Sticks and Stones and Blog Posts

Stones
Remember that saying about sticks and stones? The one about names never hurting you? It’s rubbish, I've decided. Thoughtless remarks are often more wounding – and the injury longer-lasting – than any slap or punch.

I can still remember the time when I was about 14, and my mother said that of course she loved me, because she had to, but she didn’t much like me. With hindsight, I can see where she was coming from – I was a spectacularly horrible teenager and I seem to recall I was being kicked out of school at the time. But it’s interesting that 20 years on, I still remember her saying she didn’t like me, and how devastated I was to hear it.

What’s interesting is that my Mum has her own version of that experience. When she was a teenager, she was pretty and popular, and dated lots of boys. My grandmother, presumably worried my Mum would get big-headed, said: “The reason you have a lot of boyfriends is because boys like girls who are plain.” It was 30 years later when my Mum told me that story and she still remembered the conversation word for word.

Maybe it’s inevitable that we all have a version of the story – and Flea will have one, too. But what I’ve been wondering is whether blogging could make it worse.

When I blog, I censor myself to a certain extent – I try not to blog about my relationships, and I’m always conscious of clients and colleagues potentially seeing what I write. When I post, I often edit details if I’m describing some conversation I’ve had with a friend.

But perhaps my censoring should be more focused on Flea. When you are exhausted and frustrated and want to kick something, it’s very easy to write a blog post with a throw away line about how you don’t like your child, or to Tweet that some days you wish you’d never had a baby. But should you? Where’s the line between blogging honestly about the reality of parenting, and protecting your children from seeing something that might upset them in years to come? What do you think?

About 

Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

36 Comments

  1. Deb
    8th June 2010 / 10:57 am

    I think it’s really disrespectful to say anything mean/not so nice about your partner or children online. Even when I read tweets moaning about partners it makes me squirm.
    Yes, it is good to share etc and we all feel fed up with loved ones but I don’t think sharing with the internet is the answer. Share with real life friends in a conversation or even offload into a journal.
    I would be horrified if I posted something that might upset them, now or in the future. As you pointed out, hurtful words stick and they stick forever. Do I really want to potentially harm my relationship with them for the sake of being honest or because it might momentarily make me feel better or get lots of comments or for whatever reason? No. I know it’s easy to think we’re helping others by making them feel they’re not so alone with similar problems but, really, my priority is my family not complete strangers. Is that mean?
    I always think about how I’d feel if I’d read something they’d posted about me that wasn’t particularly lovely.
    Have to say, don’t think I’ve ever read anything you’ve written about Flea where there wasn’t a hefty dose of humour/love involved and have never read any “I wish I hadn’t had her” type tweets/posts. What’s brought this on? ;0)
    Sorry. Bit of a hobby horse.

  2. 8th June 2010 / 10:06 am

    I’m very aware that once I hit post things are out there on in the internet and can’t be taken back so I am careful what I say about other people, and also that I keep their names and faces hidden so at least I can pretend its my imaginary family I’m posting about… that imaginary mother in law for example…

  3. Liz (LivingwithKids)
    8th June 2010 / 10:12 am

    I do think when it comes to your children you have to consider their feelings – particularly if they’re at school age or there’s a risk one of their friends’ parents could read the post. I am sure if I shared my entire warts ‘n’ all parenting experience it would be very well read but I always think about my family and how it would feel for them to have everything exposed. I’ve never wanted to write confessional journalism (except anonymously!) and I think the Julie Myerson debacle is an excellent illustration of why you shouldn’t air all your dirty linen in public (as my grandmother used to say).
    My mother also told me she didn’t like me a couple of times (and still does, sometimes) but I just ignore it. I don’t say it to my offspring, though. What I say instead is ‘I don’t like your behaviour.’ Because I don’t ever want them to think I don’t like them.

  4. Susie
    8th June 2010 / 10:14 am

    Funny how thoughts seem to go in bunches with people realizing and blogging about the same things at the same time. I wrote a post about using your words well because they have a lot of power two days ago.
    I think by the time Flea hits 30 she will enjoy and laugh at whatever you ahve written when she was younger.

