I found my baby book the other day. It’s not much. A slim, fake-leather volume titled “Book of Baby Mine,” it holds a lock of hair, a pair of tiny footprints, and the time of my birth. Now I can have my astrological chart done, once I cough up the $150.
It got me thinking about the things mothers record about their children, and how vastly that has changed from then to now. Back then, we were lucky to know when our first tooth popped up. (Mom wrote, “Cried all afternoon Palm Sunday,” apparently working on that tooth. I also discovered my feet at 6 months.)
That was about it. As all second or subsequent children know, they’re lucky to even have a book, let alone to find anything written in it. I’m afraid I was the same with my two – Allison’s book is full (okay, half-full) of entertaining reports, while Dan’s, well, at least I stuck his sonogram inside. When I start to feel guilty about my paltry record-keeping, I tell myself it’s all in my letters to Mom, all of which I have now. That’s where I can remind myself what Allison said when she drew her first “person” – “It a man. It gots feet” – as well as the scary saga of 5-year-old Daniel’s hospital stay for asthma.
These days, though, it’s a different story. More and more moms have taken to the Internet to not only tell but show what’s happening in their children’s world. I’m talking, of course, about blogs. (Does anybody but me remember where this word came from? “Web logs.” Say it fast.) There are photos and videos of children attacking birthday cakes, as well as their siblings. There are conversations between moms and kids recorded word for word. Some are funny, some are sweet, but overall, I find the whole idea troubling.
One big Mom Blog comes from a Florida woman named Kelle Hampton. She wrote a book called “Bloom,” about the birth of her second daughter, who has Down Syndrome. They weren’t expecting that, and she records in excruciating detail the range of emotions following the birth, when it dawned first on her, and then on the doctors, that this child was different.
I’ll admit, I couldn’t put the book down. It depicts Hampton’s family and friends and the way they came together to wrap their arms around her and her husband and the tiny babe in their arms. It’s a beautiful story of shock and love and acceptance and, finally, celebration.
Having read the book, I searched out the blog on which Hampton continues the story. She’s a topnotch photographer, and the pictures that punctuate her writing are priceless. Here’s Nella, the baby, being tenderly held by her big sister, Lainey. Later on, here’s the hilarious day Nella fell headfirst into a bush, and Lainey joined her in screaming bloody murder until Mom came to the rescue. (No, she did not photograph that.) More recently, we’re treated to the day she labels “Diary of A Mad Nesting Woman,” as Hampton, 8 months pregnant with Baby #3, decides at midnight to paint the living room.
Her girls are beautiful, and dressed as if by an editor at “Parent’s Magazine,” because their mom has exquisite taste. Nella’s growth and progress are impressive, and a relief. She’s going to be all right. Hampton goes out of her way to meet older kids and adults with Down Syndrome, and says all the right things about accepting differently-abled people. And she doesn’t forget about her firstborn, telling us in great detail about Lainey’s reluctance to start school, and her later triumphs there.
But here’s the thing. These girls, these adorable, photogenic, funny and smart little girls, are not models in a magazine. Neither are they pint-size mannequins in some upscale store window. They’re real. Real humans. And they are growing every day. Soon enough, Lainey will be ten, and before you know it, she’ll be a teenager. Nella, too, will grow, and face more obstacles in her world, no matter how cool her wardrobe.
Right now, Lainey might know her mom is writing about her and the family and posting it on her computer, along with all kinds of pictures. She might think it’s cool to be on Mom’s computer. But I doubt she understands – or that Nella ever will– just how public this family record really is. Anyone, anywhere in the world, can Google “Kelle Hampton” and land on that blog, that window into their world. Window? Heck, it’s an open door.
It’s a door that can let in worrisome things. When I searched her name just now, it showed me these searches, done by other people: “Kelle Hampton annoying.” “Kelle Hampton snark.” “Kelle Hampton hate.” I feel bad for her, because she seems to be writing from the heart, and assuming her story will brighten her readers’ lives. Apparently, she’s not delighting everyone.
I keep wondering. What about the kids? How long before we see a search for “Lainey Hampton hate”? That would be terrible. But whose fault will it be? The mama tiger who loves her kids but can’t stop showing them off? Where do we draw the line between private and public? Most of all, how do we not only protect our children from mean-spirited readers (and worse), but give them some control of their own lives, from the moment they enter the world?
One thing I can tell you. It makes me feel a lot better about the humble baby book my mom scribbled in, and the ones I made for my kids. Nobody can read them on the Internet. They’re at my house, and you’ll have to get by me first.