it about me, then I won't write it about my kids. I'm not ever going to write about their sex life, because it's not my story. I'm not having sex with them, so I'm going to write about it. It's a good thing. As Martha Stewart would say. Anything that is going to harm them- I do not want my children to grow up- I have very disabled son already and I spent all day yesterday speaking about him but I am going to be taking care of him for the rest of my life. My horror story, nightmare would be that these two teenagers grow up and never get off my fucking couch. And eat cheetos, because they are unemployable because their mother could not keep her mouth shut. Because she's yapping and yapping. I'm not going to write anything that's going to damage their job opportunities, because I need them out of my house. It's a fine line, I try to be respectful. I think about it as, "Would I write that about my Grandmother?" I can be really risque, my husband has given me permission about that. But it's their story, their lives, and some of it, I take ownership. They are my children, and until they are independent adults I do have some claim to that. But, at the same time, I have to recognize in the future, they're going to be independent, and they are going to take full ownership of that. But right now, I still have a little bit. It gets less and less as they become teenagers, so I'm really careful. That's my line. Anything that is going to damage them, or prevent them for anything, or that I just wouldn't want to write about me. If someone else wrote about my sex life that wasn't me, I would freak out.
Stefanie: I think that is really important for everyone to think about. My son will be going to colleges next year, and those colleges, I have talked to a lot of people who have worked for colleges. And their specific role is to creep our business and find out what they can about my child. My kid is going to play lacrosse so it's a sports thing as well. They are looking, and I am looking at his Facebook constantly, everyday. I write about this daily, I speak to my kids daily about this, and he's still putting stuff on the internet that would get him expelled from school. I kid you not, it's head banging for me. It's important for us as parents to remember, as Tanis was just saying, they are looking at us when they are looking at our kids for the jobs and the colleges. You need to be aware of that, and you need to make sure you aren't write something, like "Oh my kid was drunk last week" or some stuff that he might do, because that will adversely effect what they get out of life when they are 18. And as she said, she doesn't want them eating cheetos on her sofa, and neither do I. They think they might have that option, but they won't.
You know what, there is two question, and she had her hand up first. Would you mind snagging that from her?
Audience Member: I'm guessing a no, but as a Canadian, we think we're less litigious, and I always think that Americans are more so. I was astonished to hear people imagine because your child is 18 that you are freer to write about them. I would think you would feel more concerned, I love my children. But if I was to write many things, they would be able to say, "You've crossed the line, that's a libelous thing to say about me, that's not right".
Stefanie: When you made that comment earlier, the first thing I thought was, "My kids could sue me for writing that" and rightfully so. You have to use a lot of common sense.
Mary: Actually, what I have found is that they are more upset about you writing about them at 12, than they are at 18. At least in my case, my daughter is an adult, and a mature adult, and sort of more likely to roll her eyes on Twitter that relates to her, than she was when she was 12, and insecure and "oh my god, I don't want people hearing that". Sometimes as they get older, they are like, "Yeah, whatever". They know you, and you've been their mom their whole life and they get over it.
Stef: Go ahead.
Audience Member: Hi, my name is Karen, I have two teenage boys who are 12 and 13, but I think we all know 12 is close enough. I blog at the blunderyears.com Both of what you have both said, Tanis and Stefanie, and it makes me curious, if people name their children, even by first name, your last name is on your blog. My never name my kids by first name, and we don't have the same last name.
Tanis: Yeah, my last name is not my kids last name. Yeah, and they are Fric and Frac, and I don't name them, not even at conferences. I do name my youngest son, his name is Knox but that's because I was very excited when we adopted him. And, he's very disabled, and he will be in a group home, etc etc. But my, but the two that I want off my couch, they have different last names, and their names are Fric and Frac.
Audience Member: I just wanted to just say one more thing, that the threshold for writing when you have children tweens and teens is higher in away. What I try to do is to use their experiences as a stepping off point to say something, rather than to say something about them. So I don't really feel like I am telling their stories but I am using what I am going through to find things to write about, so try to keep it not too personal, it's really not about them.
Stefanie: And that's a really good takeaway for everyone, that you can use their story in an altered way if you feel it's a story that needs to be told. We're giving chocolate bars away for takeaway.
Tanis: Cause you said something awesomely smart.
Stefanie: That's a really great way, we're going to touch on a lot of different ways...thank you.
Tanis: It's New York Chocolate bar, are you not going to get a chocolate bar, is that what you are saying. If you would like to say something brilliant and you don't want the chocolate bar, you can donate it back to the table and we'll take care of it.
Audience Member: My kids are almost 4, 19 and 35.
Panel: Woooooow, congratulations. Wow! You've been a mom a long time.
