It’s a constant battle about whether I am going to keep my newspaper parenting column or not. It’s not that it’s in jeopardy. It’s not. But I question myself over and over whether I really want to keep writing it.
I don’t really know how I feel about this space I have in the newspaper. Every other week, I get to write 800 words about anything I want as long as it pertains to families. When it comes to writing for the paper, that’s freedom. You see columnists in our paper, like Chris Smith, Chris Coursey, and my personal favorite, Susan Swartz, and they get that kind of freedom. I’ve looked up to all of them for years because of it. And while mine isn’t a regular feature of the newspaper, it’s a space that is all mine that I get to write anything in it. Not many people have this privilege. So to give it up, I’d have to be crazy.
But the difference is, they write about other people who want to be interviewed. But my column? Often it is about my own experiences as a parent, and how I have dealt with the normal day-to-day issues with kids. Most of the time, it’s upbeat – like when I got to write about going from a single mom to getting married. And sometimes it’s about an experience we’re grappling with, like when we’re dealing with bad sports in soccer or baseball, learning how to deal as a stepfamily, or when my daughter is leaving to live with her dad.
I reach a lot of people through this column. Some weeks I hear nothing. But other weeks I manage to touch something inside a reader or two, and they send me a note to tell me their own story. This past week, I received a half dozen notes from parents with kids who have moved in with their other parent, or who have gone through it themselves as a kid. They were able to relate to the story I told about DQ moving away. One mom even wanted to start a support group, with my help, for parents going through this. I was warmed by each of these personal letters sent to me, and received it as an affirmation that I am doing the right thing by sharing little pockets of my life.
And that’s what they are – little pockets. In my public column, I do not mention the parts that hurt too much to write. I will not write something that will hurt someone’s feelings if they read it. I keep the dirty laundry airing to a minimum, only speaking about things that are okay to share with the public by all that are involved. In fact, that’s why I moved THIS blog over here, away from the public eye. The blog and columns I write there keep my private life PRIVATE, but allow me to still share the outer details that will hopefully help other parents battling the same issues or experiencing the same triumphs.
But then I receive a comment like this: “Often when reading your column, I cringe a bit over certain details you have included and wonder ‘oh my, wonder what her kids think about this being in the paper?'”
And it’s surrounded by other such accusations about my column and what I am writing – how I slam my ex, mention my messy marriage, and air my dirty laundry in such a public way.
Truth is, he isn’t even being a troll with what he said to me in my comments. He merely gave an opinion that isn’t in line with what I believe. And he doesn’t have all the facts, either, since I (surprisingly) leave so much of my private life off of all my public spaces of the internet.
But still, it hurts.
I could receive a million comments that thank me for what I write, telling me how much they appreciate my openness and how they can relate, and other such niceties that I have received over the years I have written my column. But when I receive a comment like the one I just received today, it makes me question everything I believe, and makes me wonder if it really is time to end the column and just call it a day. It makes me question if I really am sharing too much of my personal life with the public in my column. It even makes me question whether I need to hang this blog up too, to just close the open door policy I’ve held to many of the details of my life and go back to living life privately.
I mean, what is a blog, anyway, but a very public diary?
I probably won’t give any of it up. At least not now. But man, these kind of comments sure do sting a lot. And I obviously have a very fragile ego.
Since getting a tumblr account, this is a phenomenon I have seen more and more. It seems like some people hang around the internet just waiting to find something about which to be offended and then go on a social justice rant or a rant telling that person how to live their life or implying that they are telling OTHER people how to live THEIR lives or are using racist/homophobic/ableist/privileged terminology or point of view and how everything about what they are doing is WRONG. I have seen — and I’m not even kidding — vegans fly off the handle and insist that photos of food with meat in them need trigger warnings. And in the art community? Oh gee. Don’t even get me STARTED.
And I understand how hurtful it can be, especially out of the blue. I am a mild-mannered person, and every once in a while, I’ll post something (90% of the time something intended to be taken superficially) and someone that follows me will reblog it with a rant about how closed-minded and wrong my views are and that I am actually probably destroying civilization single-handedly. And it’s always hurtful. It usually blindsides me. Just…I posted something intended to maybe…make someone smile. And instead I’m told I’m a horrible person.
And then I try to take a deep breath and remember that it’s the internet and people be cray cray and sometimes sit around just WAITING to be offended by something.
I can imagine it is even worse when you are sharing a part of yourself, rather than an inane comment. You’re really brave, opening your life up to the world the way you do. But there are ALWAYS going to be jerks in the sidelines waiting to jump on something THEY see as wrong. No matter WHAT you post about. Have you SEEN some of the viewer comments on Cute Overload?
So, feel hurt that people are jerks. Because that’s inevitable. But. Then take a deep breath and remind yourself that fools be trippin’ and that people have freaked out of a photo of a plate of chicken and insisted that it ‘triggers’ them.
I’ve found two two things about writing personal things in a public setting. First people say things online that they would never say in person. It’s easy to pretend the people they hurt aren’t as sensative as they are. And secondly, blogs are great for our children. I remember being a kid and finding my Aunt’s diary. I loved that she was vulnerable and had crazy things happening to her on every page. The digital diary helps show the world and our family our soul. It’s pretty awesome.
Thank you so much for this comment. It’s just the kind of encouragement I needed! 🙂