I went to BlogHer14 this past weekend. For those of you who don’t blog, it’s a pretty large conference where writers meet one another in person, attend parties and a variety of sessions from publishing, to social media optimization, to writing labs, and more. On Saturday afternoon, they held “mini-con” sessions, where we were able to choose a topic and bond with those who share our niches. More on that later, because that’s the suck part.
For me, BlogHer14 was both utterly disappointing, and beyond powerful.
It was beyond magical, because I learned about publishing options, for when I finally finish one of the books gathering cyberdust in my hard drive. But mostly, it was magical because of the people.
Stephanie, Sarah and I shared a hotel room. I have to admit that I was a little nervous. While I’d met Stephanie in person for lunch once, Sarah and I hadn’t yet met. Because my own husband often staggers to the couch late at night to escape my snores, I worried about how sharing might go.
It was awesome. We laughed and (some of us) cried. We talked and giggled and bonded and partied and danced. We learned a few things. We met up with Katia, who had been busy that afternoon and for those of you wondering – yes, she’s just as beautiful and sweet IRL.
Friday night was the Voices of the Year event, where those of us with awards (eeep!) were able to sit in an honored section, complete with fancy “RESERVED” signs. While the actual event went much too long, and the honoring of us was slightly disappointing – an afterthought of “oh right, get up on stage, people,” the signs were too cool.
Plus, mine was right next to the bar.
I may have spent a little bit of time with my sign. Kissing it and stuff.
And I made JillSmo pose with me. For those of you who only know her via blogging, she looks exactly the same in person, see?
Saturday night was awesome, full of 80’s and 90’s dance music DJ’d by Run DMC’s RevRun. Oh except we weren’t that impressed with the fact that dinner was Happy Meals.
Julie and Chloe hosted a hotel room party, complete with Jello Shots (true dedication) after RevRun left us to our own devices. There, I got to hang out with Molly (who I did not recognize at first because her hair is not actually red), Lucy (who um, I may have tried to lick), Linda, and the famous Lisa Nolan, I’m sure I’m leaving some out because I’m still tired from a 13-hour travel day on Sunday.
While I was at BlogHer14, I learned from Norine (Science of Parenthood) that the incredible Ellen from Love that Max was interviewed by Parenting.com and said that Finding Ninee is one of her favorite blogs! (OMG!!!!!)
All that. Which is how BlogHer was amazing. Also, Jenny Lawson and Arianna Huffington? OMG awesome amazing. Plus, Jenny follows me on Twitter now. (I KNOW)
Now, for the less than amazing part.
I mentioned above that on Saturday afternoon, there were “mini-con” breakout sessions. I chose to attend the Special Needs one, for obvious reasons. It started off pleasantly enough (I got to sit next to my blog crush, JillSmo, and didn’t slobber on her or anything) as one of the speakers, who raises awareness for limb difference seemed pretty cool. The other two speakers? Well. I don’t believe that either one should ever present again.
First, the other two moderators were obviously there to hear themselves speak and to spew their own agendas and lives at us, which would be fine to an extent, but wasn’t fine because they took it above and beyond the extent point.
It came time for the Q&A part of the session, and a woman at my table asked how, when so immersed in learning and advocating, and doing, and being, the moderators found time to care for themselves. One of the (two bad) moderators blathered on and on about how sucky it was to have had to move so much and that she wanted to be in whatever city but left, or came, or whatever, I’m not even sure because it was so drawn out and irrelevant and boring. It was an awful answer and didn’t offer any helpful advice for self-care, or anything close to it.
It went even further downhill when I asked a question.
First, I explained that, for the past two years, my son Tucker has been in a preschool autism classroom, which is very contained and small, and that I started blogging when he was barely three years old. I said that next year, for kindergarten, he’ll be mainstreamed (with support), in school with 24 other students, 20 of whom are typical. I asked the panel and the audience at what point they consider becoming more anonymous when it comes to blogging about their children. I was hoping to have a discussion about protecting my son’s privacy while also continuing to be honest and true to spreading special needs awareness.
The moderator’s answer? “Well. I guess you need to decide whether you’re going to grow a thicker skin and advocate.”
Wait. WHAT THE FUCKITY FUCK? This isn’t about my skin. This is about protecting my son’s privacy. Not that a bunch of five year olds will read this blog, but the fact is, he’s high-functioning, and maybe, just maybe, it’s not really fair that I put his face on a public website, with the word Autism next to it. Maybe, that’s a decision best left to him when he’s older.
She dug the hole in my disbelief even deeper when she went on to freaking publicly SHAME me for not talking to him about “his autism.”
Um, hello. Tucker just turned five. He doesn’t know that he’s not typical. He’s still working on his ABC’s for fucksake. “Talk to him about his autism?”
She implied that I’m keeping his developmental delays a secret from him! I was sad and hurt and angry to say the very least. I still am.
I wanted a for-real discussion about how people feel. About how responsible we need to be as public writers who have, as their children are young, openly discussed their diagnoses, or lack thereof.
She doesn’t know anything about me, my openness, my worldviews, or my passions. She doesn’t know anything about Tucker, and his developmental age, his progress, his infectious laughter, or about how much or how little he struggles with his words.
More importantly, she didn’t ask. She simply told me that it’s my responsibility to “grow a thicker skin” and “talk to my son about his autism.”
I hope she is never in a position to “lead” another panel about special needs or autism, ever again. My heartbeat is elevated even typing this.
Yes, I am planning to complain to the staff at BlogHer. I’m a responsible person. One who is more than willing to be open and honest with my son about his uniqueness. When he’s ready. I also trust myself enough to know when that is. After all, I am the one who is Here. Loving and Guiding my little boy.
How dare she try to make my journey about thicker skin, or about her journey. I’m not going to give you her name or blog because this is my platform. And agenda-having assholes need not be recognized here.
But the fact that I wanted to ask a question, that is near and dear to my heart matters. The fact that she not only ignored my question, but tried to make me feel badly about something that doesn’t even apply to my life? To my son’s life? I just don’t know if he’s ready yet. When he is, I will do everything in my power to make my kid realize that he is unique, and powerful, and amazing, and perfectly himself.
It’s not about my skin. My skin is dried up and old and wrinkled and freckled and stretched. And it’s exactly where it’s supposed to be. It’s in this house, with my boy.
I strive for a Land of Empathy and Wonder.
I believe. In light, and magic, and hope. And seeing the beauty in the world and in my boy.
And in the magic awesomeness of BlogHer, where I glow with happy kissy thoughts, thinking of my amazing tribe. I write this to put the anger and ickiness behind me. There are better things to do with this too-short night. There are better things to do with this too-short life.