On Anonymity, Twitter and The Problem With Blogging

I’m quite a shy person. That admission might surprise people who know me, as I’m also fairly confident in many ways. Especially professionally. But probably my biggest weakness is caring too much what people think of me. Especially people who don’t matter. That makes me hold back at times, and makes me shy and nervous in certain situations.

And it’s that which makes me crave some anonymity online. That way, I feel much more free to share my emotions or intimate details of my life, without the fear of being judged by people I actually know, who might end up seeing me in a different light. Even though that’s probably unlikely, since my writing is very true to myself. But nevertheless, I worry about what people might think of me.

I’m clearly not anonymous here. The site is plastered with pictures of me and my son. I’ve given our real names (although I haven’t shared our surname, in order to google-proof myself that way) and identifying details of our lives for anyone who actually knows me.

And I like it like that. Honestly, I do, despite what I’ve written above. I’ve done completely anonymous blogging before, and it doesn’t really work. That’s the problem with blogging. You have to be genuine. It’s glaringly obvious when you’re not. And pointless to boot.

But the other problem with blogging is that to get the most out of it, you need an audience. Otherwise it becomes just like publishing your personal diary or journal online. I know that is how most of the content of this site started out, and I was completely honest when I said that readers or no readers, I’d still write for me. I think I’ve proven that!

But behind the decision to make this public was not just a desire to share an honest account of pregnancy and parenthood with diabetes. It was also a desire to attempt to engage in a community. But that desire turns out to be slightly at odds with the desire to restrict my readership to people who don’t know me and maintain my online partial anonymity.

I know that Twitter and Facebook are, these days, at the heart of online communities. The problem with both of these is that they are full of my real life friends. Advertising my blog on these platforms is like an open invitation for friends and family members to pop along and gawp at all the details of my life that I may not have mentioned in person.

Starting a new Twitter account is a solution that I’ve considered. But then, how do I create followers there? If it were that easy, I wouldn’t be having this problem! Simply following people and hoping they follow you back hasn’t worked on Twitter since around the time I first joined, over 5 years ago. I know the answer is to engage in conversations, but that is something I find difficult. When I send @ replies to people who already follow me, they often don’t get a response. And I’m not entirely surprised by that as there must be plenty of other people who struggle with Twitter in the way that I do: I feel a bit like I’m standing in the middle of Grand Central Station having multiple conversations shouted through me. And some of the conversations are between one person I know, and another I don’t and whose voice I cannot even hear.

So the problem is this: How do I engage readers and participate in community without relying on Twitter and without compromising my desire not to have my family and friends stalking everything I write?

I think the answer is that I can’t. Something has got to give, and my guess is that it will be my anonymity. After all, I don’t want to stop blogging. And is it even right that I’m prepared to share so much so openly without telling the people who really matter?

Project 365 – Trying To Keep Up

I’m absolutely determined this time around to keep going with my attempt at a 365 Project. At the very least I wanted to make it to more than midway through the first month of the year! Fortunately I’ve managed that mini-milestone. Here we are, almost at the end of the month, and here are my next batch of pictures. I can’t promise I won’t get behind on editing and updating them here, but I will keep taking them for as long as I can!

Jan142013

This my view on the homeward bound nursery commute at present

Jan152013

My mum and I went to Starbucks this afternoon, after an abortive attempt to get Thomas to join in with his swimming class. The cheeky monkey kept looking at my carrot cake imploringly. Eventually he just grabbed a spoon and helped himself!

Jan162013

Uncharacteristically, Thomas decided that he wanted a morning nap this morning. Typical, when we were supposed to be meeting friends for an early lunch. In the end I had to wake him up. He didn’t stir at all when I put the light on, which is also unusual, so I got to take this sleepy shot!

Jan172013

This evening Thomas refused to go to sleep. Our evening was punctuated by bouts of crying, as demonstrated by all the red lights flashing on the monitor. As the timer at the top shows, this was 37 minutes in to trying to convince him to sleep. (And no, it wasn’t actually 24 degrees in his bedroom. the thermometer is a bit flaky, and also stands right under the amp we use whilst setting him dressed and reading bedtime stories.)

