There is a question which ebbs and flows throughout the pages of this parenting and blogging community: What, exactly, are the consequences to the actions we now take? It has been addressed before, and chances are that it will be addressed again. That, of course, is the nature of the tide.
Some of us talk openly of our children. Some of us hide their identity. We share photos or we don’t. We tell tales and we change the names of those involved, or we out them with open and festive embrace. These are choices made on a personal level, but the results of those choices are anything but private. In this age of the Internets our children are exposed as never before, and more often than not it is the loving hand of the parent pushing them onward. We feed the fears we are unfolding.
I suppose that most of us falling within the label of “Parent Blogger” have done so for similar reasons. Namely, we love our children. We are proud of them. We are excited about them. A generation ago we would have shown photos over water coolers attempting to pique the interest of those around us. This forum, the blog, this is our water cooler. We were pulled here from places far and thrown together for subjects dear. This is not a community built on the exploitation of children. This is a community built on love. We are proud. We are a pride.
Ours is the result of technological advances, but the concept is not new. Roughly 90 years ago A.A. Milne wrote the stories of his son Christopher Robin and published them for the world to read. They were full of tender brilliance and exceptional wonder.
The stories brought a father and son closer together. The stories brought them joy.
And it was short-lived.
The father soon found himself unable to be taken for anything other than a writer of children’s stories, and it frustrated him for the rest of his life.
The son soon outgrew the shadows of youth forever captured in the books of his father. He went from enjoying the fame of his character to being haunted by it. He grew bitter and distant. Then, father and son grew apart, which is not the most uncommon thing to happen among grown men, but it is among the most undesirable.
The world of kindness they had created together took every ounce of it that they had between them, and then it cast them out to battle the demons that remained.
No parent wants to be resented by their offspring. It is hard enough to lose their hugs and dependence, but to alienate them by actions of your own hand—words of love— that cannot taste anything but sour.
Christopher Robin grew up to marry his first cousin. He rarely visited his father and after Milne’s death the son never returned to visit his mother for her remaining 15 years. What darkness must have filled him when his shadows were left behind?
Are we too creating worlds of words that will one day cause more heartache than the joy we now feel? By putting our own children on a stage viewed by an endless audience are we providing the fodder of therapy sessions and fostering acts of rebellion?
I hope not. I hope we are raising a generation able to accept and understand, even appreciate what we do. Isn’t that the reason that many of us first started this journey to begin with, to leave pieces of us behind that forever showcase our love and our happiness? We are able to offer a rare glimpse into memories otherwise forgotten—isn’t that alone enough to chance what we share?
I am faced with my own mortality, now more than ever, and I want the world to know me at what is surely my finest hour, these days when the boys are young and I am years from older.
Raising a child in the age of the blog offers us each the opportunity to write our own stories. This is mine, and it is layered in love and lessons, but how it ends remains to be seen.
For now, the pages continue to turn, and I do not want my children to outgrow their playthings, just as I know they must. I can only hope that when that day comes they understand that which I have done, and know it for the love that it is. It is their innocence running free through the fields of eternity, and an endless invitation to try and catch it.
So they went off together. But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest, a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.
- A.A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner
Illustrations by E.H. Shepard; an early version of this post first appeared on DadCentric