  5. Susie
    8th June 2010 / 10:14 am

    don’t you wish she was a figment of your imagination-lol

  6. 8th June 2010 / 10:15 am

    I’m careful about what I say about BG, yes I blog about the tough times but I try to make them light hearted about her, I’m normally asking for advice. My mother once said to me ‘that everything was my fault and I was stopping her from being happy’ x

  7. 8th June 2010 / 10:19 am

    Sadly, I have had expereince of my words not being received in the way I had hoped they’d be so I am very careful of what I say. I do have a couple of things my mum said to me that still hurt nearly 50 years on!

  8. 8th June 2010 / 10:38 am

    I’m very cautious about what I share online. Remembering that I’d have to stand by it if it was posted in a newspaper or on a billboard makes me extremely circumspect. I suspect that’s why I’m not a parent blogger, but instead a blogger who happens to be a parent.

  9. 8th June 2010 / 10:39 am

    I think that as mothers we devote an enormous amount of our time and energy to our children. We sacrifice a lot in order to give them our best. Sometimes this can be hard, especially when aspects of their behaviour anger or sadden us. Why shouldn’t we have a space where we can voice these frustrations? Blogging is an important outlet for many women. That said, I would never want my children to see anything negative that I’d written about them, which is why my blog is anonymous and I never put photographs up.
    For what it’s worth, I don’t think I’ve ever read anything on your blog that could possibly hurt your daughter in years to come. Your warmth and affection for her shine through your writing. It’s one of the reasons I like your blog so much. I love reading about Flea – she always comes across as an incredibly likeable little girl – funny and quirky and nice. I think you do her proud you know?
    P.S. Thanks for your comment on my last post – I appreciate it. x

  10. 8th June 2010 / 10:50 am

    me and my family have a device called “at least that’s how i remember it” where you make up/extrapolate a story and then tag that on to try and make someone (a parent or sibling) feel bad. it’s kinda funny and maybe helps diminish some of the long held things you mention.

  11. 8th June 2010 / 11:06 am

    I think the key is to have balance in everything you write; if all you did was moan about Flea, for example, then yes, I think that would be a case for the child psychologist. 99% positive probably justifies the 1% “constructive”. However, I appreciate it is not as simple as that with children, who might focus more on the negative (come to think of it, that probably applies to some adults too.
    There’s that parenting cliché about not focusing on the child, but focusing on the behaviour, so I personally try focus it more on my own feelings about something, instead of necessarily being about them.
    Interesting post!

  12. 8th June 2010 / 11:06 am

    I hope my blog shows the good and the bad, but focusses more on the good. I have never ever said that i didnt want to be around the boys or that I dont enjot them. I do try to be as positive as possible. My mum one said that if she had to do it all again, she wouldnt have children. It has loved with me forever and I still dont feel I live up to her standards.
    I have upset people when I have blogged and learned my lesson on that one, but with regards to the boys, only time will tell

  13. 8th June 2010 / 11:54 am

    I agree with the principal because it cannot be nice to read unpleasant comments (throw away or not) about yourself. But, it’s also important to remember that EVERYone has those moments and if we all kept quiet then we’d risk each individual thinking they were alone and unusual. When we hear/see women we believe are fantastic parents feeling the same way, we can feel better about ourselves and like we are actually ‘normal’ rather than ‘the worst parent in the world’.
    I lose my temper with my toddler most days (probably because pregnancy is making me so tired) and yet when I heard my husband losing it last night, I very calmly pointed out to him that the child was doing nothing wrong and that he, the husband, was just feeling irritable. I took over the situation and gave him a break to calm down and it was all fine. But if he didn’t ever let me know that he got like that sometimes, I would feel worse that I let a tired little boy get me so cross so often.
    What I’m trying to say (finally I get to the succinct version) is that there is a positive to be had from just coming out and SAYing it. And like you now understand what your mum meant, Flea will one day understand that she didn’t always endear herself to you either.
    The comments that hurt the most are the ones we choose to hold on to. It’s up to us if we remember the good or the bad ones. Far easier said than done.