Audience Member: Once the two oldest turned 18, see, I blog about sex.
Tanis: Oh that must be interesting.
Audience Member: Yeah, well, it's very interesting perspective, and I was very careful of course to write under which is not my daughter's last name either. And she got a full scholarship to the University of Chicago, and I did for 6 months, pull everything to make sure she got her free ride. Of course I popped it back up now that's she's settled. As far the 18 thing goes, what, how I looked at it was, what , when they both became of age, my first amendment rights, since I'm not lying about them, I'm not intending liable, I'm not intending slander. They don't have a legal case. You want to rebut me, then start your own blog.
Mary: Lawyer up, honey!
Tanis: I think a lot of times, we're not, unless, you are starting a blog and you have a 17 year old, or an 18 year old, or an adult child. A lot of these children have grown with us blogging, so their fairly accustomed to it. When we may trip and stumble a little bit, and make faults, and have problems with that. And we all learn and grow. But their not as self-conscious, because it's just the environment they've grown up in and they know Mom and Dad writes about them. They accept that, and my children for years, and years, most of the time the time they don't even read my blog anymore. They are like, "whatever, that's your thing, I don't care, talk about whatever you want mom!" So, when they turn 18, I don't suddenly think my children are going to go, "Whoa, mom stop talking about me, I'm a legal adult Mom!" They are going to be, "well she's not really doing anything that she hasn't been doing for years and years and years, and I trust her". And if they do read something that they don't like I'm sure I'd get my ass smacked but I think it's always a learning process.
Stefanie: So we'll take a couple more questions and then I wanna kinda talk about some of the ways you can blog without embarrassing, or just alternatives to just to writing their story.
Audience Member: Hi, I'm Allison from motherhoodwtf, and my kids are younger, and I'm just starting to think about this, I've suddenly realized that they are people, and not my property, but um, I write more about myself. I write about my experience as a mother, but obviously it relates to them, because I write about my emotional struggles raising them. My problem isn't so much about exposing their personal lives, but it's so as they go out and become public people, and go to school, and stuff, and I'm writing that my kid is an asshole at bedtime. I feel like, I don't know where to draw that line, because I feel like that's about me, and not about them, but people could read that and think my kid's an asshole.
Stefanie: I would...Tanis?
Tanis: It's how you write it. You can write anything. There was a fairly, there was a crime committed against one of my children. Please don't tweet any of this There was a gag order. There was a criminal court case, and there was lots of therapy involved in this and it was just resolved last year and it's still very fresh. As much as I wanted to, because this was something that actually pertains to anybody in here that has a child and how it effects family, it was...that was not my story to share. It did not happen to me, it happened to me as their parent, and that was my story to share. So I did write about it in very vague terms, how the crime was committed against my child impacted me, and what I felt. I never named that child, and I never named what happened, but I just spoke me. This is how I feel. As a mother, this is how it impacts me, and I'm so blah, blah, blah, whatever the feelings were. But you have to be self-centric when you are writing about stuff like that. You're not saying, my child is an asshole because he won't go to bed at night. You are saying I am so frustrated, and I'm so tired, I don't even know what to do, and I'm banging my head against the wall. I feel like a total cow because my child won't sleep at night and I can't deal with it. You just have to be really careful with how you write things. You can write anything, you just need to make sure your not writing about your child, your writing about you. If you don't want people to think your child is an asshole, don't write that he's an asshole. Don't call him an asshole.
Stefanie: That's good advice, and I know Mary's going to comment on this as well, but your kids are young and you'll find that as they grow, the stories changes, and whatever it is that you are saying now, I don't know how to say this perfectly, it's almost...when they are little, it sort of doesn't matter that you are saying that stuff. When they are in school, you'll know. I mean, common sense follows their age and as they grow up, you are not going to say the same things when they are a kid. You should definitely make it more about you, and what's going with you and not about your child, but it'll change gradually anyway. It's one of those things that will just happen, and you're not going to be calling your 16 year old an asshole on your blog. I mean, right?
Tanis: Even if you are doing it funny, people will show up at your door.
Oh gosh, lots of questions. Yes?
Audience: This is more of a comment, I come from a different perspective. I'm a lesbian mom of two adopted boys. And my younger son is completely okay with the personal aspects of my life going out on his life. My older son is not. He's very much against gay marriage and believes that the government should be in charge of everyone's vagina in this room, so we have a lot of conflict, and I found as a17 year old boy. I just need to respect that, just as much as I want him to respect me. I just recently realized if I ask his opinion, and I ask his opinion, and I post it and I am respectful of what he has to say, we're not as confrontational on my blog. I'm able to get my point across and say what I want to do, as well as what his feelings are on the subject. It's just a mutual growth that we've just come to terms with.