Jan182013

Sleepy head. We’d just arrived home. He looks so uncomfortable, yet he was snoring away. Beats me how he can sleep like this, but not in his nice comfy cot!

Jan192013

Me, looking pensive. I don’t think I knew this photo was being taken.

Jan202013

It has only snowed properly one other time since Thomas was born, but he was much to young to care or remember. This was the first time we had really taken him out in it. Obviously the hat did not stay on, even though it was still snowing! He wasn’t too keen, but did find it hilarious when I was holding him and threw a snowball at Daddy! Notice too the conspicuous lack of wellies. Thomas has size 2.5 feet. The smallest wellies most shops do are a 4 or 5. Even the one apir of size 3s I managed to find slid straight off his feet as soon as he tried to walk. Hopefully his feet will grow soon!

Jan212013

Much preferred the view of the snowy landscape from the window. The condensation you can see just in front of his face is from where he licked the window just a few moments prior to taking this shot!

Jan222013

My birthday. Snuggled up with Ian in front of the fire. or more on this day, see here.

Jan232013

Mountain climbing. This is what happens when you forget to bolus for your carb-heavy lunch, and then get tied up with a patient immediately afterwards, which means you can’t immediately rectify the mistake! (And yes, I know there are a few too many lows in there too!)

Jan242013

Thomas very deliberately dumped this lot on his high chair try. A moment later he started smearing it all over the place with his hands. Table manners need work! But look at that face!

Jan252013

Playing with shoes again. We were about to put him the pushchair to go to nursery when I caught him sitting on his foot like this. It’s a new pose.

Jan262013

Playing under the cushions with Daddy.

Jan272013

Fast asleep in his ERF car seat. Anyone who thinks kids in ERF seats “can’t see out” shold take a look at this picture and see just how much he can see out… far more than many forward facing children, who are positioned lower down!

Stress, And A Birthday

It’s been a stressful week. Ian has been under extreme stress at work. We’ve all been ill. And then, last Tuesday, at 14 months and twelve days old, Thomas decided that he no longer needs any daytime naps.

Tuesday was also my birthday.

It started out well enough. With the pressure at work there was no chance of Ian taking the day off, but we had a nice dinner planned. I took Thomas to his usual music class in the morning and then had coffee and (birthday) muffins with NCT friends. I fed Thomas his lunch whilst we were out and then we headed home in time for his nap.

Except, Thomas had other ideas.

What ensued was a four hour battle of wills with many tears on both our parts.

If I’m honest, I couldn’t handle it, that day in particular, because it was my birthday. I suppose disappointment comes from unmet expectations, but I’ll admit that I’d been imagining him taking a good lunchtime nap, as he has done more often than not in the last week or so, and time for me to settle on the sofa with one of the DVD box sets I was given for my birthday, a nice big cup of tea and some chocolate. What I got instead was an overtired, grumpy, snotty toddler, who wanted constant contact, more breast feeds than a newborn and absolutely not a second of attention diverted anywhere but on him.

Selfish as it may be, I just wanted some space. I wanted five minutes where I could hear my own thoughts in my head. I wouldn’t have minded cuddles, but didn’t really want a kicking, writhing bundle of tear stained child attached to me limpet style.

I tried every trick going to get him to nap. Rocking him, singing to him, breast feeding him. I even left him to cry when I knew he was really over-tired and needed it. I may possibly (ahem) have even mislaid the baby monitor for ten minutes at this point. But as he got more angry, I got more frustrated and we ended up going around in circles. I know that I wasn’t helping the issue, by being anything but calm, patient and rational.

I’m ashamed to admit it, but I actually shouted. At the point that he was lying on the floor kicking his legs and banging his head and fists, I told him to go ahead and have a temper tantrum and that I might just lie down and have one too.

Patience; Have I ever mentioned that it’s not my strong point? I suppose in the end we were more like two toddlers than mother and son. (If you want to judge me, go ahead, but only when you have dealt with a child who will not sleep, and fights the sleep their body is desperately telling them to have, over and over and over again for 14 straight months.)