  14. 8th June 2010 / 12:02 pm

    Bloody good point! My nephew has now started reading my blog which is a terrifying thought. I think I’ll have to stick to blogging about Nintendo DS from now on, for fear he thinks I really am an unfit mother to his cousins.

  15. 8th June 2010 / 12:23 pm

    Wow…this is a popular topic these days. I have realised that my blog is a bit of a “Happy Place”. I try to not whinge about Little Miss mainly because I don’t have a lot to whinge about. I NEVER complain about issues with my hubby as if I can’t say it to his face, I shouldn’t be saying it behind his back. My Dad reminded me about that. That being said, I feel I have more freedom on Twitter. My real life friends/family are not on Twitter (that I know of) and I find comfort in letting out a SHOUT and getting comfort and “me toos” in response. There needs to be a safe place for all of us to “shout”…for me, that’s Twitter.
    I think Flea will get a right, proper kick out of reading your posts in the future…you’re a lovely mother and a great writer!
    🙂 Karin

  16. diane
    8th June 2010 / 3:34 pm

    My mum said the same thing to me when I was about 12 or 13! “I’ll always love you, but I don’t always like you.” It was worse than a slap in the face. I don’t blame her now, I was struggling horribly with hormones and something of a drama queen, but I never forgot it either.
    I don’t think it’s possible to never inadvertently hurt your child’s feelings. All you can do is be the best parent you can. And I think when children are older and they request to not be blogged about, you have to respect that. In the meantime, I think it’s best to share the good and the bad, but yep, watching out for throwaway remarks that could be hurtful. And I think that’s a good idea when it comes to all family members, not just children. Stuff on the net can always come back and haunt you later, as many of us know!

  17. 8th June 2010 / 4:17 pm

    At the beginning I’d blog about anything and everything but as time has gone on alas some of my friends read my blog and now there is no more privacy so I have to reign myself in – not so much fun now but I don’t want to offend anyone with my blabbermouth!

  18. 8th June 2010 / 7:56 pm

    When I was a teenager my mum also told me she loved me, but didn’t like me much and I remember it too.
    I am very conscious not to say anything I wouldn’t want the babies to read when I’m writing my blog. I often daydream about what life as a mum of just one, rather than twins, would be like, and I’ve thought about blogging about this but decided against it. When I’m out and about, fielding comments from well-meaning strangers, I can often be quite negative about having twins. I want to stop doing this so that my two grow up feeling special, rather than that they’re a burden.
    Sorry, gone off on somewhat of a tangent.
    Reading your blog, the respect and love you have for Flea is what comes across. I don’t feel that you paint her in a negative light, and I think she will have an amazing time reading the stories of her exploits when she’s older. She’ll have the fantastic opportunity to get to know herself as a child – and I’m quite jealous of her for that.

  19. 8th June 2010 / 8:05 pm

    Yes, I think it’s important to remember you can’t take back something from the Internet – it’s potentially there forever.

  20. 8th June 2010 / 8:06 pm

    Thanks for the link – it’s a great post and you’re right, it’s often the most casual remarks that stay with us, or hurt the most.

  21. 8th June 2010 / 8:09 pm

    I think you’re right and I definitely try to consider Flea’s feelings when sharing personal information, but also I think in making negative comments – it’s not just a case of thinking of Flea’s feelings now, for me, but how might she feel in 10 years if she sees a comment, when I’m not standing in front of her and able to explain the context – good grief, I might not be alive, even.

  22. 8th June 2010 / 8:11 pm

    Blimey, that’s a tough thing to hear from your Mum! Poor you.

  23. 8th June 2010 / 8:13 pm

    I think as we grow up, we all have times when we’ve opened our mouth without thinking and phrased something basly, hurting someone. I think what worries me about blogs and Tweets I see sometimes is that they are written about children who aren’t privy to them now, but who might see those words later, and be horribly hurt or embarrassed by them.