Stefanie: That's a great...
Tanis: Can you take his WiFi away until he agrees that gay marriage is cool? Cause...
Audience Member: Unable to hear audio
Tanis: Oh I take WiFi all the time, oh when you have the power of the WiFi. The porn was fine, it was the offshore gambling...way over.
Audience Member: Unable to hear.
Audience Member: I'm Debbie, I'm with the Princess Festival today, but one thing over the last, I've been blogging for 16 years, and working with best selling authors and things. My daughter just grew up and started blogging and she has 500,000 followers on YouTube, and when she doesn't post her next video, people send mail. One of the problem that we've run into, when I'm speaking from stage, or when I am talking about what I have done with social media, she's a really good example, but then people in the room, will be rushing to be her friend.
Tanis: That's weird because I was just thinking, can I meet her, because I want to know how to get 500,000 followers!
Audience Member: So the challenge we've had is separating, so I don't talk about my kids on line, I don't talk to them, they are not in my FACEBOOK family. Family members get deeply offended when I say no, you're not in my family because mine is going out to thousands of people and you don't need that in your life. But how do we, how does she ethically separate herself, so she doesn't feel like she has to talk back to Mom's friends, or say to Mom's friends that I met at a conference, "I don't really want to be your friend"?
Stefanie: Say, you don't really want to be their friend?
Tanis: Say you're an old hag, and I don't want to be your friend.
Stefanie: Yeah, there's no shame in that. No, I think that's...saying.
Mary: My 18 year old has a blog also, it's kind of funny for us. I'll say something like, did you talk about me in your blog? And she'll be like, "Oh and you haven't talked about me before", we have Twitter wars about who will blog about who first. But I just want to second the motion that Tanis made about being able to retain the right to write about our own feelings as a mother. While it's extremely important to protect the privacy of our children, especially if they are asking for that, I think that for us, for all of us, our blogs are our outlet for how we are handling motherhood and parenthood, and how we're dealing with children that can be assholes sometimes. I mean, I don't think it's far to take away our voice to choose our children's selfish, sort of demands over our own needs to express ourselves. So, I think that there is a fine line there, and I think I agree with Tanis that there is a way to write about it without it being about your children. When I wrote about my daughter's eating disorder, I did not write about her, I didn't write about what she was eating or not eating. I wrote about how as a mother who has been diagnosed with an eating disorder, how you handle that, what books can you read, what are the doctors telling you that the other doctors, and so on. It's experience for me to reach out and help other mother's who might go through that. I think that is valid and important, so I'm willing to talk to her about that. But I'm not willing to not write about that, in anyway. I never mentioned her name. It's been an ongoing learning process, and like I said, the landscape changes as quickly as their moods and you just have to kind of take it on a day by day basis.
Stefanie: I just want to go back to the question you just had. We kinda jokingly said that you should tell her that she doesn't want to be their friend, she honestly just needs to ignore them.
Tanis: I think your question was, that she was trying to be professional so she doesn't want to ruin your business as well.
Audience Member: Unable to hear first part of response...Mom, yeah, you can share that with your friends, but then she realized when I shared it with my friends, but it was 1000 people who had been following me from the last thing...
Stefanie: Yeah, she just needs to ignore them. Flat out ignore them. She doesn't want to be unprofessional, so she should just ignore them. She has 500,000 followers, she's really busy. Jason did you have a question or a comment.
Audience Member: Um...well, the question...can I hold it?
Stefanie: Let him hold it. You don't need to hold every stick Jason.
Audience Member: The question, the question first, then I'll make a comment. If your kid asks you to stop, like really asks you to stop blogging about them, would you stop.
Audience Member: I wrote a post once called My Kid Is Turning Into An Asshole. I'm glad you were talking about it and saying that your kid was an asshole, because I did it but I blamed it on daycare. A lot of people didn't get it, so I got a lot of crazy anonymous comments about how I am the assholes.
Tanis: I told you, call your kids assholes and people are going to yell!
Audience Member: I haven't written about my kids in about two years, in fact I don't write at all anymore.
Panelists: Which is a shame by the way, we miss you.
Audience Member: I miss you too. But then Blogger Body Calendar....
Tanis: That was fantastic! He stops and poses.
Audience Member: The Blogger Body Calendar was the beginning of the end for me. Because my oldest daughter, who was only probably 7 or 8 at the time, and I loved it, it was amazing. I loved doing it.
Tanis: He looked hot!
Audience Member: And I have the picture of Tanis above my workbench.
Tanis: That's okay, I watch that video of you singing in your underwear to me every night, so...
Audience Member: So,
Mary: Wait, so you don't have my picture?
