Why Reading Blogs Isn’t a Waste of Time

I left a comment on Amy Silverman’s blog the other day, and got more than a dozen heartfelt comments in response. Amy called it “the gift of a lifetime,” which, well, I don’t even know what to say. My comment had just been to thank Amy for writing her blog, because reading it had turned unexpectedly useful to me.

A little background story: the wordpress blog “dashboard” keeps me informed (when I bother to check it) how many people view my blog each day (there’s usually about 25 of you, sometimes up to 75, for reasons that I don’t always fully follow), where you all come from (including how many google searches for “Elmo’s poop” lead poor people here, just to be befuddled), and what you all click on from here, if anything (mostly kids’ activities in San Diego). A few years ago, I noticed that I was getting a few readers a day who had followed links to me from “Girl In a Party Hat,” back when GIAPH was on wordpress. I clicked on over, to see what the link was. It was a randomly-generated link. The internet, in its wisdom, decided that Amy & I must be writing about the same things because we both write about daughters named Sophie who were born in May.

We’re not writing about the same things. Amy is writing about having a 6-year-old with Down syndrome, struggling to find social services in the stingy state of Arizona, dealing with siblings and friendships and candy and more. It’s not the same at all, but I liked Amy’s writing and I liked her parenting attitude, so I kept reading, and soon I got hooked.  I even got myself an oilcloth table-cloth, because — as most readers of Amy’s blog will attest — Amy’s tablecloths are cool.

And that’s just the kind of thing that might make most people scoff at the time wasted reading blogs or acquiring tablecloths. Those scoffers would not understand that the kitchen-table is the geographic center of our family, and it should be easy-to-clean and easy-to-smile-at. And those people might not understand that the little details sometimes lead to huge ones. Or, maybe, that really good mom-friendships are hard to find. Amy & I may be different, but we are both American-Studies majors who are befuddled by living in the Sunbelt and are married to rock-climbers — and that’s actually a surprising amount of overlap. I’m grateful that the internet connected us. I wish Amy lived closer to me, or that Amy & I wouldn’t keep on nearly-missing each other when we do travel into each other’s states.

I’m grateful, too, because it turns out to have been really helpful to be reading Girl In a Party Hat all this time. Here’s the comment I left recently on Amy’s blog:

… I have been meaning to write you a note myself. Because I’m 37 (nearly 38) and pregnant, my midwife has been encouraging me to get the non-invasive tests to check if my baby has the likelihood of chromosomal abnormalities. When she first asked if I wanted this, I said, “What would I possibly do with that information?” And then I realized the obvious answer: “I would phone up Amy Silverman and get even more tips than I’ve already gotten from her about how to parent a kid with Down syndrome, and I’d get myself as prepared as I could be for the adventure to come.”

The tests came back negative, so my chances are down to 1 in 11,000 or so. But the nice thing was, it didn’t really matter. Because reading your blog has made me think that parenting a kid with Down syndrome IS an adventure (“the best thing that ever happened to you,” I think your profile used to say), not an easy adventure, but certainly one that I could embark on, knowing already to expect heart problems and social-service-negotiations and IEPs and struggles around friendships and finding fashionable eye-glasses and everything else you write about. It’s an enormous demystification you’re doing for all of us.

What could have been terrifying suspense in all those visits to various doctors’ offices (drawing blood, measuring the fat-folds in the back of the fetus’s neck, drawing more blood later…) became far less terrifying, because your blog has made Down syndrome seem so much less foreign to me.

I know I’m not quite your intended audience, if such a creature even exists. I don’t live in Arizona, don’t have a child with Down syndrome or any reason to care particularly about it — before this pregnancy at what I’m now learning is apparently old age. I just happened on your blog and loved your writing and your attitude.

And it turns out I’ve been learning a whole lot all along, from you, without realizing it.

Thanks.

So this is why I read mom-blogs. This may be why I blog: because we don’t have enough brutally honest stories of motherhood. We have no Erma Bombeck for this generation — as my aunt-in-law commented, astutely, here. So we have to find our own stories, because I still believe what Carolyn Heilbrun wrote in Writing a Woman’s Life: we each write our own lives, in advance of living them, and thus we need to read how other’s wrote their lives, in order to creatively write ours, in order to even have the language to live. We read stories because we never know when those stories may be useful, because all stories are useful.

So, thank you to Amy, and to every mom who tries to be honest about the exhausting and wonderful story we’re all writing.

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