what a difference an a makes

*

“Some people are pragmatists, taking things as they come and making the best of the choices available. Some people are idealists, standing for principle and refusing to compromise. And some people just act on any whim that enters their heads. I pragmatically turn my whims into principles.”

~ Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin and Hobbes

*

When I was seven years old, my father asked me a question. Though it seemed innocuous at the time, I realized over the years that it wasn’t exactly your run of the mill interaction between a father and his only child.

“OK, Jessie,” he began. “Which name do you like best – Matthew, Michael or David?”

I looked up from whatever it was that I may have been doing and pondered the question.

I finally answered with all the conviction of my seven years, “Matthew, Daddy. I like Matthew.”

“Great,” he said, “Michael it is.”

I’m not sure why we’d gone through the exercise as my dad was never one to be swayed by public opinion, but it’s nonetheless a conversation I’ll never forget. Later that week, my father filed the papers in our local court to begin the process of legally changing his name from Irwin to Michael.

As a middle school principal, my father was far from anonymous. He was a well-respected, outspoken and visible member of the community. And he was changing his name.

There was all sorts of speculation of course, but the most rampant rumor in town was that he must be running from either the IRS or the law. To this day, I have to chuckle at the idea that he was running from anything. For one thing, anyone who knows my dad knows that he has no fear of confrontation. I’d even say he welcomes it. For another, if he were ‘running’ from anything, I’d imagine that he’d have chosen to well, actually run. He didn’t go anywhere. He didn’t move or change jobs. He simply asked to be called something different going forward.

He’d hated his name since childhood. He’d been nicknamed Irv early on and it had stuck like an ill-fitting shoe. He simply never felt like an Irv. So at the age of thirty-seven, he decided to make things right.

We’d walk into our neighborhood eatery. “Ir – er, um – Michael!” the maitre-d’ would shout. Family friends would slip and catch themselves just as quickly. I’ll never forget one saying to me, ‘Lucky you – you get to keep calling him Dad.”

But I always imagined that it must have been hardest on my mom, to whom he was still married at the time. How odd it must have been for her to have to suddenly start calling her husband of seventeen years by a different name. Take a minute. Think about it. Weird, right?

So perhaps it is because I grew up with a father who was Irv one day and Michael the next that I think the following is a reasonable solution to my blog quandary.

I’m going to change our names.

Yup, that’s it. Sum total, I’m changing our names.

OK, there’s actually a bit more to it, but at least that’s the starting point. I’ve begun to migrate the blog to http://www.adiaryofamom.wordpress.com. Notice the ‘A’ – it’s A Diary of a Mom. Here, you will eventually find me (still Jess, but last name-less) with my two girls, *Katie* and *Brooke* and my dear husband, *Luau*.

This is of course, an imperfect solution. But I’ve decided, for a million and one reasons, that it’s the least imperfect of all the solutions that I see. It’s the tallest hobbit, if you will. This blog has become far bigger than me or my girls. It’s become a place where nearly a thousand people come every day – to talk to, to commiserate with, to celebrate with and to learn from one another. And I’m not willing to shut that down. I just can’t do it.

But that doesn’t mean that I can’t change it just enough to protect what’s most precious to me.

I know that some of you might chide me for this decision. I must tell you that recent comments are not the reason that I am doing this. This has been brewing for a long time. In a meeting last week I told some very powerful people that I would hate to think that a vital message could be diminished by a less than artful delivery. Though I may not always care for the delivery of the messages on Diary (the anonymous ones that I don’t publish, for example, or those left by the commenter who changes her name and e-mail address every day), it doesn’t mean that the messages themselves aren’t sometimes valid. I’d like to think that I’m a big enough person to follow my heart even when I know that it may look as though I’m bowing to pressure.