Tanis: I knew this was going to turn into that right away.
Audience Member: My point is, my nine year old now, came to me, and she saw the calendar, and asked me to stop embarrassing her. She said I was really embarrassing her.
Panelist: That's heartbreaking isn't it?
Audience Member: It really is. I tried to explain to her about the charity and the eating disorder, but she kind of calmed down, but for some reason something clicked for her. I felt like I was becoming a better dad on the blog than I was in real life. So for me, it was about our relationship because my daughter and I have trust. We talk about a lot of things, and she's very communicative about that stuff, and I didn't want to lose that relationship. For me, it was a personal choice, so I don't write about it anymore.
Stefanie: I did. My kids were, well I didn't stop blog. But I change my blog. But this is a good lead in to some of the alternatives. I went from writing about my kids daily, about their stories, and their lives to writing more of a theme. My theme is parenting teens and tweens. So I write about issues related, and there is a section- can you relate? And there are stories, but they are not my stories. They are either anonymous stories or other people's stories, and some of those stories might be mine, but they are anonymous now. And I waited for a time. But to your point Jason, I did stop, because they didn't love it, and it got to a point where it was interfering with their lives. So I didn't stop blogging, I just found a different way to blog.
Tanis: I would stop writing about my kids, I would flat out stop writing about them completely if they ever asked. Because, I think that, my relationship them as their parent, especially since I am the primary caregiver is way more important than any chuckles I can get off the blog for them. I would not stop writing. I would find a different outlet, or find a different way. I would not call myself the Redneck Mommy anymore, I would call myself a hoser or something. But I would not stop blogging, I would just stop blogging about them. I like to write, I want to write. It helps that I write about them, it gives me constant fodder, but I write about myself more than them now. As they get older, less of their stuff even pertains to me, it's not that interesting. I would, but I would still write.
Mary: I have never had one of my kids directly ask me to stop blogging, full out like that. I think it says something about all three of us, that our kids haven't come to us and told us to stop blogging. It shows that we are showing them respectful. I'm just not that into my kids. I mean, I write about them once in every ten posts. But I will never post naked again, that...my kids said no.
Tanis: Clearly there is a lesson, don't pose naked. It did not serve any of us well. It was good for the charity, it was a good awareness campaign.
Mary: That's why we did it. I don't regret it...but...
Stefanie: Of your kids, do any of your kids, I know somebody said it, but how many of your kids have their own blog? Wow. That's interesting because that leads me to the question of, do your kids write about you on their blog, anyone?
Panelist: Welcome to our hell...
I absolutely do not want my kids to have a blog and write about me. And that says something about the way I need to think about blogging about my children, right? I can just imagine "I just heard mom and dad, and they were knocking one out". You can just see your life in print now. I think that's kind of one of those things that you have to ask yourself before you put something on the internet, would I care if my parents were writing this story about me? And 9 times out of 10, you would probably care. You might need to tweak it a little bit. Who else had questions?
Raise your hand if you care if your kids had a blog about you? Would you care?
Tanis: What about Twitter? I'm fighting with my daughter right now. All of her friends are on twitter, and they actually have a teacher that has a social media source, and he encouraged them to sign up for Twitter. I absolutely said, "No, flippin' way. No, no pseudonyms, because it's been a pain in my ass." Would any of you let your kids have twitter or do they have one?
Mary: My daughter wished me happy mother's day on Twitter. I was like, "Thanks." Instagram is the big one that the kids are on.
Stefanie: But at least they are just photos, with Twitter it's a problem for me. Because I say a lot of things on Twitter that I don't want my kids to see. That's my space. It's not anymore, because he's now on Twitter and I'm having to temper, like on Facebook I have to frickin filter.
Mary: I filter on Facebook because my mom is on there. Part of my whole thing about blogging is that I can say cuntasaurus rex, because I want to and I'm not going to be afraid to do it.
Tanis: I am just going to interject, as a friendly reminder to all of you, that anything you write on Twitter or Facebook, and is a public stream, can and will be used against you in a court of law, and remember that, because it has happened, and it has happened to my family, so keep that in mind.
Stefanie: Even if it's your kid suing you.
Audience Member: I just have a comment. This whole blogging thing is new to me, but I have been writing for 20 plus years, and I write for Guide Post, which is a magazine here in New York, that's true stories of hope and inspirations. One of the guidelines is, we've kind of learn in the editor news, is the idea that you only write about yourself as the fool, and other people are portrayed, it's not your job to make someone else look foolish. So even with your kids, fun things, and you can write humorous, but you can still make yourself the joke or the fool in the story. So that was sort of helpful and helps me keep that in mind when I write about my kids.
