Sunday, February 25, 2007

WWMD?: An Open Letter to Mommy Bloggers (Or: Time For Another One of Jill's Reactions. Take cover...)

Dear Young First Time Mommy Who Blogs;

Let me begin by expressing my profound delight in being allowed the privilege of reading about your adorable new baby. Your babe is truly a miracle, and the wonder and awe that you so rapturously express, both verbally and visually, within your blog, is a delightful miracle as well.

I congratulate you on your skillful management of your household, which has afforded you the time needed to take to your keyboard and openly share your unfolding adventure in the fascinating world known as motherhood.

How well I remember the early days and weeks of first time motherhood, when every moment of time was precious. I appreciate the sacrifice you make to keep the world updated upon the domestic bliss found in your new role as a mother.

When I was a new mommie, a few decades ago, blogging was a miracle yet to be realized. Instead of sharing electronically sharing the details of my new life as a mommy with family and friends at a distance, I made do by taking part in a young mothers group at our church.

As young women became mothers, we would begin attending a Friday morning two hour study and prayer time, during which we bonded as friends, and shared our joys and our frustrations as we purposed to be the best mommies possible to the little bundles that heaven had so richly bestowed upon us.

It was fascinating to hear how labor went, and encouraging to know that other children had sleep schedule mix-ups, rashes, and colic. We shared and prayed our way through teething, digestive upsets, marital re-adjustments, childproofing, and potty training.

Our second born offspring were equally interesting...who knew two children born to the same parents could be so very different? The proud mother's of laid back first borns were shocked to discover that it wasn't their skills as a mother that made it all so easy, but rather the first baby was easy, unlike their household's second born terror.

By the time the third child arrived, the mommies became "old hands" at all of this, and generally stopped attending the Young Mother sessions. I had the privilege of leading this group for a few years, and recall many discussions of young mothers along the lines of "needing the older mothers to do their part and help us!"

It was arranged that some "older" mothers (mothers of teenagers to be exact...) would come to one of our meetings. The questions of the young mothers, babe at the breast, were pressing:

How do you get the baby to sleep through the night?
How do you get the baby potty trained?
How do you get the baby to stop biting other kids?

The questions went on and on.

I still recall Margie, a woman about eight years older than myself, her children approaching the teenage years, laughing hysterically, and saying something along the lines of :

"Trust me, you'll figure it out, and when you do, your kid will come up with a new behavior that will drive you crazy. This will continue the rest of your mothering life. Get used to it. Come on ladies, let's go out for lunch."

And the older mothers, for the most part, at that point got up and left.

How wise they were.

We really were able (gifted, actually) with the ability to solve the unique issues of each of our children, usually exactly at the same moment that said children cropped up with an even more vexing behavior.

And Margie was right, this vexing did (and does) continue the rest of our mothering life. I hear from eighty year old mothers who are just now learning how to relax in the challenges presented by their fifty year old children.

Nowadays "Young Mothers" connect and share via blogs. Having friends scattered around the globe is no barrier to sharing the joys and trials of young motherhood. How wonderful for your generation! The ability to gather hints and ideas from others while formulating your own modes and methods of mothering is very useful. What a blessing.

But I feel a strong need to gently speak a warning. While some young blogging mothers fear cyberstalkers, and have taken the precaution of making their blogs "by invitation only", let me suggest another consideration to be pondered before you freely share your mothering experiences in any form or anywhere in blogdom.

Your closest family and friends are eager to read about your new baby. They will remember the picture of your sleeping infant gesturing in fanciful or bizarre configurations, and will laugh with you at that rakish bit of humor. They will do their best to stomach your detailed description of the color, texture, and aroma of what your infant produced as an end product of digestion. Even if you later chose to delete your post that showed your cherub in disarray, you will not be able to delete the image from the minds of those who enjoyed your sharing.

I still can recall a madcap story that a dear friend told about her baby Rachel. Adorable baby Rachel experienced a digestive malfunctions that overwhelmed diaper absorption capabilities while being strollered through the finest department store in our area.

Baby Rachel is now Dr. Rachel
It happens. Babies do grown up. A couple of the Young Mother's Group children have become doctors, ministers, college professors, teachers, nurses and other exalted figures within society.

Sadly, when the glory that is Dr. Rachel is spoken of by her mother, my mind meanders back to the previous mental image so richly first created via her mother's detailed description decades ago when Dr. Rachel was still in diapers.

