so, i’ve been thinking. yep. more than i let on.

admittedly, the thinking these days happens in shorter, more sober, and more interruptable increments than it used to back in the glory days my former life. and most definitely, my thinking gets less press than it used to. Oscar hasn’t expressed any particular reciprocal interest in my musings on geopolitics or Baudrillard’s recent passing, so…we stick mostly to the “buh! yes, that’s a duck, dear!” strain of conversation, punctuated by occasional ramblings by moi on my abiding love for him and how it’s not nice to bite mommy and swat her glasses off.

and here in blogland, where i actually make some small attempt to use complete sentences and words bigger than “bunny,” i’ve stuck mostly to the practical, the anecdotal, and the emotional ends of reflection.

but during the past week, i’ve happened upon a few posts that have gotten me wondering, explicitly, about the fascinating circus that is the Internet and particularly about this whole act of mommy blogging and what the hell i’m doing here. not in the sense of “do i belong?”…true, i’ve been a slow starter in terms of actually figuring out and performing the requisite rituals of link and comment that connect one to community here on ye olde interwebs, but i get it now. i’ve been getting love and belonging and commiseration and pleasure out of the connections i’ve made. what i’m trying to figure out is “what is it? what are we doing here, us moms (and dads) blogging about the wild ride of parenting? or is that even what most of us are really on about?”

it started for me when i (belatedly, because i’m a stegosaur who never quite got around to using a blog reader) stumbled upon a post that social networking diva Josie Fraser put up last month about parents – especially parents whose work is largely online and who have significant net presence – posting pictures of their kids. issues of privacy were raised, and of consent, and of the eventual online identities of said kids being shaped or impacted by still-searchable photos of them on their potties, in a nutshell. and i, who do not yet have a potty for O but would probably post pictures of him on it if i did, said “crap! never thought about that one, quite that way.” and then i burned in shame. and then i said “but i’ve never noticed any other parenting blog mention it explicitly, either…” and i felt much better and quite consoled by the idea that i’m no suckier a parent than most of the rest of you out there. i mean, simply because reading about everyone else’s child-rearing foibles makes me feel more smug better about my own doesn’t make the rest of you bad parents or anything…erm…right?

in truth, even a cursory scan of the momblogosphere will show that those of us whose blogs – which in many cases ARE our online work and a large component of the online presence we lay claim to – are overtly about our family lives do not speak in one voice on the privacy & kids issue, even if we don’t meta-talk it. (or rather, even if my archaic blog-reading methods haven’t led me to the probably vast existing body of meta-posts on it). some of you nickname your kids on your blogs, or identify them only by initial. many of you choose not to post pictures. these are, implicitly, statements about what is or isn’t acceptable or safe or consensual or decent or private, in your esteemed estimations. but because these statements, at least – again – to my limited scope of awareness, are generally implicit, they don’t enter into my own conversation with myself (and Dave) about what level of online presence is acceptable for O. i simply accept them, and if they’re different from my own choices, i figure “heck, cute nickname her kid’s got” or “maybe she hasn’t figured out how to upload pictures yet.” at the very most, i assume you have safety concerns about your child being identified online in this world we’re constantly being told is scary, and i respect that and wonder vaguely whether i should be more concerned myself, and soldier on.

Josie’s post and the conversation it exists within, however, isn’t about the safety repercussions of posting our children’s pictures online, or even about whether refusing to do so buys into the potential sexualization of images of kids, or any of the various nasty Pandora’s boxes that relate to that end of the conversation. it’s about whether it’s fair and decent to expose our kids to the public eye when they aren’t capable of consent, and even more, whether it’s acceptable to contribute to the online and therefore public identities of our children. this is a question that previous generations of parents never had to consider, unless they were celebrities…but now, the creation of online identity is a lifelong process with fairly dramatic ramifications. in ten years, O may be able to google his name and find this blog. his friends may be able to google his name and find this blog. in twenty, his potential boss might do the same. is that cool?

i don’t have the answer to that. until now, i’ve failed to even ask the question. i’ve presumed my blog was inherently harmless…a wry but loving chronicle of his early days, and even more, of my own early days on this parenting path. in the act of writing us down i am able to make meaning from what might otherwise seem like an endless cycle of diapers and “yes honey, that IS a duck.” i love blogging, and am grateful for the outlet and community and audience it offers…it’s mommy crack for me, even on the small scale i operate on.  but i don’t want to lose sight of O’s dignity in my paroxysms of self-satisfaction, or draw unwanted attention to him in any form…be it from crazy predators or future child cyber-bullies. i don’t want to use him as cheap fodder for my own gratification.

(well, except for those cute naked photos i was planning to drag out for his prom…but see, that’s a parent’s prerogative, isn’t it?)

and that, in the end, is what i’m really blathering on about here. i’m Oscar’s mother. of course i’m shaping his identity, online and otherwise, at the moment. he’s a bloody baby…it is, very literally, my job to shape him, in his interactions, and his manners, and his tastes, and his knowledge of the world. his eventual online identity seems so minor an issue compared to all that, from where i’m standing. but when he’s ten years old, and not ten months, does that prerogative extend in the same way?

what do you think? what choices have you made around identifying and picturing your kids on your blog, if you have one…and why? do you think what you’re doing will matter to your kids someday?  do you think they’ll even know about it?  do you have a pre-set expiry date for your blog, if it’s kid-focused?  is there a point at which you think that offspring should be asked for consent before being commented on publicly?

i really want to know.