Panelist: Except that sometimes they really are just the fools. You can have chocolate that was a really smart thing to say. You know, she's had her hand up in the front row forever, can we just grab her? Thank you.
Audience Member: Just to what Tanis said about, you know, whatever you write in public places, can and will be used against you. This was my comment earlier, but my oldest is not my husband's daughter and my ex's wife, never mind that he's a recovering addict, of crack, never mind that, right? She has a notebook and writes everything my daughter says, and my daughter is 6 and she lies, like my mom doesn't feed me. Like what the heck, of course I feed you, I just don't feed you the spaghettios that you want, right? So, she'll say a whole bunch of stuff and she lies, and she lies to us as well, and she lies to my mom, and she lies to everyone, it's just a stage she's going through. But they write down everything that she says, and I've now noticed, we had an episode the other day where my daughter didn't want to wake up my husband and I was gone. She was hungry.
Stefanie: Was this on Facebook? Or online?
Audience Member: Oh no, this wasn't on Facebook, but they know that I blog. My daughter actually went out on the front step, and to wait for me to come home. She didn't want to wake up my husband in the morning. And, the neighbors found her and they called the police. They were like "there is a 6 year old outside", and I really wanted to blog about that. And my experiences around that. And then I'm like, "Holy shit, I can't do that, they're going to call CPS."
Panelist: You have to be very careful.
Audience Member: I censor myself everyday. Because I know that they go and check. Even though they are not following me, but they go and they check to see what I posted.
Mary: Let's talk about some of the alternatives, and then we'll come back to the questions, because I want to get those in. Let's talk about some of the ways you can blog without blogging. We've touched on a lot of them, one is anonymous posts, right? I take anonymous posts, if you ever want to write about your teens or tweens, and the assholes they're being, and you want to write it anonymously, send them my way.
Stefanie: That's a good thing. With me, my kids have done things I want to write about, whether there is a drink issue, or a sex issue, or a sexting issue. I mean, we've gone through a lot of stuff, my son is going to be a senior and I want to get the word out about those things, but I can't write about them as my own child doing them, so anonymous writing is a really great way to get a story out if you need to. As we all know as bloggers, a lot of people will take their posts and put them on their sites for you because they need content. Guest blogging is a great way,same thing you can guest blog anonymously with it or without it. You can write them as fiction.
Tanis: Oh my god, I'm fictionalizing...I'm writing a novel for the purpose of putting a lot of shit in it that I can't put on my blog.
Mary: And common sense is the most important piece. Right?
Tanis: I think what other people need to remember is that what works for my family is not going to works for yours. Just the way I raised them, is not the way you raised your kids, so. There's no hard and fast rules here. It's just what works for you guys and your children, and yourselves.
Stefanie: Anyone else have any great suggestions? There's one in the back, she's had her hand up forever.
Audience Member: Hi my name is Aviva, I blog at nothing in moderation dot ca. I actually don't blog about my kids, except but I wrote a piece for the New York Times Motherlode blog about family nudity. And it went completely viral, it was something, and I got slammed. I didn't expect this to happen, it was kind of innocent. I was standing in the bathroom door, completely naked, yelling at my 12 year old son to clean the basement, and the only thing that fazed him was the request. Well, that's interesting...the fact that I wasn't wearing anything was of no consequence to him. And I started wondering what goes on in other people's families around nudity and how people handle it. I have two son, a 9 year old and a 12 year old. Anyway, so I wrote the piece, and aside, I got a fair amount of positive feedback, but I got a lot of "Your a crap mother, your a pervert".
Tanis: I'm a naked mom too. When my kids play video games and they are zoned out on Skyrim and he won't pay attention to me, and I've asked him 6 times to take out the trash, and I'm just getting out of the shower, I just stand in front of him and bounce up and down. And he runs. He runs! We are a naked family, we all see each other naked, so.
I need to put that on Twitter, right now...
Audience Member: What was interesting about it, was my, son, and I, my little one was completely oblivious. He was kind of embarrassed, and I thought it would come and go, and it would pass. It thought it would pass, I got calls from radio stations, Vancouver, Montreal, like it was kind of crazy. And then my son started feeling a little bit embarrassed, because...I didn't name them, I don't name my kids when I write about these things. I hadn't really thought about it until one of the people interviewing me said, are you concerned that the kids are going to start talking about this, and they are going to humiliate him. I was like, "Oh wow, I hadn't even thought about that".
Panelist: Leave it to the rest of the world to screw it up.