Over the course of the next couple of weeks, I will be undertaking the monumental task of backtracking and changing names. Or, maybe I’ll just pull an all-nighter ala college and power through it all in one shot. One way or the other, I’ll keep a link at the old place until that process is complete and I will give you plenty of notice before I break it. In the meantime, I’ll be working on migrating to a nameless state. Toward that end, I’ve started a Facebook page for Diary of a Mom. It’s even linked to a Twitter account under the same name. Look at me go – all technologically advanced!

I know this is a half-assed solution. I know that to some degree I’m hiding behind my own hands and declaring, “You can’t see me!” I get it. I do. But it at least means that going forward my girls’ faces and names will be separated online. It means that their friends will come up dry if they google their names as they get older. It means that I can keep doing what I do here – and WE can keep doing what WE do here and I can (hopefully) sleep at night.

Seems like a pretty good solution to me – or at least a pretty tall Hobbit.

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58 thoughts on “what a difference an a makes

  1. All things considered, sweetheart, I think it’s a perfect solution. However, as your Mom, I’m suggesting that you backtrack slowly to change the names. You’re not 18 or 22 anymore and, I can assure you, all-nighters won’t work for your lifestyle.

    I love you.
    Mom

  2. I’m one of the (usually anonymous) thousand people who check in every day. Well done for finding a way to share with us while protecting your girls. I’m looking forward to following Katie and Brooke and their mom!

  3. I am proud of you and behind you 100%. I am also sorry for you…that it has come to this…and I want you to feel safe. You’re one step ahead of the game — when your kiddo’s set up their facebook accounts (E-Gads!), you’ll know just what to do…

  4. I’m sorry that you have this to deal with now as an added stress, but um thrilled that you will be continuing your blog. I’ve only recently found you… I’d be saddened to see you leave. You ( and your readers) have given me strength during a very low point in my journey.
    I’m glad that you have found a suitable solution for the issue you have been lamenting over. I’ve recently been in a similar quandry with regards to telling casual acquaintances about my son’s diagnosis and have recently opted to keep my mouth shut. Not out of embarrassment , but to protect him ( and his older sister) from mean kids and their comments. My children attend the same school- my daughter is in third grade and my son is in kindergarten for the second time. I’m astounded by how mean little kids can be. My little guy is unbelievably sweet, affectionate, and funny. He’s also a total innocent- the perfect victim. I’ve decided that attaching that label to him with people I just say hello to in the schoolyard will only put him under more intense scrutiny. So, to casual acquaintances now on, he is just who he is… label free. I wish I had thought ahead a couple of years ago, but I lacked the ability to see beyond the moment at that time. I was kind of frozen in the moment, attempting to digest the diagnosis.
    This parenthood thing…. it truly isn’t for the faint of heart, is it? Thank you Jess, for your words. I don’t know you personally but I am truly grateful for your presence in my life. I’m glad that you will be continuing your blog as it has become a part of how I start my day. ((((hugs)))) <3

    • this is a decision that we all have to come to for ourselves, and that eventually our children will have to come to for THEMselves.

      we have taken a different tack – opting instead to use the label as a tool to explain *brooke’s* differences to her classmates and others in her world. we have found that doing so has helped a great deal to demistify the label in general and to help friends and schoolmates to understand her specifically.

      i remain convinced that it’s the best answer for us. bit by bit we eat away at the negative power of the label in our little corner of the world. we are determined to show that there is no shame in it, that instead it is just one more tool to help us understand how to mitigate her challenges and to leverage her strengths.

      (and hugs right back atcha!)

