The family that blogs together, well, um, fights…
by Features Editor Shelah Miner
Last Monday morning, I opened the door to the pediatrician’s office and sighed. My kid was scheduled for a well visit, but every other kid in the packed room suffered from the same unspecified viral illness. Bracing myself for two inevitabilities– a long wait and sick kids two days later, I treated myself to the best reading material available, a copy of Cookie magazine well past its expiration date. I thumbed through the pages for a while, then settled on Pilar Guzman’s editorial, in which she talked about telling her mother that she and her husband were expecting their first child. The gist of the story (I wish I’d snuck the magazine out in my purse so I could quote the editorial verbatim) is that although Guzman was in her thirties and both financially and emotionally stable, her mother wasn’t excited for her. She kept asking her if she was sure she was ready. And Guzman went on to say that she thought her mom was reacting based on her own lack of readiness when she became a mom, her own marital failures, and her own self-absorption. She said some good stuff too, and came to a positive conclusion about her mom as a grandma, but the criticism was there, in black and white.
The thing that totally caught me off guard? The picture of her mom, snuggling the now-preschool-age grandchild, smiling from the middle of the page. She must have read what her daughter had written, criticisms and all, and been okay with it. At least okay enough to have her picture published in a national magazine.
That so would not happen at my house.
The last time I wrote about my mother on a blog, I tried my best not to say anything that she’d take issue with. To cover my butt, I hacked into her Google Reader and marked the post “as read.” But a couple of days later she found the post, and I got an angry email in my inbox. I’ve posted about her several other times, garnering either comments on the blog or tearful phone calls. Every time I mention my mom in print, I end up groveling.
But I can’t help myself. For one thing, she’s such an interesting character (is it a bad thing when you start viewing the people in your life as characters?) and for another thing, she’s such an important person in my life that I inevitably end up talking about her when I talk about myself.
So how do you balance writing about the people in your life with not alienating them? I recently read Emily January Petersen’s essay “I Love You No Matter What” in the December 2008 issue of Sunstone. She talks about coming to terms with her dad’s homosexuality, and while it’s evident that she loves her dad, her essay doesn’t shy away from the way she suffered because of his identity and his choices. She found the balance, and did it without hiding behind a pseudonym. I don’t know yet how to talk about myself and my family, and be honest, and be fair.
How do you do it? Do you write with your image of someone sitting on your shoulder, keeping you in line? How do find the courage to write the truth as you see it? The pleaser in me would so much rather be nice than be honest. And how do you deal with people being hurt by what you’ve written?
In the end, I’m just afraid of no one showing up to Sunday dinner at my house. But I guess that would be all right, because I’d probably have sick kids.