Audience Member: I asked my son, and he was like, "Whatever, no one has mentioned it.." the kids were too busy doing other things, but it was interesting that your son, your kids ended up with the picture plastered all over. That could have happened, and I think that's the thing. What was interesting for me in this conversation, is what came out of my conversations with other parents, that kids set the nudity agenda. So basically, when your kid says to you, "I'm so interested in seeing it anymore, I'm not interested in you seeing me," and in the same way, with blogging, if it's really bothering you, then it has to either change or it has to stop. And it was very cute, "Mom, do you think maybe you could not write about being naked again?"
Panelist: She as a question in the second row, and then we'll come back to you.
Audience Member: Unable to hear the first part of the question....and then, totally still doing it. Because I also feel like it's my story. Maybe I'm a little bit of an asshole, my policy has always been even thought my blog is anonymous I am never going to write anything that I wouldn't say to their face. And I live by that. So she's 14, and she called me a bitch one day and it's the only time she's done it but I blogged about it. And then weeks later, "You know I went to your blog because I knew you were going to write about it, and all those people don't know the whole story". Yeah, I know, whatever. But, I feel like when your child says don't do it, and she was serious this time, I do respect it, but at the same time, I feel like, "my god, she also says, why are you breathing like that?" So I mean, they are teenagers, and what embarrasses them, is ME. Whether I am blogging, crocheting,
Panelist: You walk in a room and they are humiliated.
Audience Member: So I don't know how much I can reclaim. Yeah, I know you don't like it, but this is what I do. I definitely limiting, hoping, she'll lose interest, but I don't know.
Tanis: We're not the first people to be blogging about our kids and our families. I mean, Myrna Balmbeck, she made a career out of it, how many novelists, so this is a long line of people. We can sit and all talk abot reclaiming and protecting privacy and stuff, but it's been centuries people have been writing about their families. So I don't tend to worry about it too much. Because you are right, my daughter does that too, "Mom, you are breathing loudly...." Your so noisy when your eat, because I am very mature. How do you balance? Like, Mary how do you balance, if your daughter says don't do it, but she's also the person licking the cheetos, and saying, 'Mom you never feed me properly". How do you know when you can take them seriously?
Mary: I think there is a difference between a bitchy little middle schooler, and a girl who is being dead serious and she wants her privacy protected. The worst thing that happened to me during blogging was that my daughter got thrown off a soccer team, because I wrote a post about her soccer coach who was a complete bitch whore. I got into a fight with this woman, at a party, and I had a few absolute pear margaritas, and I had this total run in. She cursed me out, I cursed her out and then she threw my daughter off her team. Because I wrote about the experience. I didn't soccer coaches name. I apologized to her the next day once I sobered up. I said I was sorry for the fight, and said I hoped it wouldn't effect my daughter. But it did because I wrote about it. For me, that was a lesson in small town blogging than it was about blogging. And the kid, she wasn't even sad. My daughter was like, "She's so mean, I'm so glad I hav reason not to be on her team anymore". She didn't say "I'm not going to get that scholarship anymore mom, thanks". I had to write that story about that woman throwing my daughter off the team, because I could not believe that she did that. I actually took the post down, because her husband called my husband, like it's the 50's and said, "Do yo know what your wife said on the internet about my wife?" and my husband, "If you would like to talk to my wife about what she wrote on the internet, but I'm not her gatekeeper, or whatever". There are lessons that you learn, but the one thing, if you keep your voice universal, and this goes back to what we were saying and what we've touched on, if you keep your voice universal, it's not about your kid, it's about your experience as a mother going through something, and there is only generic you can keep it in a town of 2500 like in my case. I'm not willing to stop writing about things that happened to me. I took that post down, but I think if Molly had said to me, "don't ever write about me again" in that situation. It hasn't happened to me. But I can't believe that I would want to jeopardize my relationship with her. You're basically choosing between your readers and your kid, right? Your kid should always win...BUT, but you do have readers, and you've been writing longer than you've had these kids, and you just have to find the balance, the best you can.
Marika, I just want to say one thing about yours, I loved that she got to read the comments from other people. I have said that to my mother, and I remember saying it as teen, and frankly she is still one still. But my point is still, but I know it's not really point, but it probably helped that she read some of the comments about her nasty little comment that she said to you.
Audience Member Responds:
Panelists: Yeah, of course, but she's 14, whatever. It's never their fault. Tell her to get her own blog.
Audience Member Responds.
Which I really want to talk about it, and we'll come back to it after a couple of questions, but I want to talk to the people who are using social media to punish their children for their behavior on social media. But we'll go back to that.
Audience Member: Michelle, I go by old dog, new tits. It's live. It's a long story. I have two kids, and I have a girl and a boy. They are both, tween and a soon to be teenager, and my girl is so into it, that she literally guest posts, and she loves it. I have named her just by first name, because she's so into it. My son, any time he does anything, "Don't blog about it mom, don't facebook it." He has instagram which is terrible. Is it just my two kids personalities, or are girls more into it than boys? My son would hang himself.
