Thursday, February 16, 2012

Who's to say

This was supposed to be a shortish piece about some observations my lovely wife and I had as to how our kids have been moving about their social landscape and how they feel about it.  I would bring up some of my young self’s experiences (good and bad) for relief and mention The Breakfast Club as a good but ultimately insufficient example of the rigidity and porousness of ways to be at school.* I would probably use parentheses too much and make some jokes in footnotes.

But the morning I was polishing things up,** The Boy came out of his night's sleep and sat with me at the laptop, as he often does. I took a moment to add to my coffee (as I often do), and he took the same moment to look over the screen.  It didn't take long for him to realize that I was writing about him and his school.  He didn’t seem moved one way or the other — I don’t think I had said anything that should have affected him one way or another.  Like I said, I don’t think this was the case.

Problem is, what I think may not be the end of it.  Though I have gone to some lengths to remain anonymous out here — this pseudonym and site are roughly as old as my daughter — I do now mention new posts on the social media.  For some Friends and Followers, 'Q' and 'The Boy' pick out people they know, people their kids know and see something like daily.***  Our kids’ friends don’t read, say, Facebook all that much yet (as far as we know), but their parents do, and for some subjects I might want to bring up and break down, my lovely wife convinced me that that’s enough to think twice.

Back when my wife and I were in junior high and high school,**** we, like everyone, worried about our parents saying something embarrassing about us.  The vectors of embarrassment, though, were few and transient.  One parent might mention something to another, who might mention it to another, who might mention it to his or her kid in school, and teasing would ensue.  Or some kid might get a hold of a note meant for someone else, passing it around from person to person until the paper and the jokes wore out, which usually didn't take that long.

Things could not be more different now. So much information about ourselves, from the trivial to the intimate, sits more or less permanently available, and the access to it constantly becomes easier and in younger and younger hands.  I’ve overheard many kids in my daughter’s first-grade class talking about how they now have their parent’s old phones, the ones with built-in wifi and apps that take only intuition to operate.  My son and his friends, only slightly older, already have expertise in Youtube and opinions about Facebook and Twitter.  And though its jokes may have already worn out, this note I’m passing you now can be shared with nearly everyone everywhere forever.

This is all to say that I’ve got some new considerations.  I’m not going to give up writing about Q and The Boy in this space and elsewhere. After all, my kids make up the most interesting part of my story right now.  I also reserve the right to embarrass them in the usual parent ways and to enjoy doing so.  But Q and The Boy are getting to the point where they deserve some control over their stories, especially those that hinge on how they feel. I’m going to try to let them write their most important parts. 

*Remind me someday to talk about the explosion of the nerd/brain social category.
**Yes, I polish these things before they go up. Don’t look at me that way.
***In other words, these folks think about them de re as opposed to de dicto, if you know what I mean (and believe in that sort of thing).
****You know, back when people called it “junior high.”