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Mom, the family columnist

Her young son is aghast as his life begins to unspool in the local newspaper.

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My only child was barely 9 when my features editor called to offer a coveted column spot in our local daily newspaper.

"Write about things that typical suburban families can relate to," said the editor, who couldn't see me doing the happy dance in my kitchen while we finalized the details over the phone.

At the time, blogging was just a Silicon Valley pipe dream, and every writer I knew wanted to be the next Anna Quindlen. The chance to reach 20,000 readers weekly seemed like a professional coup, the perfect beat for a mom who had postponed a journalism career to stay home with her child.

I'd already published articles and personal essays in several national magazines – but my byline was hardly a household name. A weekly column would change that, at least locally.

Of course, not everyone read the lifestyles section in which I appeared. Not everyone was interested in the poetics of keeping house while keeping a child out of the principal's office. But before long, I had established a faithful Sunday readership, including a coterie of admiring fans who would stop to chat at the post office or the supermarket.

My son, in grade school at the time, was the first to expose the hubris in this.

"If you're going to write about me, you better get it right or don't publish it," he exploded after I wrote about the time I discovered a sticky stockpile of empty soda pop cans under his bed. The column, which had mercilessly trashed the housekeeping habits of little boys, described how I felt when I discovered that one of the pop cans hosted a colony of honeybees. (For entertainment value, I'd stretched the facts a bit, implying that my son was keeping the bees as pets.)

Everyone else thought the piece was hysterically funny, but my cute family anecdote turned out to be a lunchroom nightmare for my kid. His teacher shared the column in class the following Monday. Defending himself, my son announced that my story was inaccurate, and that I had "seriously misquoted" him.


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