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Smartmom’s family hates her column

for The Brooklyn Paper

Smartmom’s kids hate her Brooklyn Paper column and they want her to stop writing about them. Now. Cease and desist.

The Oh So Feisty One and Teen Spirit have had it: They don’t want their lives plastered across the pages of Brooklyn’s real newspaper anymore.

Teen Spirit has hated the column for ages.

“Lies, all lies,” he has said from time to time. Now, he doesn’t even read it. Smartmom overheard him on the phone recently telling a friend: “Please do not mention my mother’s column to me. Ever.”

For a long time, OSFO has enjoyed being mentioned in the column. She loved the one about her Build-a-Bears and the pictures of her and her friends with their Build-a-Bears in the playground at PS 321.

But more recently she was miffed about the Turquoise Turmoil column — and the fact that her picture was on the front page didn’t help matters. OSFO was so mad that she wrote a comment to the Brooklyn Paper’s online edition: “THIS IS NOT HOW IT WENT AT ALL!!!!!!!!!”

That was nine exclamation points!

Later, she asked Smartmom why she wrote about her without asking her permission. But she didn’t stop there.

She wondered why Smartmom wrote about the time Diaper Diva changed Ducky’s diaper at the Cocoa Bar without asking her.

Then she asked her why she wrote about Teen Spirit’s smoking when Teen Spirit asked her not to write about it. It was like she was building a case against Smartmom and her penchant for using family members as fodder for her stories.

“That’s why I said it was about a friend of mine whose son was a smoker,” Smartmom confided guiltily.

“But you still wrote about it,” she said.

Yes, she still wrote about it. And she didn’t really have a good excuse. Why didn’t she just write about something else? Why did she have to do the smoking piece? Was it really necessary?

These difficult thoughts percolated in Smartmom’s mind. Maybe she was using her family and friends for the sake of her columns. Maybe she was being presumptuous thinking that her family wouldn’t mind being characters in the sit-com of her mind.

Like many writers, Smartmom uses her world as inspiration. But if it’s a story about OSFO or Teen Spirit, who’s story is it? Who does it belong to? Is it Smartmom’s story or does it belong to them?

These are interesting questions. Perhaps Melville wondered whether he had the right to write about Moby Dick or was it Moby Dick’s tale to tell.

Wait, that was fiction.

But what about “Mommy Dearest?” Did Christina Crawford have the right to tell-all about her mother?

Well, of course she had the right to write about her childhood — especially if she was raised by an abusive celebrity mom.

Buddha knows, Smartmom is not an abusive celebrity mom. But she does believe that it’s kosher to write about the parts of her life that include Teen Spirit and OSFO just as long as she’s thoughtful and fair.

Besides, you can’t be a writer if you have to censor your imagination. It just doesn’t work if you have to leave too much out.

On the other hand, Teen Spirit and OSFO have reached an age when privacy is very important. It’s everything. And it’s just not right for their mom to be such a blabberpuss.

Frankly, Teen Spirit never tells Smartmom anything anymore. In fact, when she asks innocent questions about school and friends, he accuses her of prying.

OSFO shares a lot more. But there are plenty of times when she simply answers one of Smartmom’s queries with, “That’s none of your business.” It’s not the nicest way to say it, but it does get the point across. And frankly, it’s probably true.

Dang. There she goes writing about her kids again. How can you be a writer when you have a gag order from your kids about what you can write about?

And yet, as a parent Smartmom must respect their wishes and not compromise their privacy in any way. It’s a tough place for a writer to be.

So what is Smartmom going to write about now? The snow on her window ledge?

If she can’t write about her kids, she’s a goner. She’ll get fired from The Brooklyn Paper. Her agent won’t want to represent her. Nobody will read her blog anymore. She’ll be done for. Finished. So what’s a Smartmom to do?

Well, it’s this writer’s job to explain her world to the world. And if that world includes her children, her husband, her friends and neighbors, then that’s the story she has to tell. It’s all about the way she writes it, the words she uses, and balance of honesty, fairness and love that she brings to the mix.

It her story — and she’s sticking to it.

