Saturday, September 4, 2010

Two of the Best

Recently, I have been trying to say "I was wrong" when it needs to be said. This post is far less maudlin but no less heartfelt, because I really was wrong!

A conversation with the excellent writer and blogger Susan at Mama Non Grata turned to blogs about parenting. Through the BlogHer links at Mama Non Grata I had sampled other blogs and found them less interesting than Susan's. Partly that's because Susan's blog is well written and inherently interesting, and partly because the others...weren't so much.

It's nothing personal, and that's the problem right there. I mean, I'm not a mother, so I don't need to read blogs about parenting for practical, personal reasons. Being a step-grand-mother is a totally different level of responsibility. If the step-g-kids don't eat while they're here, I shrug and send them home hungry. For example. (Not every time. They eat. Mostly.) So my personal interests lay elsewhere.

I have always made an exception for Mama Non Grata. The blog is, in part, about how a "nontraditional" family is the same as all other families, except in all the ways it's not. My own family has its "nontraditional" elements, and then of course I'm interested in a general way in all the ways people are human in this world. Plus now I know Susan and Rachel. Plus "What does 'nontraditional family' even mean anymore?" is always an interesting question. So for all those reasons, I'm a reader.

In our conversation about parenting blogs, Susan urged me to give them another try. I said "maybe" and thought "meh." Yet in the fragmented whirlwind that August became in this house, I did. And man, was I wrong!

I had run across Finslippy before and found it humorous, but I hadn't felt called to read regularly. Then one afternon when I was trying not to fret about impending company, I started reading the blog from its beginning in 2004. And the voice of Alice Bradley, Finslippy's writer, just charmed me.

What a fascinating window into the past six years of the online and blogging worlds. Finslippy addresses lots of stuff, some of it explicitly. Like
1. Privacy issues when writing about family members.
2. The persona you create when you blog (like that of columnist) and the relationship between that persona and yourself.
3. The difference between writing something that's true and something that's factual.
4. The overwhelming need people have to tell other people (especially mothers, maybe?) what they're doing wrong (in the comments, which is part of why I don't do comments; I have enough voices in my head critiquing my every move, thanks).
5. The commmunity that develops when a writer does allow comments and writes honestly about personal issues, and the support that community can offer in troubled times.
6. The hot-button issue for our culture that the relationship between children and food has become.
7. The benefits and drawbacks to living in the suburbs and the city; how do you know where home is?
8. How to watch someone you love struggle with something difficult while wanting desperately to step in and fix it, though you know you shouldn't and can't anyway.
9. Et cetera.

And no, I'm not going to link to specific posts. That's like linking to one page in a book.

The experience of reading it from start to now (not "finish") was great. For one thing, it was perfect chunks of reading for the bits of time I had. And for another, reading blogs is like sanctioned voyeurism. Who doesn't love sneaking a peek into someone else's journal? It was a whole different perspective on creativity.

So here's what I really need to say.
1. Susan: you were right and I was wrong, and I'm very glad about that. There are very interesting blogs about parenting out there, even for someone who's not a parent.
2. Everyone else: read Mama Non Grata and give Finslippy a try. And hey, if you're wondering how to jumpstart your creativity this fall, why not set aside a preconceived idea and try reading something new? It's quite refreshing.