Tanis: I would pick personality over gender. My son is never whatever, he just doesn't want me to pose naked.
Stefanie: I have three boys, they don't care. They don't care. I mean, they care, obviously. They don't mind as long as they know I'm being tasteful.
Tanis: It depends on which one of them got the famewhore gene that we have. Some of them are like, "OH MY GOD I'M ON THE INTERNET IT'S SO COOL," and other ones are like, "Don't write about me!!"
One behind you and in front of you.
Hi my name is Andrea Tompkins, and I have been blogging since my kids were born, and they are 11 and 13, they have grown up on the blog and readers have watched them grow up. When I talk to non-bloggers about the blog, they really don't get it. But most of all, they don't understand why on earth I would post photos of them. I mean, I don't even post embarrassing photos of them, not even when they were babies. I always thought about whether they would like to read what I am currently writing, and whether it would be hurtful, and whether I would...I agreed with you Tanis, would I like someone writing about a giant poop explosion on a horrible road trip, so I keep that in mind.
Panelist: I would still write about that, because it's funny.
Tanis: I totally crapped my pants when I was 6 and hid it behind the couch, just so you know.
Panelist: So...did you write about it?
Tanis: I did not, but I will now. On Monday morning!
Audience Member: My questions was do you post photos of your kids and why or why not.
Tanis: Oh I totally do. Um, because you know stalking and kidnapping and violent crimes existed before posting on the internet did. I do protect my location only because my husband has asked me to. I don't live in a small town, but my kids go to a small town, and when I say small town, I mean like 500 people small town. So it's not actually a town, it's a hamlet. So, yes, I do protect my location. And I don't use their real name. And that's as far as that goes. I have beautiful children, when my daughter on the net, she wasn't on the net. And now she's a vain little monkey and thinks she will get a modelling contract because actually she is a beautiful young lady, but there are creepy perverts out there. But I will publish pictures of my boys because I don't know, women don't seem as threatening me.
Mary: Oh they are.
Tanis: Maybe. I wasn't pointing at her. I will post it, but I have never had a problem posting pictures. I post pictures of me, but he has asked me not to post pictures of him, and I do it only on his birthday because I want everyone to know how awesome he is and I say, "It's your birthday present, the internet knows how wonderful you are!"
Panelist: It was just recent.
Tanis: It was April...yeah.
Stefanie: My husband, on that note, absolutely refuses to let me write about him. He does not want to be discussed in any shape or form. I'm like, "Can I just go tell them-" No. "How about that he-" No.
Mary: My husband let me do that mold a penis about him. So he was a little but more open, but pictures of my kids, I'm just not into my kids. In the posts that I might write about them, I wrote about taking my daughter to the truck stop, so there was this picture with this trucker behind her. I was writing the post about how the food was important here, that I didn't care about how there was this scary, serial killer looking guy on the other side of the booth, so I took a picture to show the hair back and tattoos of the trucker. So it's sort of like that type of reason, or if it's just a really good picture of my son. Usually I don't, but occasionally I do.
Tanis: It has to depend. I suck as a photographer, so I don't worry about putting my picture up and having people steal it for campaigns or commercials or anything because my photos suck, so. Yeah, if I need a picture, I will use it. It's not a big deal for me.
I just want to make two quick points. When we talk about what our kids think of our blogging, I think anyone who has teenager has to expect that they would have a certain degree of disdain for whatever we do, and there is a difference between their disdain and their feeling humiliated. If they don't like it, too bad. But that the other thing, the more positive thing, and this isn't why I blog but, but I have teenage boys who don't often wabt to engage in really deep conversations with me, but I find that when they read what I write, that it's almost as a way of us conversing that we wouldn't always converse about, sometimes it's serious. They get an idea of what I am thinking, and they tell me what they think, and they'll tell me that I am over-worrying or whatever. And sometimes it's more positive. I posted a very funny video of , I think it was a first world rap, and it was about very spoiled, I'm sure people have seen it, spoiled kid, and my 14 year old saw it and thought it was funny. And then he was walking the dog the next day, and I was telling him I was ordering pizza, and he asked where I was ordering it from, and he went, "Ohhh, I don't like that pizzeria...oh wait I sound like that kid in the video don't I?" You do, and I was glad that by reading my blog that he got some perspective.
Panelist: We're giving chocolates to you because that's a really good point that you made. You're so smart. Double chocolate. The point of being able to use your blog as a communication tool as your kid. I think it's really about...I have sent links to my daughter before, and said, "Just check out this post and tell me what you think," so you can open up lines of communication.