      • oops… don’t you mean *katie*

        I hope you can do some “find all” “replace all” function on line–you are touching so many lives in a positive way–good luck

      • dang, this is gonna take some practice, isn’t it?

        thanks for the heads up!

        ps it actually should have been brooke. katie is her big sister ;)

      • Jess, you’re fortunate to have such a strong support system. I feel like I’m constantly battling for my son- even in my own home. I have to constantly remind my own husband that our son has autism when he gets frustrated and starts yelling. His family is even worse. It’s as though they think I WANT my son to have this label. It’s just exhausting. I feel like I’m always running interference on his behalf. I’m just so tired of the explanations… I guess that’s why I have decided to stop telling people. I made the error of telling the mom of one of my daughter’s friends and noticed how she totally avoids me and no longer invites my daughter to play dates. It has broken my daughter’s heart as well as mine. It’s not like autism is contageous for crying out loud!!! Life was so much nicer when my son was in preschool specifically for children with developmental delays. It was easier to be with people who truly “got it”. This school is VERY different – and while most of the people seem nice enough, my own experience has taught me to be less trusting ( unfortunately). I guess that’s why I’m so glad to have found you and your wonderful posters. At least here I can once again exhale, even if only for a few minutes a day.

      • i’m so sorry, cee cee – i can’t imagine how hard it must be to feel like you’re battling on all fronts. i am so glad that this can be a safe space. no battles here – ever!

  5. It’s really a great idea, Jess, and I totally support you doing this. And I’ve contemplated anonymizing my girls names again. And I just may do that. I’ve never used our last names on the blog or anything -or my name- but I just can’t help but think it best to keep our children private.

    You’ve got me thinking. Again. You’re really good at that, you know.

  6. I support you in doing whatever it takes to keep you and your precious family safe. Nothing is more important than those babies and your peace of mind.

  7. Now you’ve got me antsy wondering if I should do the same. I mean, I know I don’t have the readership you do and all, but well, it makes me wonder. And break out in hives at the prospect of changing all those posts!

  8. I’ve been following your blog for awhile now. You are a gifted blogger – You write in color. Like many others, I’ve fallen in love with your girls. And as a mom of two myself (My son is 12, my daughter is 10. My son has autism; diagnosed at age 2.5), I can understand your tug-of-war with wanting to protect your children, celebrate your children, all the while helping others by sharing your experiences.It seems to me you have made the right decision for the right reasons – a beautiful combination of going with your gut and following your heart.
    Thank you for all you have done and all you continue to do. There are days when your words keep me putting one foot in front of the other.

  9. as someone who writes anonymously, i think it’s a great idea. it basically removes a worry…names and faces aren’t something you have to feel any uneasiness about from this point on. so, that will be a relief.

    besides, it’s the content that matters. aonymity doesn’t make one dent in the power of your writing. everything that people respond to…it’s still here.

    so…glad you made the decision, i know it was a tough one.

    M

  10. It is indeed a good solution and your loyal fans will continue to love your posts no matter what changes you make. Good luck with the transformation.

  11. Most relieving news! As your full-time worrier, I need to point out that after the title it still says by “[your name]“. Please consider changing that too. Ok, which name do you like best – Amelia (as in Earhart), Rosa (as in Parks), Eleanor (as in Roosevelt) or Eunice (as in Kennedy). Of course, any pioneer name will do or you can blaze your own trail. I like Eunice. :)

  12. Whatever works as long as you are able to keep the message out there. Jess, you are a gifted writer and an encouragement to me as I advocate for my precious granddaughter. Bless you, bless you, bless you!

    btw, did you watch Temple Grandin on hbo? I cried my eyes out with hope when it was over and I don’t cry! gail

  13. Two words: Find/Replace. Control “F”. Remember to search under nicknames, too. Did the girls get to pick their aliases?! From now on, I will comment as Mo!

  14. cuz you really need one more thing to do… oy! promise me when you’re done with all this you’ll take a nap – i’ll settle for a 20 minute power nap if that’s all you can squeeze in ;-)

  15. I don’t care what names you use, I will keeep reading! I find your blog to be so inspirational and heartfelt. There are days when I don’t read it because I feel too vulnerable but then I always catch up! I have often marveled at your ability to put things out there for the world to read because I am unable to bare my soul like that. I totally understand and respect your decision and wish you and your family all the best.

  16. My husband went running this morning with a friend who works cybercrime for the FBI. Their conversation, coupled with your last few posts and comments on them have had me losing sleep. Thanks for that though.