Louise Crawford, a Park Slope mom, also operates “Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn.”
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Reader Feedback

Hear you in Brooklyn from Kings Highway says:
Interesting column. As someone who also considers herself a writer, writing from the heart and about the world around us is where true creativity begins. Your columns are based upon the normalcy of your world and the success of it stems from how much we see ourselves and our families in your words. Yet, it is indeed a tough job balancing the beauty of the written word and the privacy of the people involved. And that is what gives us writers what they call, "creative angst!" Oy!
Jan. 20, 2009, 9:58 am
DW from PS says:
At least the kids are smarter than their mother. Write about the life of a couple trustafarians going through life in the People's Republic.
Jan. 20, 2009, 10:04 am
anothermom from midwood says:
While I find your blog and column interesting and thoughtful, I have always thought you've crossed the line when it came to your kids. I have wondered why it hasn't come to a head sooner. Part of your challenge as a writer, I think, is to use your life as inspiration- when you are completely literal you are risking the privacy and happiness of those you love.
Jan. 20, 2009, 11:29 am
yes yes yes from Boerum Hill says:
No question about it -- your kids are right. How awful for them (as well as for your husband and friends) to be so exposed. It's downright greedy, actually an act of theft to take what isn't yours and isn't offered freely. If you're worth your weight as a writer, you'll let go the props and dig in deep and just maybe be among the lucky few who discover a true, individual voice. Think about it. While you're at it, why don't you leave the Lord Buddha out of it, too.
Jan. 20, 2009, 3:08 pm
bongy from Prospect Heights says:
Why does SmartMom have to call herself that? It is unfair to the kids to use such horrible sounding pseudonyms, and once their friends figure out who they are, their privacy has been violated. A friend who wrote a blog for years had to stop after something she wrote (innocently enough) for her blog got another friend evicted from his shared apartment. SmartMom should perhaps think of assuming a different identity, and maybe use someone's else something or other for the focus of her articles. And save us from the too cute names for once and for all.
Jan. 20, 2009, 3:37 pm
Stop from Cobble Hill says:
Interesting that SmartMom only examines the tension between her choice of subject matter and her kids' desire for privacy insofar as it affects her, not how it affects them. Aren't the teen years when kids are most susceptible to bad choices and destructive behaviors? Don't we want our kids to feel like they can confide in their parents if they get in trouble? How likely are they to confide in her if they feel like whatever they say will be revealed to the readership of the Brooklyn Paper? It seems like the conclusion she reaches is that her obligation as a writer outweighs her obligation as a parent.
Which is of course her decision to make, but she shouldn't be surprised if her kids decide that the only way they'll get any privacy is only to share with her the parts of their lives that any teenager would be happy to have published in the paper, which I suspect for most teenagers is just about nothing. On another note, does anybody proofread these columns? "It her story"? "Who's story is it"?
Jan. 20, 2009, 10:14 pm
Anonymous from Park Slope says:
I know plenty of people in the neighborhood who are afraid to talk to Smartmom when they see her, for fear whatever they say will end up in her column. No wonder her kids don't want to talk to her. I say she should respect her kids' privacy, respect her neighbors' privacy, and find something interesting to write about. Then again, maybe this column is interesting. I can't help myself and read it anyway.
Jan. 21, 2009, 11:49 am
J. from Park Slope says:
Smartmom: if you have nothing to write once you stop writing about your children, then you have deeper issues than mere privacy.

Maybe this is a blessing in disguise, a challenge. If you aspire to be taken seriously as a writer, isn't it time to start struggling with the toughest thing of all: just you and that blank sheet of paper in the typewriter, and no children to fall back on? Don't run from the challenge -- embrace it and move to the next level.
Jan. 21, 2009, 11:51 am
hipisnotSM from brooklyn says:
Smartmom does me a favor. She speaks the mindset of the Park Slope and afflunenza neighbors that I find hard to make any sense of. Now I can peek into their arrogant egos and one upsmanship that pervades their world. Most of the Brooklyn Paper has gone down in quality writing since the new editor took over. He and his crew talk about themselves as if their private lives are newsworthy; like we all really care. Smartmon, Gersh, et al remind me of that saying "legends in their own mind". Smartmom's choice tells me to keep avoiding these affluenza parents like the plague. Not hip at all, selfish and self serving is more like it. Listen to your kids, Smartmom.
Jan. 25, 2009, 12:08 pm
Joshua from Downtown BK says:
It's problematic that you don't see the difference between an adult writing about her parents years later and a parent writing about her children as they grow up. Particularly troubling is that you chose to REPOST an embarrassing picture of one of your own children after she complained about it. Perhaps you feel resentment and hostility toward your children. You may wish to examine that, preferably in a more private venue than a blog.

Your closing comment is somewhat ridiculous. You may feel that that's what you have to do as a writer, but there's no magical Writer Pass that gets you off the hook for the consequences, which, apparently, seem to include damaging your children.
July 5, 2010, 1:02 am

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