It was far from how I’d imagined my birthday to be. Between the frustration and tiredness, and the guilt and shame at my inability to deal with it without raising my voice at a baby who really doesn’t understand and was not deliberately trying to wind me up (no matter how much I may have believed that in the heat of the moment) it ranks as one of my worst, if I’m honest. And poor Ian bore the brunt of it all, with a string of text messages from me about how he wouldn’t sleep, and finally a plea at around 5pm to come home early because there was no way I could face bath time and bed time with such a sleep deprived boy on my own. I may also have said how he was never going to go to sleep now, we’d be up and down the stairs all night and so much for a nice birthday meal, or words to that effect.

Ian did indeed come home early. He took Thomas from me and somehow managed to get through bath time without too many tears and get the boy to sleep in his cot without any screaming at all. Which all just made me feel worse for completely failing for the whole afternoon, when Ian made it look so easy.

Despite my predictions of doom, we also managed to salvage a good evening, with cheese fondue, candlelight, some bubbly stuff and DVDs in front of the fire.

Lovely Bubbly

Cheesy

Lovely Cheesy Feet

I went to work on Wednesday, but the naptime battles recommenced on Thursday. But at least it wasn’t my birthday again.

If I Left Without Saying Goodbye

I don’t contemplate my own mortality as much as I once did, in my teenage melancholy phase or throughout the spells of ill health I encountered in my twenties. But being a parent changes you in many ways, some of which are not obvious. The weight of responsibility for another person, and the desire to nurture and protect them at all costs, to save them from any hurt in their lives comes as stark contrast to the single person who can afford to put themselves first and live only for today. Now, Thomas is my future, and the future really matters.

Yesterday, reading this article in the Guardian hit me right where it hurts, right in my heart where my son and husband are my most precious treasures. Benjamin Brooks-Dutton is living what surely would be any parent’s nightmare. The loss of his wife, and soul mate, and the need to help their toddler son cope with that whilst simultaneously managing his own grief.

It’s an unimaginable situation.

In his blog, from which the Guardian article is closely derived, Benjamin says himself that when people say they cannot imagine what he is going through that they shouldn’t try, as they wouldn’t like it. And to be honest, I really shouldn’t try. I don’t know this family, so of course I can’t imagine their situation. It almost feels disrespectful to be writing this at all, because after all, what do I really know about grief, let along losing my life’s partner and the co-parent of our much loved child.

But blessed with the over active imagination I’ve always both loved and detested in equal measure, I can’t help but, instead – and perhaps self-indulgently, imagine how I would feel. Or rather, how my family would feel if I were to leave them behind. It may be a morbid thought, but suddenly the future and wanting more than anything for my son to never hurt, no matter how unrealistic that desire, has changed the way I think. I can’t know, obviously I can’t. But my heart hurts just considering the possibility of ever finding out.

I think about how much Thomas would miss me, and images cloud my mind. The way he reaches up for me when I go in to his room in the morning. The smile that cracks his face when I arrive to collect him from nursery. The way, when he wanders off at a toddler group, that he looks around to check I’m still there, still watching. The way he clings to me in almost desperation that I will make it better whenever he’s deeply upset, or over tired. I can’t imagine how he would cope with me simply not being there any more. I can’t imagine leaving and not being able to say goodbye. My imagination paints an image of him looking for me, but unable to find me. And just when I think that’s the worst thought of all, I consider the fact that he would continue to grow up, leaving me behind, and that being the age that he is, he wouldn’t even remember me.

Benjamin’s article is incredibly eloquent and very moving. I could not suppress my tears as I read it, simply shaking my head when Ian asked me what the matter was, unable to articulate these thoughts or feelings. I can’t imagine what Benjamin and his family are going through, but I do know that he is absolutely right: I wouldn’t like it at all. I feel for them enormously, but I’m not sure what the right emotion is for someone who is not a personal acquaintance. Sympathy. Sadness. I’m certainly very sorry for their loss.

The article, and blog, however, are also inspiring. I am full of admiration for Benjamin and his son. Sometimes you read something and the words stay with you long after you’ve finished. If I ever needed a wake-up call or reminder about how much I love my son, just how deeply my feelings for him run, this would be it.

