Reader Request Week 2008 #11: Athena and Whatever

First, a photo essay, a dramatic tale of desire achieved and denied, entitled “LOLAthena”:

And now, a question, from Michelle Sagara:

If, when Athena is older, she asks you to remove all pictures of her, and all comments about things she’s done, will you comply?

As it happens, this is something that Athena and I have already discussed. When she was an infant and a toddler, I didn’t worry about trying to get clearance from her about putting pictures online, because among other things she wasn’t cognizant enough to say “yes” or “no” to it. But for a number of years now she’s been old enough to understand what the Web site is and that lots of people read it, so these days, I ask for and receive her consent to post pictures or anecdotes about her. It’s partly out of common courtesy (I also do this with Krissy), and also partly to make sure she understands that she does have control of how I present her, and by extension learns that her opinions and preferences count and should be respected. Which I think is a good thing for a nine-year-old girl to understand, and to expect.

The only thing is Athena doesn’t like baby pictures of herself on the internet. I told her that hospitals put up pictures of newborn babies, but she responded like this: “They shouldn’t do that! It’s like invading people’s privacy.”

(Meta note: Athena wrote that last paragraph, as me, having a conversation with her, while I was actually down fixing her some dinner. You can’t say she’s not aware of what I do here, or that her mental model of me (and of me interacting with her, and with the Web) isn’t sufficiently complex. She’s nine. She scares me.)

Since these days I always get her permission before posting, there’s not much that goes up that is a problem for her now, and since I’ve instituted the “ask permission” posting plan, there’s nothing she’s asked in retrospect to have taken down. There are a couple of pictures from prior to that time that she’s asked me to take down, and for the most part I’ve complied. And with some others (for example, some of the dreaded baby pictures), I’ve negotiated additional permissions. By and large this seems to work.

But yeah, let’s say she becomes a teenager and stuff like the photos above suddenly horrify her. What to do? Well, probably I’ll close off access to the stuff that bothers her, unless and until she becomes comfortable with it again. The teenage years are a pain in the ass enough without feeling like your dad gets a kick out of archiving your humiliation online. And I think most readers will agree that following my daughter’s wishes should take precedence to the transient enjoyment any of you get from her mediated presence here.

Besides, even if I take this stuff down, I still have it, and can look through it, away from the Web. So there’s no real loss for me. That certainly makes it easier to do what Athena asks of me, if she asks it.

In the meantime, however, both of us are having fun with it (the photo essay above was her idea). It’s nice to have your kid be your partner in crime. I hope it continues for at least a little while longer.

49 thoughts on “Reader Request Week 2008 #11: Athena and Whatever

  1. Thanks. I’m likely to swap it soon, though — it’s easy to do with this particular WP theme, so I swap out once a week or so.

  2. You are, as I’m sure you know, a very lucky man with a very intelligent and very cool daughter. The rest of the world needs to watch out!

  3. Somebody should also mention the WayBack Machine to Athena – you can take that stuff down off your site, but it’ll be on the internet forever. And in the hands of the many raving Scalzi-bots. (Scalzlings? Whateverettes?)

  4. If the cat leans how to ask to have it removed, I think there are more pressing concerns about the cat, don’t you?

  5. Thanks :). I have two sons, and I almost never post about them because a) I’m allergic to cameras, either end, and b) I’ve always felt, on some level, that it’s their life, not mine. But the oldest is fourteen now, and has just said, while I read this across the room to him (because he’s doing homework and appreciates the distraction), that he would be fine with it. My youngest, on the other hand, looked at me as if I’d just spoken in a language that was almost, but not entirely unlike, English.

  6. Well now I have more pressing question. How do we know Whatever isn’t completely ghostwritten by Athena? Clearly she can simulate you well enough.

    Maybe you’re not even real.

  7. “Teenage” years. It sounds so far away, huh? Bad news, brother. You have 18-24 months, tops. Take it from a fellow father of a female only child: Sometime between Christmas and spring break of fifth grade your partner in crime will leave for school and be replaced by an emotional Tazmanian Devil who wants to know who the hell put all the little-kid crap in her room, and what do you want, anyway?

    Nothing you can do, of course, but enjoy every second of the present, as you obviously do, and keep your sense of humor the next 10 years, as you undoubtedly will.

    And now that you have her cheezburger, go take her bukkit, too.

    Heh, heh, heh…

  8. Not that you need affirmation as a parent, but I think you are handling this in exactly the right way! And I can tell that you and your daughter have a great relationship that is likely to continue into adulthood. As I have a 22 year old daughter, with whom both myself and her father have great relationships, I think I know a little bit about this. And you should be scared, but I think you are up to the challenge. I don’t think it will be nearly as bad as Jeff Hentosz makes it out to be in #11. But I will remind you that no matter how bad it gets, it gets better at about age 15 (possibly sooner).

  9. Observation from a non-parent:

    Teenagers (and kids in general) seem to be lots easier to deal with if you treat them like (inexperienced but competent) real people instead of, you know, kids.

    Would say that Athena is probably getting “real people” treatment already, so this may be a less conflict-ridden transition than usual…

  10. Thena:

    Well, yes and no. She is still nine, so we still occasionally have to stand on the “because I’m the dad in this relationship, that’s way” method of dealing with things. Fortunately, not as much as we might have to, but still.

  11. so might have mentioned this before but…

    Where did you get Athena’s t-shirt from? Curious as my two daughters might like something similar.

