Selling Pieces of Her Childhood

I shelter her from screens, but the whole world can watch our home movies.

Adorable photo of my kid by Anna Burgess Lieck of Tacoma, WA

I have friends who’ve hidden all photos of their children from social media. Meanwhile, my kid’s eaten dog food in an online Orajel ad*, and she has her own Public Figure Facebook page. Not that she’s ever seen it.

The Facebook page started as a way to post baby photos/videos without inundating my personal Facebook page (I didn’t want to alienate all my intentionally childless friends).

The plan wasn’t for strangers to look at my kid.

But one day, I got an email from Newsflare offering to sell one of my YouTube videos for me, a home movie of Tzivia and our dog Lupin eating rice out of my hand. It sold immediately, and since, I’ve sold 20 videos, through Newsflare and Jukin. I retain the copyrights to my own videos; the buyers just get to use the videos as well.

Everybody’s trying to figure out public vs. private with their children, and I guess we’ve gone waaaaay public.

One reason is we need the money.

Another reason I err on the side of public, is I’ve always wished I was a child star. My mom is convinced that the moment was there, ready for her to seize, but she turned it down so I could have a “normal childhood.”

Let’s set aside the questionable concept of a normal childhood. Would my life have actually been better if I’d had childhood fame? My mom is convinced that this talent scout — who, yes, was probably mostly scamming people — saw something in me, and if she’d given the go ahead, I would’ve been the next Shirley Temple (or at least been in a cereal ad).

Me as a toddler, from the talent agency’s photographer

When I was my daughter’s age, I consumed a ton of TV, and I wanted so badly to be an actress. Meanwhile, my kid’s screen time is super-limited, and I’m unsure if she even knows what the words actor/actress mean.

It’s ironic that over 645,000 people have watched her enjoying her first snowfall (via People Magazine’s Facebook page), but she so far has no aspirations of being “famous.”

The only camera she ever sees is my outdated camera phone, and there aren’t any strangers talking to her or trying to tell her what to do, what to say, how to pose.

I tell myself selling these pieces of her childhood takes nothing from her (actually benefits her, as the income I make helps me to mostly stay home with her). I know not everyone would agree. But the reason it feels all right to me, for now, is that I’m capturing things that are already happening, rather than staging them.

The one time I tried to direct, it didn’t work at all. Newsflare had a Video Brief that they were looking for kids talking about what love means to them. How cute, I thought, so I dressed her in a shirt with a heart, turned on the camera and asked her what love was. She immediately shut down. She could tell this wasn’t just me and her talking; something was off. Immediately, I felt icky about it all, turned the camera off, and snuggled her.

She’s 4 years old now. She knows that Mama sells videos. Today I sold one of her with her Grandpa, and I excitedly told her about the sale. Soon, she might have her own opinion about it. If she asks me to stop, of course I will, but for now, I’m glad others enjoy her cuteness. Because I think she’s the cutest ever.

*So, about that Orajel ad: It was vegan dog food, and really, what newly crawling baby hasn’t gone straight to the dog food bowl?