Sunday, February 04, 2007

The challenge of writing about your children

“You have no right to write about me and my life without even letting me read what you say,” Baby complained today.

I was writing an essay that I was planning to submit to a parenting publication, and Baby wanted to sit stand behind me while I wrote.

This was not the first time that she complained about my using her as a source of writing material. I chat quite a lot about her on my blog, and she usually has to nag for me to let her read the posts.

Part of my problem is that the essays are my recollections of events that happen in our lives, and I want so badly for her to feel that the finished product is a fair reflection of events.

I also want her to appreciate that viewpoint may differ with hers, but that does not make her experience less valid. This is especially true if the essay is about an argument we had or an incident that might be embarrassing for her.

I suppose I want her approval for these pieces, even though she’s still very young child. As she says, it is her life that I’m putting out there for public consumption.

I am also concerned that in using events in Baby’s life as a source of essays, I may be infringing on her right to privacy. This concern is reflected by the fact that I never use her real name in personal essays, and never publish images of her anywhere.

For me, it always comes down to this: “if Baby was asked to make an informed choice, would she agree to have her life and events that are shaping her to be known to strangers?”

She loves being my muse, especially for the contemporary children’s stories that I have written. When she reads the stories that I have finished, and recognizes a real life incident that have been twisted for fictional purposes, she laughs and points them out to me.

She likes that I name many of my characters after people we know, and looks forward to my writing a book in which her name is used for the main character. She also dreams of a career in modeling.

Despite this bit of vanity on her part, I know she’s not wholly comfortable that I write about her and I will have to find ways for both of us to deal with the issue.

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