    In a perfect storm of events this week, the risks have tipped heavily away from the benefits of blogging un-anonymously. I will be up all night a couple hundred miles away deleting and retyping names as well. It feels right. Let me know if someone comes with a find/replace solution.

  17. Jess, Easy- Copy the documents to Microsoft Word, past them, use the find and replace function there, and copy/paste them back to WordPress. Problem solved :)
    Okay, c/ping each entry might be a pain but less so than having to look for each individual name
    Good luck!
    good idea
    Kate

    • kate – thank you – that is a great idea and it will work.

      i’m trying to avoid it for a couple of reasons though .. one is that for some bizarre reason,the formatting gets screwy when i go back and forth between microsoft and wordpress. it’s weird.

      secondly, i’d love to save the extra step considering there are THREE HUNDRED AND FORTY NINE posts to edit. i had no idea how prolific i was until i started trying to figure this out. yikes!!

      thank you, though .. it stands as the best plan so far!

  18. I’m so glad you found a solution that you feel alright moving forward with. The loss of Diary, the thoughts and stories you stir up and the communication that you spark here would leave a big void. Your posts will be just as important, bold, heartfelt and far-reaching no matter what names you type.

  19. Thank you for continuing to blog. You give me hope for my son.

    And Gail- I watched the Temple Grandin movie and sobbed the whole way though as well.

  20. I’m a new Diary of a Mom follower, and I’m so glad you found a way to continue this while addressing privacy concerns. I was lamenting recently that I’ve just “friended” some folks on Facebook that make the idea of venting about IEPs and interactions with my son’s teachers a bit awkward. Perhaps it’s time to start a blog for that outlet myself!

  21. Hey Jess,

    I know that you are going through a great deal right now. I can’t even begin to say I have any idea in the least how you are feeling, but as a mom and wife and daughter and friend I can imagine the depth of the feelings you are experiencing. So just know that I am thinking of you and your family and am happy you found a solution to your dilemma.

    Thinking about your mountain post…I saw this quote and it made me think of you

    “I am only one, but still I am one.
    I cannot do everything, but still I can do something;
    and because I cannot do everything,
    I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”
    –Edward Everett Hale

    xo

    Emily

  22. I’m so glad you’ve found a workable solution. What a difference an “a” makes indeed.

    As for editing all your posts, as tedious as it may seem, sometimes those types of tasks can be soothing (at least to me). I think because they are so cut-and-dried and have a definite end point, unlike so many other challenges/tasks we face!

  23. I am happy you have found a workable solution. I will try not to sound like a pleading child when I say: never stop writing. ever. please. Someday maybe I can explain how your blog saved my life but for now I am wordless. Thank you Jess. Please never stop.

  24. You could call yourselves Beavis and Butthead and we would still love you. Do whatever it takes, that’s what Mama-bears do to protect our young.

  25. Thanks for continuing! You are inspiration/outlet for so many! Thanks for fighting the goood fight. Names mean nothing to group you are addressing, and I think you are right, these are personal feelings you are sharing but definitely have an impact on Katie and Brooke, they are always first you know!

  26. Pingback: starting in the middle « a diary of a mom

  27. Hey there, Have been on vacation so just found this.
    I am glad you are doing this. I remember the first time I saw you post a photo of one of the girls and I thought, “Yikes!! The things that could happen.” Of course, I’m a nervous nelly, but I do think it’s the smart thing to do, if just for safety’s sake.
    ps – love that your honey is now Luau :-)
    BTW – I have always typed yourname.wordpress.com to find you. I’m guessing I will not be able to do that anymore?

    • Hey, love – the link will stay up for another couple of weeks, but it will come down when I’m done making changes.

      To get to diary – type http://www.adiaryofamom.wordpress.com. It might be easier to just join the facebook page and you can follow the link from there (and get a heads up to new posts!) there’s a link to it over there on the right ——>
      ;)

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