Here’s an interesting theme that has come up more than once in recent conversations and I thought it would make a good question for the bloggy peeps. I was taking pictures of a family recently, and the client mentioned a particular photo of the boys that she’d admired. She then said something about how the boys always seem so well-behaved and willing to pose for my camera, and how did I get them to do that?
I laughed. I might have snorted. It was hard not to guffaw. I was thinking about that particular photo, and the day we took it, and how just a few minutes before I snapped it, I’d been harranguing them, nearly growling with frustration. “Honest to goodness, I ask so little of you, could you not for JUST ONE MINUTE behave yourselves and STOP TORTURING EACH OTHER?” By the end, I was definitely using my shrieky voice, the one you try not to use on the front lawn. Yeah.
Would you have guessed it?
And then there’s this one. See that expression on Tristan’s face? I think I threatened him with a time out until he was forty if he didn’t smarten up and get that look off his face. (The great irony is that even though I was ready to blow a gasket with frustration at the time, I’ve come to love this picture and it’s now one of my favourites. But I was on the dark road between exasperated and furious at the time.)
So the snapshot is a carefully constructed illusion, really. It shows what I want you to see, not the reality of the situation. Which ties really nicely into a conversation I had via e-mail with someone who has been lurking on my blog (and a few others, from the sounds of it) for quite some time. She was wondering about the way bloggers filter our lives for online consumption, and whether by not addressing or glossing over the ugly bits (I love how she called it “the yelling and tantrums and defiance and moments of sheer bad parenting”) we bloggers might be painting an idealized version of family life — one that is not only unattainable but also unrealistic. She was careful to say that she liked how I do address those frustrations and bad times, and other bloggers do, too, but that many do not. In fact, she said, she’d almost stopped reading some blogs because of this. She said that of course bloggers have no responsibility for the mental health of our readers, but wondered if I’d ever had the sense that some people might idealize our lives.
Again with the snorts of laughter. Idealizing THIS? Ha! It’s especially snort-worthy since I feel like I’ve been in a bit of a bad place as far as my own patience levels are concerned lately. But it’s such an interesting question, don’t you think? I have noticed that some bloggers do only blog about the good stuff, and there’s a whole lot of blogs I avoided especially a couple of years ago when blogging about what an awful parent you are was chic.
This ties in really well with a theme I’ve been considering recently, which is the idea of the identity we portray online and how accurately that matches the person we are. I think that over the years I’ve actually become more like the character version of me I created online: more confident, more outgoing, and generally a better version of me. Is that weird? I wonder how much of that is just maturity, and a direction I would have gone anyway, and how much of that is a kind of “fake it ’til you make it” sort of development, where I’ve actually convinced myself that I am less of a geeky dork than I really am.
I also find this an interesting topic because I’m still struggling to find a comfortable place in my blogging between disclosure and protection. As the boys get older, I’m finding their stories are less mine to tell, and while I’d absolutely LOVE to tell you the story of the conversation I had about reproduction recently (it ended with one boy exclaiming “AWKWARD!” in a singsong voice when he got an inkling of what the actual mechanics were, and gosh I’d love to tell you more!) but– I’m not sure I can tell those stories with same blissfully ignorant abandon I used to, back in the day.
Anyway, there are half a dozen themes in here I would have liked to explore a bit more, but I want to know what you guys think. Do you think there is balance in the parenting blogosphere? Do bloggers paint a realistic portrait of family life, or do they idealize it? Should we be cognizant of how the stories we tell might be perceived and internalized? Have you ever been self-conscious about how you portray your family — or yourself? How closely does your online persona reflect who you are offline?