It's fair to say that Julie Myerson was ready for the storm this time around. The author of The Lost Child: A Mother's Story, which chronicled her then-teenaged son's slide into alleged marijuana addiction, was ambushed by controversy upon its release in England last March. At the center of the controversy? The "lost child" himself, her now 20-year-old son Jake, who maintains that he is not addicted to pot, and that his mother exaggerated and even fabricated incidents in the book.
"What she has done has taken the very worst years of my life and cleverly blended it into a work of art, and that to me is obscene. I was only 17, I was a confused teenager, I was too young really to know who I was or what was happening," Jake told the Daily Mail at that time.
Still, in her New York Times interview earlier this week, Myserson was "cautiously optimistic" that the American release of the book this week would be treated with more understanding for her decision to publicly detail her family's private life.
It has not.
With follow-up columns in the Times debating the issue, and pieces in Salon and Jezebel discussing the validity of Myerson's claim that she wrote the book to help other families in the same situation, the American release of The Lost Child is proving to be just as controversial on this side of the pond.
To be sure, there's plenty about the Myerson's story that invites debate. Was Jake really addicted to marijuana? Did his parents do the right thing by confronting him and eventually kicking him out? Did his mother really write about it to comfort and inform other families, or did she exploit her son for her own gain? But the question that most haunts the blogosphere is the simplest: Is it okay to write the worst about our kids?
We've all done it-hit the keyboard with a vengeance when the kids are down, channeling our frustration into a status update, an email, even a blog. While our intentions aren't always altruistic, they can be harmless enough, and lead to gaining perspective, creating community and hell, just blowing off a little steam-all things which no doubt benefit our parenting abilities in the days and weeks and months that follow. But in an electronic age, where every troubled episode will now follow our kids through every entrance exam, every job interview, even every date, is it fair for us to publish the details of their lives?