Life is so cruel, but also so precious.

Practice What You Preach

At fourteen months (and one week) Thomas still has no teeth.

The dentist part of me is not worried. The dentist part of me knows that although his teeth are late in arriving, it’s quite common. Variability in eruption dates is the rule, not the exception. Congenital anodontia (the total absence of teeth) is ridiculously rare and ridiculously unlikely. These are all the things I tell parents siting in my dental surgery wearing a worried expression and asking if their child is “normal”. I reassure them that they are fine, and the teeth will almost certainly erupt in their own good time. I tell them that there is nothing to be achieved by worrying, and we’ll just keep an eye on things.

But then I listen to the parent part of me.

And it turns out that I’m not very good at practising what I preach.

If I’m honest (and this is my blog, so why not?) I go by “Do as I say, not as I do”. I forget to floss my teeth – something I tell people to do every day. I don’t avoid all fizzy drinks and I definitely snack between meals on sugar-containing foods – things I tell people not to do. (Shoot me now. But in my defence, I have no fillings, no gum problems and a very healthy mouth.) So along the same lines, I tell my patients not to worry, and then go ahead and do it myself.

But this must be normal, right? It’s normal to worry about your own children. To want the best for them and to wish with all your heart that they encounter as few problems in their life as possible. I already feel bad for Thomas that although he manages to eat an astonishing array of pretty tough food on his gums alone, it must be harder for him than it would be if he had teeth. He loves his food, and I hate to think his enjoyment is being spoiled by something out of his control.

And if there is a problem, is it something that I could have controlled? Is it my fault? I’ve talked before about the guilt of diabetes and the worry that comes with it. If there is a problem are my blood sugars, or my medications in some way to blame? Those rouge high blood sugars in the first trimester, or the excessive number of low blood sugars had the potential to do harm. No matter how small the possibility, it nags away at me and will do so until the teeth break the surface.

I do suffer from the issue of too much knowledge being a dangerous thing. I can’t help but ponder the long list of potential causes of delayed eruption of teeth, including such things as growth hormone deficiency. And when you consider that Thomas sits on the 0.4th percentile for height…

I really need to learn to practice what I preach, listen to the dentist side of me and stop worrying about things which I can’t control, and in all honesty about which there is really nothing much that we can do at present. It’s just hard when your five month old niece has teeth already and your child’s friends of the same age have molars. But the teeth will almost certainly come in their own good time and I need to learn some patience.

Project 365 – A Photo For Every Day Of The Year

Just before Thomas’s first birthday, I decided to attempt a photo-a-day project, starting on his birthday with the aim of recording his entire second year. But then life got in the way – I did a couple of extra days of locum work and attended an all day conference and before I knew it, a week had passed since his birthday and I hadn’t picked up my camera once. The idea remained however, and spurred on by seeing a few completed projects from last year on blogs that I enjoy, I decided instead to start on January the first.

I’m not new to the 365 Project. I’ve attempted to complete one twice before. Both times, however, I’ve stopped after less than 10 days. Looking back, I can see several things that I did wrong. Too narrow a focus, too rigid “rules” (self-imposed, of course) and unwarranted perfectionism. The latter one especially. I need to focus on the overall project being more important than any one individual image. Much as NaNoWriMo aims to suppress your inner writing editor (not one I struggle with) I see Project 365 as a way to suppress my high photographic dissatisfaction rate. The content of the images – and the memories they represent – is more important than the technical aspects of composition and exposure.

There, I’ve said it. The quality of the pictures isn’t the most important thing. Completing the project – using my camera every single day – is.

And here we are – 13 days in – and I’m still going. I’m ready to commit to carrying on by sharing my images here and making my Project 365 attempt “official”.

There will be no “rules” this time. The subject matter will simply be our lives. Not necessarily just Thomas. If I slip up and miss a day or two, I’m not going to stress. I’m not even going to stress about a little date altering if that is what suits us! I’m aiming to share all of the images here as we go along, but I certainly won’t be updating daily, or even necessarily weekly. We’ll just see how it goes!

