September 7, 2006

[How] Do You Write About Other People's Kids?

So we had the first event for the kid's little class at pre-school last night, a playdate at the school playground, and it went pretty well. {Except that while rushing to cut grape clusters while taking a meeting on the phone, I snipped off a dime-sized Ike-sized piece of finger. [What's that? No, I didn't bleed on any grapes, but thanks for your concern. But I am typing with one hand, though, for a while, and not in a good way.]

I haven't written much/any about the kid's school or the admissions process so far, and frankly, I'm feeling like I won't write much about it now that classes are actually starting. If I were NY Magazine, I would've already had a dozen anxious, anonymous admissions nightmare articles. [And we definitely heard those stories last night, though we felt extremely comfortable and mostly angst-free during the whole application phase. Now I wish I could bottle whatever we did and sell it on The Preschool Channel.]

But I am really reluctant to turn these [unsuspecting, so far] people who will be such a large part of the kid's life for a while [well, a couple of hours, 3x/wk, anyway--expect a lot more things to not get typed out all the way today, btw] into blog fodder, so I long ago decided not to write much about it.

Until we came home from the playdate, that is. It was so fascinating watching the kid and all these other kids run around, and talking to the other parents--and sharing this sense of weird, stunned awe with the other first-kidders at the whole notion of being a parent at your kid's school. A kid in school?? A calendar on the fridge??

Then seeing how kids with older siblings are so different at the moment from our little hothouse flower [sic], and how, gee, other peoples' kids promptly lose it at the actual prospect of sharing, too. And our kid's not alone in her recent passion for whimpering as the national sport.

So now that I've gotten out of the house, and our kid's life now [sic] includes someone she's not related to I guess I'm stuck. How do you [and by "you," I mean you and you bloggers] navigate this "writing about other people and their kids" thing?

I was talking yesterday with someone about a mutual friend, a professional writer, who finds that people are constantly and obviously auditioning for inclusion in his work. My situation is the exact opposite: these people don't know about the blog [I'm not naive to think it won't come out later], primarily because I don't want to have people always anxious whether I'm collecting material about them or their kid.

So if I write about school at all, right now I'm expecting to write only about my kid or my family. How well that'll work, I have no idea. Any other thoughts or advice is much appreciated.

7 Comments

Congrats on being a preschool dad ( and for mom too)
My kid is still in daycare but I already experiencing the anxiety of getting her into a good school next year because the space is limited.

We need to write an essay (!!!) about what do I like in my kid (everything) and what I would like her to get better at ( nothing, it will naturally happen) and unfortunately, unless we move to the suburbs this is one of our only options - and the school supposed to be great.

So without being the NYT how did you get over the anxiety - did u ?

"not in a good way" -- do tell, what's the good way? :)

You ask a good question. I've seen dadbloggers do it when it comes to reporting on regular playmates. Why do you think this would be different?

Something for you to consider: if you (meaning, your kid) are now in some private school in which parents have invested 200% of themselves in their Little Darlings AND they possibly have enough clout to ruin your life and get your kid kicked out when they don't like what you blog about their kid, then you should never write about their kids and possibly about the school altogether. It sounds silly, but you could ask the head administrators if there is some sort of blogging policy. I recall reading about someone being told they couldn't post any pictures of any kids at school other than their own kid. _Maybe_ that sort of thinking stretches to writing about other kids.

[any mention of "one-handed typing" is just begging for a punchline, whatryagonnado? And though potential networking or social climbing opportunities were not tops on our list of criteria in choosing a school, there are always enough lawyer parents around to make anyone wary. But not getting sued or kicked out, that's even below my baseline: I don't want us or the kid to be ostracized.-ed.]

I change names, places, surroundings... Make it so that if, by some rare chance, they stumble upon my blog, they'd have to think really really hard to connect the dots between my post and their life. Most people don't want to do that much thinking, so I'm safe.

I have family members who secretly read my blog, not telling me that they are aware of its existence, just to catch me writing something about them. THey don't know that I know that they know... Gotta love those blog stat programs!

[i'm always a little weirded out when someone I know in RL tells me they read the blog. You'd think after 5 years of blogging, I'd get over it, and you'd be wrong. -ed.]

Use your celebrity-post writing style: Unidentified kid pushes The Kid off swing. Unidentified kid's Dad was a jackass. Unidentified preschool Mom drives a carbon fiber and leather Maclaren. Unidentified Dad wears DT shirt.

[yeah, except as the celebrity posts show, it just gets some people more pumped about who it is: e.g., "Duh, that's Rod Stewart!" -ed.]

A question for which I am making up the answer as I go along, and hoping to err on the side of caution.

I blogged a couple of days ago about a kid who was bugging my kindergartner at school. No way was I going to use his actual name. But then every pseudonym I could come up with was already in use by someone in his class list. I finally settled on "Skippy" and no identifying information.

My friends do find their way into the blog. The consolation I offered one recently was that at least maybe someone cool will play him in the movie.

Last month, I wrote a post about someone I knew who I speculated was having, or thinking about having, an affair. THAT one caused me to break a sweat. I ended up going to the person and saying, are you cool with this? The irony was, I had altered every single possible identifier, only to learn later that another acquaintance who happened to eerily match all my fake details
was now in marriage counselling and on the verge of divorce. So natch, everybody thinks its her!

I explored the whole naked blogging and boundary thing in this post:

http://k1969.blogspot.com/2006/08/notorious-i-told-kids-we-had-to-come.html

What I have settled on for the moment as a rule of thumb is to assume that whoever I write about will eventually read it, no matter how unlikely that may be in reality.

k.

Everybody I know usually shows up on my blog. I just change the names and wait a little while before writing about it.
Besides most of them don't know about it. And I only write "nice" things about close friends who do know about it.

It's all good. I think.

I've lived this and paid a price. Thankfully, my son didn't pay the price.

One woman was *very* unhappy about something I wrote lamenting a volunteering requirement (I volunteered anyway) and told a mutual friend she was glad our kids would not be attending the same school anymore because she would "make sure they aren't welcome."

That's the first time I felt my kids were paying for my website and it made me very uncomfortable.

No one else who's been offended by my site has taken this stance.

I generally don't write about other people in my life unless: it's something I'd say to them myself, I really truly could care less about them or their feelings or it's not at all negative in any way.

When speaking to people, I never assume they read my site I assume they don't. However, when writing I assume they will read my site.

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