  24. 8th June 2010 / 8:14 pm

    I think (hope) I manage to be a blogger, a parent AND circumspect, but that might come back to bite me in the behind later, I guess.

  25. 8th June 2010 / 8:21 pm

    Hmm. I sort of agree – of course blogs are a space where women can vent and share feelings. But I think sometimes, how would I feel to read something where my mother posted something on the Internet for everyone to see saying I was a little cow, or that she didn’t like me, or wishes she’d never become a mother – all of which I have read from other bloggers. I think I’d have been devastated to read something like that from my Mum.

  26. 8th June 2010 / 8:25 pm

    I also win any argument with my Mum by reminding her of the time she made me sleep on the sofa because I kept coughing at night. And then I was diagnosed with asthma. Ha!
    It’s not so much that I lie awake now weeping at insults from 20 years ago – it’s more that at time it was very upsetting and I remember that, rather than still thinking it’s upsetting. If that makes sense?

  27. 8th June 2010 / 8:28 pm

    No need to apologise – actually I totally agree. I don’t think a blog is the place to vent about your kids – and disrespectful is the PERFECT word.

  28. 8th June 2010 / 8:32 pm

    Gosh, that’s a hard thing to have heard from your Mum – I can understand your feelings, absolutely.

  29. 8th June 2010 / 8:35 pm

    I do sort of get where you’re coming from and you’re right that being open and honest is generally a positive thing.
    Where I get concerned though is what does it do to someone to find a blog post or Tweet where your Mother says, “I don’t like my child” or “I wish I hadn’t had kid”. You’re not talking about something said to their face where you can say afterwards, “I’m sorry, I was angry or upset about x” – this is something in print, that you shared with the entire world, and that might be read years afterwards, with untold consequences.
    I personally don’t think it would be healthy for any young person to read something like that – but perhaps because my family didn’t often say those sorts of things I’m more sensitive.

  30. 8th June 2010 / 8:39 pm

    Yes, you’re right – I think it’s inevitable we hurt people’s feelings as we go through life. I guess what differentiates the Net is that it’s there forever, in print, with no context, and something expressed in the heat of the moment can take on a life of its own days, weeks, even years later – as we’ve all learned at some point or other, I’m sure.

  31. 8th June 2010 / 8:46 pm

    Great comment – you’re right that it’s so easy to slip into negative ways of talking about kids and I think it’s great you’re so aware of it. In some ways I’m lucky – I genuinely do think Flea is amazing and fun and a great person, which I guess comes through. But of course I have tough days when I think about other life paths not taken – but I try to vent to friends on the phone, not the Internet.
    I do hope Flea likes reading the blog. I’ve chosen the most embarrassing photos possible, with her teenage years in mind 😉

  32. 8th June 2010 / 10:23 pm

    I think having older children might have an effect on what I write, though. My oldest will be at secondary school in a year, and as I am becoming known as the mother-with-blogs at school, it would be easy to find me, and blog posts ranting about the hell of having four children. Not that having four children is hellish. Well, not all the time, anyway. Ahem.
    And yes, I think you do a pretty good job.

  33. 8th June 2010 / 11:38 pm

    I might write that I find being a parent hard work or that I wish I was better at it, but I would never write anything that I wouldn’t be happy for my husband, family or children to read. For instance I think it would help me to write about Presley’s traumatic birth or my difficult pregnancy with Cash, but I won’t because I wouldn’t want them to know the details. There are some things you just don’t want to know.
    I’m also very careful about what I say to them. I hope I’m always careful and don’t scar them for life with a crass remark later on!

  34. 9th June 2010 / 5:50 pm

    That’s not even the worst thing she has said and done.

  35. 11th June 2010 / 9:51 am

    You’re right, of course. I hope the love will always shine through, though. It definitely does when you write about Flea, so I wouldn’t worry about that too much.
    (Your mother wasn’t being very original – I got that line, too.)

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