Kenny Bodanis believes the stories of his children are not his to tell. What do you think?
With any personal project, be it starting or expanding a business or writing a personal parenting blog, there generally is a tipping point where the project’s author must decide whether certain risks are worth the potential rewards.
In business, these risks are usually financial. As a blog author, the risk is personal. It is directly correlated with how much of yourself — or in my case, my life as a parent — I’m willing to share. When my children were newborns or toddlers, sharing stories of their illnesses or foolhardiness was no more risky than sharing what was for lunch.
My kids are now 8 and 6. I don’t share their names; I don’t share photos of them. These precautions are specific choices I feel will save them from possible embarrassment a decade from now. After all, these posts may be stories involving me, but they are the children’s stories.
Recently, my wife and I dealt with a particularly emotional episode with one of my kids. Whether to share its climax and resolution online forced me to closely balance the consequences to my child of making this episode public and forever, against the philosophies which motivate me to write about my life as a father.
What is the reward?
My motivation for sharing personal stories of parenting — especially as a father — is three-fold:
1) Encouraging a dialogue, both online and within other households, about difficult topics which parents feel they may be alone in dealing with. An emotional crisis with a child can be particularly draining. Reading of a similar experience within another household may not only provide the reader with a resolution, but also with some comfort in knowing their child’s crisis is not unique.
2) Create further awareness of fathers’ expanding roles in the home, and particularly as parents to their children. This includes admitting to challenges, successes, and failures of being a hands-on father, and/or balancing office work and family life.
3) Create and increase readership. As fun as it is to write as an outlet for your own psyche; an audience provides the real juice for bloggers.
What is the risk?
Anything published online is online forever. Your keyboard’s ‘delete’ button is akin to dusting under the coaster on the coffee table in front of you — the rest of the house is still filthy. Not only does the information exist as imprints on your blog provider’s server; once it’s been Tweeted, and Facebooked, and Stumbled Upon, your post is now hurtling through the internet galaxy, on a lost journey through cyberspace.
As for this week’s incident; I asked myself the following question: would I publish a similar story about my wife?
No. Why? Out of respect. Should that change because a child is too young to properly express their right to privacy? What are the chances these stories will live long enough to regret them 10 years from now? By then, one would think patience for digging through Google for high school fodder will have drastically diminished.
Some of the most successful parenting bloggers freely discuss their ongoing separations or divorces; their family’s struggle with a special needs child; or negative feelings towards other parents in the playgrounds and malls of America.
If my wife and I were ever to go through a serious rough patch, I understand there would be some value for another adult in a similar situation to read of my experience. However, I would not want my children to first learn of my personal feelings towards their mother online five years from now, rather than hearing it from me directly. They shouldn’t be informed of trouble within the family at the same time as their friends on Facebook. They should also have a right to not have the online community included in their family’s gossip.
But, unless your focus is recipes, or product reviews, or giveaways, the personal blogger’s axiom is: the riskier the story; i.e., the more personal the account of an event, the more traction it will have online.
Traction is part of the game. It’s up to each of us to decide at what point traction leads to being run over.
At what point is it wrong to turn an online community into a support group?
How do you decide how much of your family you are willing to share?