It's not just me. To this day, some fifty years later, my mom tells everyone who will listen that she always thinks of Richard Whitney, (who is now a judge), as the little kid running around with droopy diapers.

No matter how high of status anyone obtains in life, someone will always be there to recall your most demeaning circumstance.

The award winning author Dave Barry wrote a masterfully send up of a young parent's journals in his book Babies and Other Hazards of Sex.
He wrote:

"Baby Albums:

Baby albums are probably the single biggest cause of violent death in America today. The reason is that when people have their first baby, they record everything that happens:

January 5-Today Rupert is exactly one and one half weeks old! He weighs 8 pounds, 3.587 ounces, up 2.342 ounces from yesterday! He had two poopy diapers today, but definitely not as runny as the ones he had January 3! Also not quite so greenish!

And so on. By the time these people have their second baby, they're sick of albums. Oh they try to slap something together, but it's obvious that their hearts aren't really in it:

1966-1974: Byron was born and is now in second grade.

So Byron grows up, seemingly normal on the outside, but knowing on the inside that he has this pathetic scrawny album while his brother's looks like the Manhattan telephone directory, and eventually he runs amok in a dentist's office with a Thompson sub machine gun. So if you want to do a baby album, fine, go ahead, but have the common decency to notify the police first."

(Note the dates Barry ascribes to this imaginary journal. I'm waiting for his updated send-up of Mommy bloggers.)

I'm pretty sure that Mommie bloggers don't need to notify the police if they wish to detail every minute excretion their child produces, and verify the exactness of their verbal description with a digital photograph. Barry is just exaggerating for fun!

(And yes, lucky for all of us, I am not inserting a link to the mommy blog described above. You are welcome.)

What I would like Mommy Bloggers to consider is the effect their blogs will have on their child's future. Imagine, if you please, that your child, as you naturally are expecting will happen, becomes famous, or important, or (pray not) a cautionary example of failure.

Try to remember this as you write and post:

People remember.

And what they remember can not be deleted. Your humorous story about what did or didn't happen in the diaper, or at the breast, or whatever might not be what your child will appreciate having everyone share with him/her in the future.

This sharing may even occur in the somewhat immediate future when children begin to talk. Imagine what an older cousin, over hearing talk about newly born cousin's antics, will be able to share later, using that unflattering story against your child in a group setting at a later date.

All mothers have a favorite subject: Their children. Blessed is the mother who learns early on to edit what they share about what their children did, and what they thought about what their children did.

US President Jimmy Carter had a mother who went by the name of Miss Lillian. She had four children including a famous beer guzzler son named Billy, a woman evangelist daughter, and of course the President.

In one interview, following her description of her children and their very public adventures and miscues, she was famously quoted as saying;

"Sometimes when I look at all my children I say to myself, "Lillian, you should of stayed a virgin.""

The political enemies of President Carter enjoyed having that statement on record. I can not imagine how Jimmy Carter, the person, felt about having that observation in the mind of all that he met. Who knows how many "stories" about Little Jimmy growing up were recalled to undermine his governmental authority. How sad that Miss Lillian was not watchful to practice restraint from the earliest days of her motherhood.

Naturally, one of the joys of blogging is that you CAN and SHOULD say whatever you would like on your own blog. As a librarian, I fight for every writer's right to do so, even when I sometimes think what is written is revolting. I also fight for the right of readers to speak their mind about what they have read.

As a reader, I am going to suggest an idea that may assist an overly enthusiastic blogging mommy from drifting into areas that may not be tasteful, or in the best interest of the child:

Whenever you blog, before you hit "publish" think "What Would Mary Do?"


Mary, The Mother of the Most Remarkable Child EVER born upon this earth.
Surely she should have been given the right to express every detail of her experience as a first time mommy to Jesus.
But instead of writing or talking about every detail, she chose instead to "pondered these things in her heart."

Jesus, fully human, must have been as all other infants born upon the earth. Had Mary the option of blogging, would we have be privy to baby Jesus' diaper load color, texture, and odor? Pictures of Him on the potty? Her moments of hormonal mood swing?

I think not.

Mommy Bloggers, we love you and your baby.

But please, next time you write, would you just take a moment and ask yourself before you hit that publish button:


And occasionally chose to be like Mary, and ponder your baby's less flattering moments only within your own heart.

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