01_01_13

We went for a family New Year’s Day Walk as it was lovely and sunny. For once, Thomas kept his hat on… albeit grudgingly, as this picture shows!

02_01_13

Ian was back at work for the first time in 10 days, and it was a bit of shock to both Thomas and I to be without him! This pose is typical Thomas – considering how best to conquer the world with a breadstick!

03_01_13

Some days Thomas would rather play with his food than eat it – pushing it around the bowl and tipping it on the floor.Today was a hungry day. Thomas polished off every morsel that I offered him, and then asked for more!

04_01_13

My first day back at work this year, and Ribolleti – an Italian dish that is half way between a soup and a stew – was just what we needed for dinner.

05_01_13

Bathtime! Ian is usually in charge of bathtime, and the two of them love it.

Not too shabby. Could do with a little bit less up-and-down and a little bit more flat-and-level. And we won’t mention the two hour low blood sugar which has now been addressed with a basal reduction!

This is a technically terrible photograph, but true to my word I’ve included it anyway. Thomas can be devilishly difficult to photograph sometimes, especially in low light, since he never stops moving. Lately I’ve taken to shooting in program mode, as I prefer to use the two seconds I have try to compose the image without worrying about exposure. When Thomas climbed under the high chair today, I grabbed my camera and shot…. a manual exposure. The gross under exposure has obviously been compensated for in post, hence the terrible grain. But I love the image – the expression his face – and the fact that it reminds both of what he was doing, and also just how hard he is to photograph these days.

I have already blogged about this image. I picked up a copy of the magazine today having been informed this was in there by a work colleague who’d seen it by chance as she is currently planning her own wedding.

09_01_13

Today was a “Daddy working from home day”. Every other Wednesday, when I go in to work, Ian “works from home” and looks after Thomas in the morning. What this means in practice is that the top floor of our house is strewn with toys, which they play with whilst Ian simultaneously keeps an eye of his computers set up on the desk out of shot. When I crept in to the room at lunch time today to snap this image, it was actually surprisingly ordered!

10_01_13

The theme of this afternoon was “napping”. I took Thomas to his first Tumble Tots session this morning, but he completely refused to nap before we went, when it finished or when we got home. A two hour battle culminated in a 30 minute nap which I had to cut short as it was by then getting too close to bedtime. This is how he looked when I went in to get him. Like he’d fallen in to sleep out of the sky!

11_01_13

I have a feeling that we may be approaching weaning from the breast, which stirs up all kinds of mixed emotions. Thomas was being unusually calm and contented whilst feeding, so I took the opportunity to take this picture with my iPhone held up above our heads.

12_01_13

Another technically rubbish (under exposed) shot! Thomas is obsessed by shoes at the moment, and will run off with ours at any opportunity.

13_01_13

We’re fortunate to live within walking distance of a fairly decent soft play centre. I took Thomas a few times before he was one since it was free. We’ve been waiting to go again to make sure the cost will be worthwhile now that he has to pay. He had an absolute blast! None of these images are great on their own as they were all taken with my phone, but they work well together.

Fourteen

Behold!

 

Dear Thomas

Fourteen months old! I’ve been writing you a letter each month now since you were born and it’s amazing to look back and see how you’ve changed. It feels like you’ve always been part of our lives, but at the same time like the past fourteen months have gone so fast! You’ve now lived through your first full calendar year, from beginning to end, and we’re on to another!

And you really are growing up, no longer a baby, but a bona fide toddler. You’re walking confidently and spend your days charging up and down and around in circles. You can even kick a ball – although that may be more by accident than design! We had to buy you your second pair of shoes (although your feet haven’t actually grown) and backpack reins to keep you safe while we’re out and about. When I drop you off at nursery now, I take your coat off and you toddle off on your own before I can get my own shoes off. You bang on the door to be let in and then charge across the room without a backward glance. I love that you’re so confident, but I feel sad that you don’t always seem to need me.

