a viral post and some writer soul searching

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Almost six years ago now, my first child; our son, Greyson, was a year and a half and I felt like I was losing my mind.  As a brother-less mother, I felt blindsided with every new age and stage as our son started to grow out of his babyhood and turn into a toddler.  In a panic, I bought a ton of raising son type books, talked to and asked questions of as many Boy moms as I could, and scoured Pinterest for tips of raising boys.

Finally, after being inspired by a list I saw for Dads raising daughters by Michael Mitchell, I put together a list that I would be able to come back to if and when I started to doubt myself as a Mom again (and I have doubted myself about three million times since then!).  Something I could use as a foundation for the kind of Mum I wanted to be for our son(s) based on what I aspire towards and all the good that was raised up in my husband (thank you Gigi!)

This was how 25 Rules for Moms with Sons was written in November 2011.

About three months later, in early 2012, that post got swept up in an internet tornado and has been on a journey all its own - even into present day. In fact, just this week, my original post was re-shared by MOPS International on facebook (thank you), and I'm always so humbled and grateful when my friends/readers tag me in the comments to let me know they saw my words out in the world.

My original post has been run by plenty of websites through the years.  The Good Men Project was the best about it, adding me to their list of contributors and running other pieces of writing I've done.  Many other sites have shared the article and linked back to my site, and unfortunately, some bloggers have done much worse and simply copied & pasted my writing and linked me only as "a blog I read" with no mention of my name as the author.

This post has been discussed in podcasts, run through online newspapers, and re-pinned so many times I've lost count.  I have heard from readers the most heartfelt messages of how it touched them and I am constantly blown away by the kind and loving responses various Moms have to reading it. I even wrote a One Year Later Reflection post about the whirlwind of the piece's internet journey. Just a few months ago, I heard from a Mum that said she still has a copy of it hanging on her fridge.  And my dearest friend just told me that she re-reads it once a year as she's now a mother of two sons (I wrote the piece before she became a momma).  It's also seen it's fair share of critics and haters too (but that comes with the territory).

That singular post -within my whole almost nine years of blogging- has been the biggest thing to ever come out of this blog.  I'm grateful to that post for bringing into my life so many of my now loyal readers and sweetest internet friends.  And I'm appreciative of and so very very humbled by the positive ways it has touched Moms over the years.

So, (finally getting to it now, hah), two Fridays ago, my 25 Rules for Moms with Sons post experienced another bizarre moment, enough so that it's taken me almost two weeks to let my emotions simmer enough to be in a place to share here now with a clear head and grateful heart.

I woke up on Friday morning before the kids, got my coffee, and quickly hopped onto Instagram to see a notification that someone had tagged me in a photo that included the words from my #25 of my Moms of Sons post as the caption without credit to me as the writer.  My knee jerk reaction is kindness and benefit-of-the-doubt, so I responded in kind to both Adrian (who alerted me) and Rachael (who had posted my words without tagging me).  And went about my morning.

Then I logged into facebook and realized what all the fuss was about. The Instagram photo was also shared to her blog page five days earlier and over the course of the week had been shared by:  Scary Mommy, Good Housekeeping, Babble, Yahoo, and PopSugar.  By the time I had even seen it, the original post was shared over 30K times and the reshares were over a combined 20K. And it wasn't until it had already 'gone viral,' before I was mentioned at all as the writer.

I spent most of the rest of the day trying to do some investigative work, figuring out who exactly had shared it and with how much credit to me...

College Candy was better than most quoting my response to Rachael on Instagram (which was my first reaction when I received Adrian's note on Friday morning).

Celebrity Rave did worst than most mentioning me, as almost a nuisance to their story; a bullet point they begrudgingly had to add,  "shared a touching message written by a fellow blogger."  (By the way, in the spirit of internet justice - Daily Mail UK, you should take a look at Celebrity Rave's post  because it looks like they simply copy&pasted from you, never linked up to your post, and also left out any of the decent bits).

I also spent the day, messaging back and forth with Adrian from Tales of an Educated Debutante who was so passionate about making it right for me as a writer that she directed her own readers to join my facebook page (thank you!).  Emailing back and forth with Scary Mommy who apologized for how the whole thing went down.  Responding to a beautiful and kind message from Kara from Mothering the Divide about how she empathizes with how frustrating it can be as a writer, especially knowing that in today's world the likes & shares matter to get your voice heard.

