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June 28, 2008

Sam Lamott

CindyLately I've been thinking about Sam Lamott, the son of best-selling author Anne Lamott. I don't know of many women who haven't read Anne's Traveling Mercies, her collection of essays on her sobriety and conversion to Christianity.  And for many moms in my age group, Anne's classic Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year, was their introduction to a whole new literary genre: the tell-all "momoir."

Sam (who's now 18) is often the lead character in Anne's writings. We've all watched Sam grow up on the page, from his first messy diaper to brutal arguments over his driving privileges. And legions of us are very grateful to Anne for so boldly admitting that motherhood can be an insanely difficult career choice.

But I've been wondering how the Sam Lamotts of the world -- kids who've literally grown up in print -- really feel about all this. I''ve wrestled with this issue on a much smaller scale -- and I'm still conflicted.

My own son, now 22, just asked me to remove a new blog I'd written about him from my own Web site. The blog was innocent enough. And the photo of my son was flattering. The verbiage was confined to a very short paragraph about how grateful I am that my son helped me redesign my Web site, and how much I'll miss him when he moves to Chicago next month.

Problem was, I'd used his name, he said. The large corporation that had just hired him out of college was now in the process of doing an in-depth background check on him, he reminded me. Therefore, he did not want his name or his photo floating around on my blog, no matter how flattering. A little paranoid? I'd say so. But at the same time, I understood my son's point of view and why he was concerned.

We'd been through all this before. Years before I began blogging, I wrote a weekly column for our local daily newspaper. My assignment was to write about my family life -- which naturally included funny or poignant moments involving my son and his friends. No matter how careful I was -- and I was very careful -- my son was hurt or humiliated more than once by what was published in my column. You'd think I'd have learned my lesson by now.

But I haven't. I've been at work on a memoir about preparing for the empty nest -- and there's no easy way to write it without mentioning my son's first name throughout.  Euphemisms like "my son"  or "the kid" sound awkward in a longer piece of nonfiction. For now, I've put the project on hold -- despite the fact that I have an agent interested in the project, and I believe it would be of help to other mothers struggling with empty nest issues.

And I deleted the offending blog this afternoon. My son told me it would have been OK if I'd simply removed his name. But I wanted to prove to him that our relationship is far more important to me than a blog topic.  I'm guessing he'll outgrow this particular sensitivity, once he feels at home in his new job and settles into a grown-up life on his own. But I'd sure love to talk to Sam about all this.

Cindy La Ferle blogs on family topics and women's issues at Cindy's Home Office: www.laferle.com

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