What you are charging across the room for at nursery, of course, is your toy broom. You have an absolute obsession to the point that the nursery staff have nicknamed you Mr. Sweep. Apparently you carry the broom around all day, getting very protective if anyone tries to take it from you, and periodically stopping to sweep bits of dirt up. I have no idea where you learned this domestication from!!

IMG_7234

You’ve suddenly become much more independent and more creative in your play. You fly your toy space ship around, accompanied by enthusiastic “Eeeeeeeeeeeeeee” sounds, and push cars and trains around too. You’re starting to stack things on top of one another and you’re becoming a pro with all your shape sorters. Emptying remains your favourite game, however, with the contents of the DVD shelves (especially Shrek) and the changing bag, and tissues from a box, high on your list of “emptying” targets. You’re also an expert at opening and closing doors and drawers – often emptying as you go! Your favourite toys are still all the objects that aren’t really toys – especially the cordless phone, our mobile phones and remote controls. Anything which looks even remotely like a phone is now lifted straight to your shoulder. It’s invariably facing the wrong way, but you shout “eh-oh” in to it and then wander around keeping up an endless stream of babble. I’m quite disturbed about your intuitive knowledge of what to do with a phone, but even more so by the fact that you will point a remote control at the television and expect something to happen!

You still seem to love books too, and this month they have been starting to fuel your speech. In addition to turning the pages and lifting the flaps in books, you now also point to the pictures and make appropriate sounds. The first was “Moo” for a cow, followed by “neigh” and “baa” Cars are now “Nee nars” and trains are “toot toot”. You’ve always been so vocal and chatty, it’s lovely to hear your speech gaining some real shape. You also want to sing, and have long had a brilliant ability to repeat tunes back to us. Now you sing “up above” along to “Twinkle winkle Little Star” and point up to the ceiling as you do so.

With so much learning and developing, things can obviously be frustrating at times. You have a new habit to deal with your frustration that frustrates your mummy in turn: you like to bang your head against things – the side of the sofa, the back of the highchair and the floor, to name a few. When you do it, part of me wants to giggle, because you do look funny, but the bigger part wants to stop you hurting yourself and I just feel sad that I can’t immediately ease the confusion of the world for you.

You’ve also had a bit of a regression with your sleep, especially with all the excitement of Christmas. On Christmas Day, it took us nearly four hours to get you to go to sleep, which has been completely unheard of lately. You’ve gone back to rejecting naps too, in particular for Mummy. You seem to want you Daddy to put you down instead, and he clearly has the knack. In fact, Daddy has been very much flavour of the month, and I frequently catch you together looking as if you hatching an evil plan!

 

Stealing Daddy's Breakfast

Eating has seen some big changes this month too. You still have no teeth, but that doesn’t stop you munching through anything and everything. But you’ve finally started feeding yourself properly – whole meals – with a spoon. You can even manage peas! You’re so fiercely independent that if we try to help you you will often bat our hands away as if to say “I want to do it myself!” You sat at the head of the table and ate your whole Christmas dinner all by yourself, followed by Christmas pudding too! You seem to have been absolutely starving of late as well, polishing off everything we give you and frequently coming back for seconds. Not forgetting, of course, the fact that you also help yourself to our food. Nothing is safe around you and most of Daddy’s breakfast ends up in your tummy each morning!

We haven’t been out and about so much this month, with Christmas and so much rainy weather, but you do go a bit stir crazy cooped up in the house and still love to be out in the pushchair, looking around. Daddy finally made me turn the pushchair around to face forwards this month. I miss being able to have a face to face conversation with you, but you seem happy to be able to see so much and kick your legs in excitement as you are pushed around. You’re a bit unsure of walking anywhere outside or unfamiliar, though. Oh, and with the cold weather we have a continuous battle of the hat. Mummy puts the hat on…. And Thomas takes it off again!

photo(3)

Yet again, you’re on the cusp of so much change. You went to your first Tumble Tots session today and I have no doubt that it won’t be long before you’re climbing and running all over. Your speech is coming on each day, and I know that you understand more and more of what we say to you. Some days I miss my little baby boy, but I love my bigger toddler boy… more than words can say.

All my love, always

Mummy