One of the first parenting "blogs" that I read was published back in the days before the Internet. It was a weekly column in the Stars and Stripes called "Life on the Home Front" by Pam Zich. Ms. Zich wrote about being married to a Marine and the adventures/daily life of herself, her husband, and their three sons Jimmy, Tommy, and Ronnie. It seemed like Ms. Zich wrote about every minute detail of her family's life. Every week I would vow to myself that I would never read that column again because I was always bored by people who constantly talked about their children. I often wondered how anyone outside of this woman's immediate family would actually be interested in such a column. I'd read it and tell myself, "Never again. Who cares about what little Tommy told Grandpa about using the potty?" But like that proverbial Autobahn car wreck, I would be drawn to "Life on the Home Front" the next week.
Parenting blogs and websites tend to fall into three distinct categories:
1) Blogs that are similar in tone to "Life on the Home Front." These are the ones where moms (most of these blogs are written by moms) write about every moment of their lives with Little Herkie and Junie. Everything that Herkie and Junie do, no matter how trivial, is published on the Internet for all to see. Of course everything out of their mouths is extremely witty. When Herkie or Junie are sick, Mom posts their hourly temperature reports. There are lots of photos of Herkie playing baseball and Junie in her ballet performance. Like "Life on the Home Front," I can't imagine these blogs appealing to someone outside the blogger's immediate family or circle of very close friends. But judging from the comments that they get, these types of blogs are very popular.
2) Perfect Parent Blog/Sites. These blogs are the ones which preach breast feeding, attachment parenting, keeping the TV off (or not having a TV at all), and only letting Junior eat organic homemade baby food. According to the people who write these blogs, moms who give their babies formula might as well be giving them strychnine. I drank formula as a baby because I was adopted and am alive and healthy. Parents who have their babies sleep in another room instead of in bed with them are cold-hearted monsters who are upsetting their baby's sense of security. And letting your baby have a cupcake on his first birthday? You're setting him up for a mouth full of cavities. When Precious gets out of infancy, Mom blogs about how her little one knows her alphabet, three foreign languages, and differential calculus. After all, a good parent would never let Precious fall behind her peers. These are the moms who become helicopter parents who won't let their kids out of their sight, even when they go off to college. After all, every adult out there is either a potential child molester or rapist. Moms who write these types of blogs stay at home with the kids, and usually homeschool, because that's what good mothers do.
3) The anti-perfect parent blogs. These are the ones where moms write about how they let Junior eat a candy bar or a meal at McDonald's, drink a bottle full of formula, play in the mud, or sit in front of the TV while Mom cooks dinner. They take on the same self-righteous tone as the Perfect Parent blogs. The general theme of these writers is that their child did or ate something "bad" and didn't become retarded, autistic, obese, or have a mouth full of cavities. I think that every parent has let a child do some of these "bad" things. The key is moderation. I also don't think that writing about how your child is still normal after eating a Happy Meal is newsworthy. Some of the moms who write these blogs work, while others stay at home with the kids. One of my favorite anti-perfect parenting blogs is Mompetition (http://www.mompetition.blogspot.com/). The woman who started that blog uses hilarious cartoon videos to poke fun at the extremes of "perfect" parenting.
My favorite parenting site (and one of my favorite sites in general) is Free Range Kids (http://www.freerangekids.wordpress.com/) . It's not a typical parenting site at all. The woman who writes the Free Range Kids blog, Lenore Skenazy, was dubbed "America's Worst Mother" because she let her 9-year-old son ride the New York City subway by himself. He had asked to do it; and Ms. Skenazy gave him the tools to help him arrive home safely. After that incident, she was criticized soundly for "endangering" her son. The Free Range philosophy is letting kids do the things that we all did as kids: walking or biking to school or to a friend's house by themselves, playing without constant parental supervision, or simply viewing other adults as good people. Ms. Skenazy's blog includes articles from various news sources which show how pervasive the American culture of fear has become. Some of the articles include items like: 6th graders not being allowed to bring pencils to school because they can be used as weapons, parents being turned in to Child Protective Services for leaving a child alone in a car (while within sight of the car), Barbie dolls with little video cameras that the FBI says can be used by pedophiles, and parents yanking their kids away from friendly senior citizens who dare to smile and say, "Hello" to the kids. Every time I read one of the articles that Ms. Skenazy posts, either ones that she found or that readers sent in, it makes me glad that I live in Germany where Free Range is the parenting norm.
I encourage anyone reading this post to check out Free Range Kids and Mompetition.