It was certainly disheartening to see firsthand the sort of state of internet 'reporting' that we are in right now.  Lots of people were picking up the photo and caption - some even reaching out to Rachael to interview her about how it felt to go viral.  Do you want to guess how many websites reached out to the writer of the words of the photo?  None of them.  Not one single website that ran the story (even when they linked to my original post) emailed or messaged me to ask for a response from me!  I had a real internal struggle with trying to digest that big time sites were interviewing another small time blogger (who doesn't know me nor even regularly reads my blog) about how something I wrote made her feel....? I just find that it so very disappointing.  It doesn't appear to be about the actual story, but rather it's about being viral  -and that feels disingenuous and shallow.

There were certainly lessons that came out of the experience.  First and most astounding, I may only have a small group of readers, but they are loyal to the core.  I was honestly blown away by their ferocity of loyalty and cry for justice for my words.  I have made some new actual friends across social media, and received quite a few new followers thanks to (although late arriving) credit to my words as the author of the 'homebase' language.

I also had the incredible and important opportunity to practice loving kindness and made, surprisingly, a new friend in Rachael.  We had a chance to talk throughout the day via messenger and as I told her, there are no hard feelings.  I really do understand the nature of the internet and how things can get away from all of us, and also how mistakes can be made.  It does me no good to hold a grudge in my heart, and so I don't, truly.  I deeply believe that what you send out into the world is what comes back, so I choose to send out kindness, understanding, and patience, every darn time.  And at the end of the day - the mommas who needed the message found it in Rachael's post. That is surely the greater good in all of it.

The most difficult part was trying to find a healthy balance within myself.  After six years of my 25 Rules for Moms with Sons post being used and re-shared so many times, it really does feel like something that no longer belongs to me.  Almost like it's just property of the world; of all mothers now.  I think it if had been any other pieces of my writing that had been used without my consent, it would have broken my heart.  But that particular post has been such a beast of it's own in the past six years that it barely stings anymore.  And yet also, trying to justify that it is My writing, My words, My feelings that I poured out onto that page.  It continues to be My words that I have been writing about My family for the past six years. That I should be just as proud and ferocious about my writing as those loyal readers were who wanted to seek out justice for me when they saw this unfold.  That I should see my writer's voice as valuable in the wider world.  To see myself as a 'real writer' who deserves the recognition that comes with people being touched by something that was born out of my heart and experiences.

At the root of this still on-going (?!), six year long journey of this piece - it was My son who inspired this list.  I appreciate so much that it applies to so many mothers and sons (and even plenty of mothers and daughters ), but it wasn't written about Every boy...it was written about My boy.  My boy inspired a list that has been read and shared literally millions of times.  My boy who STILL inspires me to have to continually go back to and cling to that list while he's driving me crazy with his seven year old wild, yet wonderful self.   In my One Year Reflection post, I wrote this and it's still true:
"At the end of the line, for me, the greatest of all prides in this journey of my blogpost (that went from our silly little family blog - to making its way around the internet and has been read millions of times):  it is that it grew from inspiration from a boy.  my boy.   I have printed all of the comments from my post to add to his baby book with this note:  Because of your life and the inspiration you have given my heart that spoke to my brain and moved my fingers - you have inspired moms and their sons around the world, my sweet darling. You are a history maker.  I love you forever and ever - thank you for the inspiration everyday."

my oldest baby.
(I can't think too much about it without crying, but)
I will love you forever.
even when you make me mad, sad, and crazy.
even when you're bigger than me.
even as your wildness breaks all our things.
and your smart mouth breaks my heart.
even then.
my darling,
i love you.


  1. Wow, what a story! I have been off of most social media so totally missed this!
    I am so glad to have stumbled on that exact post years ago because it brought me to your blog and even though we haven't met (yet!!), I now consider you a friend. xox

    1. I am so grateful that post brought us together too! and YET is right!! :) we must get together IRL. giant playdate, please! xoxxo

  2. I am feeling ALL THE FEELS for you! As a friend, as a fellow mama (inspired by my children) and as a writer. Boy!

    You handled it with class, and all I can think is that this will come back to you tenfold because God is good that way.

    I love, love, love you. You continue to be such an example to me in every way!

    1. thank you for your constant support! I'm so glad this post brought us together way back when! It has been such a blessing as a mom and as a writer to walk this journey with you through blogging! xxoxo