For the first five years of my older daughter's life I wrote her a love letter every month to keep track of all the changes that happen from week to week as a baby grows from infant to toddler to full-blown kid. It wasn't always easy coming up with something new to say, but the idea that she might one day read those letters motivated me to keep trying. Since I published those letters on my blog, I also had an engaged audience who waited every month for the update. They sympathized with me, cried with me, offered words of support when I needed them. I'm really lucky that they came along with me for the ride.
My daughter is now eight, and throughout these years I've learned a few things when it comes to blogging about kids. Because while most of my audience is kind and encouraging, there are and always will be a vocal few who can make things uncomfortable. The following are some of the most important lessons I've learned.
DO be honest and authentic. Readers are attracted to the raw voices that blogs offer and are looking to connect with people going through the same experiences. I had a horrible case of postpartum depression, and although it was difficult to talk about it publicly, the support from my readers saved my life.
DON'T write anything about anyone in your personal life that you wouldn't say to them out loud in a room full of people. You may not like your sister-in-law, but if she reads about that on your website when she came looking for a story about her niece, Thanksgiving dinner is going to be very awkward.
DO try to craft a story. This doesn't just apply to mom blogging. Recounting what you fed your kids for lunch won't keep people reading. How far your kid can throw a burrito definitely will.
DON'T publish photos of your kid's school or any identifying characteristics of your home. Just a basic security measure.
(My critics will scream that I'm doing more harm by publishing photos of my kids' faces, but statistics will tell you that exactly ZERO children have been kidnapped because they were featured on their mother's website.)
DO monitor your children as they get older and determine how much information you want to share about them as they become more aware of what you do. I like to think that kids do a lot of the exact same things for about three years: they eat, they scream, and they poop. After that, some stories go in very different directions and you may not be comfortable sharing that direction. When my daughter turned six I noticed that I had instinctively stopped writing as much about her. Her story had always been very much her own, but I wanted to start preserving and shielding more of it. I know I'll begin writing less about my younger daughter as she gets older, too.
(Interesting aside, I've had many friends who are parents of teenagers tell me that their teenagers wished they were featured in their blog more often.)
DON'T freak out when you get your first hateful comment. It will happen. You have to be prepared for it. Know that it happens to everyone. Also, don't let anyone try to convince you that you're ruining your children's lives by writing about them (point them in the direction of Bill Cosby and Erma Bombeck). If anything, you're giving them a gift. Wouldn't it be amazing to know what your own parents were thinking when you were an infant?
Heather Armstrong blogs at Dooce.com. Her book, "Dear Daughter: The Best of the Dear Leta Letters" is available now.
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