Audience Member: I don't post pictures of kids on my blog and I don't use my full name and I don't use their names. There are people in my town, and they do know, and I tell people in person that I blog. To the general public and they don't know my name, I'm just motherhoodwtf, so but, then, if people I know, I cross, I wasn't so good about staying anonymous. I talk, I like to talk. So I tell people what I do, and then they know. There will be times when I will be dropping my kids off at school, and his teacher will be like, "oh my god, that's so funny, I read that" and it might be embarrassing to my son, but that's where I don't know where to balance protecting their privacy with me still being able to say what I want to say. It's really hard to. I'm just still talking about myself, I feel like, and it involves him...it's hard to find his balance.
Stefanie: I don't think I've found the balance. I use my kids full names. I am kind of in a unique situation where they were being used by my ex husband online, so people knew who they were, and anonymity was not really a first on my list because they weren't going to be anonymous anyway. I do photos and I do names, and I, you know, I think it comes back to, I get the idea of not using your kids names, it just comes back to the same thing. You just have to use common sense when you talk about your kids, and if its going to humiliate them, don't put it on your blog. It's pretty simple and it's really steadfast. And it gets really important as the kids get older. I found middle school to the absolute worst for the kids.
Tanis: Don't write about pinworms when your kids are in middle school.
Stefanie: No, I was done with that, and the comments factor. I know you probably want to bolt out of here to get to Martha Stewart so we'll wrap it up pretty quickly.
Audience Member: I just wanted to say, we talked about listening to our kids and what if their privacy is being violated but I think that being the child of a blogger, that you are conscious of things that other people aren't thinking about. I know my daughter at one point, we had spent the day with PhD in Parenting's kids, who are pseudonym, so she said to me, "I have a new name. The blog is real Elizabeth.com" She thinks has her online name and if she could have a twitter account and she would, but she can't. She blog, she has a pseudonym. I don't think the kids who don't have blogger moms are not thinking about. She might overshare, because sometimes I overshare.
Panelist: We all overshare, by definition.
Audience Member: But I think there are things that are happening in the minds of our kids, that might save them later, or maybe not. There are things that are good, like the privacy questions they ask. This is an embarrassing don't blog about it, where else other people, their mothers yap on the phone and they experience over and over. So, I don't...
Panelist: We just publish it. Perpetuity is for ever. Have you ever taken a blog post down Tanis?
Tanis: Yes, I took one post down. I wrote about how my husband's family is a bunch of inbreds, because they actually really are. In the truest sense of the word, they all think they are monarchs, so they are marrying each other's cousins. Please do not tweet any of this, because I wrote and it was hysterical post, so I wrote that it's amazing that my husband's family is a bunch of inbred, and they are beautiful, they are like Nordic Gods, and then my family who is not marrying any cousins or anything, we all look like a bunch of toothless hillbillies. and I said, "what is the fairness in that?" It was hysterical post, it was really early on, in my blogging career, and I was anonymous then I came out as Tanis Miller, and my husband's family knows how to work Google. I was like, Ohhhh crap. So that was the one post, I took down. It had nothing to with my kids, but it had to with me calling them all a bunch of inbreds, so that's not, some of them are on Twitter...sooo... don't tweet that.
Stefanie: Have you taken a post down?
Mary: I took took the drunken soccer post down. I took one down when my kid was in preschool, about how awful about how bad the bitches in the front office were, and then I was so new at blogging, and then one of my friends said, "Oh my god, that's so funnny, I gave it to all the mom's at preschool cause they can't stand them either!" And I was like, "noooooo!" And then you can see when search certain things to try to get to your blog, but it was like someone was trying to get to it over and over and over again. I'm sure that someone told them, anyway, my kid got to finish his preschool there and then I switched preschools, just in case they found it and hated me.
Audience Member: I have a hard question to ask, but I guess it's about blogging about older children. I also had a child with an eating disorder, that's where I really bumped into the difficulties in blogging about it. I guess what I am getting at is it might make me feel better, and it might be focusing on myself, but in someways what you are writing can have life and death implications for that anxiety. It's not even the "please stop". But what if something nasty blew up there, and some how you are implicated, I realize I am being very heavy here, but I had to soul search, I kept thinking if it comes back to me, if I can draw the line that I caused more grief or anxiety, I would feel bad, and it's not worth it for me to feel better. I don't even know if that really, I don't know if you think you are doing a community service, it's just the cost, I guess. It's difficult to get into, but it's a different sort of question.
Panelist: I mean, it's the same thing, it's just think before you print, before you put anything out there. We're going to wrap it up, because Martha Stewart is apparently more important then we are. We hope that conversation was good for everyone. Thank you.