    Thanks!
    pc

  12. John, I remember in your long post about getting fired from AOL, you ended it with a bit that described some details relating to Athena when she was…er…at the gamete stage. And how those gametes came together.

    Did you ask Athena for permission to include those paragraphs? The only reason I ask is that when I first read that entry my first reaction was the horror of my kids finding a narrative of their equivalent gametes, so to speak.

    That, and the thought of explaining that all to a 9 year old is more than I can wrap my mind around right now.

  13. Brian:

    Well, Athena wasn’t present at the incident in question (a product of the incident, yes, but not present at it), so there was no need to ask her permission.

  14. I ask my teen boys for permission when posting anything – text or pictures – about them too, and they have review/edit/veto rights. My eldest is pretty narcissistic and loves to be mentioned; my youngest would prefer to go his whole life without being mentioned on the web – and he has a similar horror of baby/toddler pictures being posted, as well.

    Great way to handle it with Athena. Who may be commenting here as Scalzi anyway, who knows?

  15. John, it isn’t just Michelle Sagara, it is the kickass fantasy writer Michelle Sagara.:) Gratuitous fangirling now over, we return you to your regularly scheduled comments.

  16. Nina:

    I of course am well aware who Michelle Sagara is. And I agree with the “kick-ass” sentiment.

  17. Athena is scary. That paragraph had your meter and feel to it. Dang. She will be writing your novels next. Look out! LOL

    Athena, honey, you are awesome! I love your lol series! My 11 year old daughter thinks you are really cool and wishes I would use more pics of her online. Her dad doesn’t like it though. So, I only do occasionally. :(

    be well,
    Dawn

    http://journals.aol.com/princesssaurora/CarpeDiem/

  18. John, I imagined your statement at #22 to be read in the same tone as Bart Simpson replying to his sister, “I am familiar with the works of Pablo Neruda.” :)

  19. well, you *did* name her after a goddess who sprang fully formed from her father’s head… what were you expecting? :)

  20. 9 year old girls are like another species. Or maybe at that age they become possessed by aliens. My 9 year old daughter has a twin brother, who has been exposed to the same environment, upbringing and influences as his sister, but most of the time she seems about 5 years older than him.

  21. That wasn’t a cheeseburger. It’s obviously a chicken thing. The entire photo essay is a fake!

  22. ‘dad gets a kick out of archiving your humiliation online . . .’

    You know, most of us get the impression that the heat death of the universe will happen before you even try to humiliate Athena. And if you did, Whatever would have just one more entry. Another picture of your unconventionally handsome, slightly folically challenged head dripping blood onto a spike held by Krissy.

    Of course, all the pics are even now being filed away to be brought out to hold back the landslide when Sen. Athena strolls to the presidency.

  23. Almost spewed coffee this morning – when did the subtitle go up (just under the ‘Whatever’)?
    I can remember my mom saying that to me whenever I made a face at her.

  24. The subtitle is something I play with. I’m thinking of changing it on a semi-daily basis.

  25. Having met your daughter (when she was 6, I think), I suspect she is going to want those pictures of her for her own blog.

    A second Whatever?

    Well, since she’s approaching her teenage years, it may be called WHAT-Evah!

  26. Here here. My daughter is also nine. Looking forward to the (likely) 10 year bout of teenage insanity, I miss her already.

  27. Scattered thoughts from a four-time Dad: the “crabby” years will come. Sometimes sooner, sometimes later, sometimes like this, sometimes like that. They will last, well, I dunno, I’ve been waiting more than five years for them to end with one of mine. I’ll have to let you know.

    Try to remember that it was you who taught her persistence and that this will be a very useful life skill. It is not much fun to be the target of it though. Try to remember that (your) patience is also a useful life skill.

    Back in the dark ages my parents delighted in showing some of my bare-naked toddler pictures. I HATED that. I didn’t even like seeing the vintage photo of my own Dad as a baby bottoms-up on a bear skin rug. I hear those were traditional way back then. WTF?! I also hear public HS swimming classes were attended naked (but not co-ed). Again WTF?!

    We’ve had none of that with our kids. I do have a video of my son at age two or three throwing an incredible tantrum at home. At the time I threatened to show it to his girl friend in 15 years but I did not include it in the graduation video I make for all my sprog.

    Despite the laws about photo ownership I will respect people’s request to keep a photo private. Obviously “people” includes my own kids.

    And for people who want me to watch the video of the birth of their child I respond “only if I get to watch the video of the conception.” We all know no one wants to hear about the labor pains, they just want to see the baby. Dressed.

  28. I wondered about this also, and am glad to see the answer.

    Just for kicks, I googled her name, and it all comes up. But it strikes me an easy way of protection might be to let her pick a pseudonym to be used on the Whatever, so that people have to have a least a little knowledge to find it, rather than it being part of her google history.

  29. Adolescence is just the final stage of the terrible twos.

    You do realize that when she is a teenager she’s not going to believe she was ever nine.

  30. Nice..
    It sounds like you and Athena have a pretty tight relationship.
    I also have this with my (12 year old) daughter. Regardless of what people say if the bond between father/daughter are present and strong during child years, teenager and tween years can be just as fun! You just have to evolve the relationship as the age progresses..

  31. As the father of a mixed set of 9 year old twins I can’t imagine it getting much better than this. Of course I will enjoy my children growing into adulthood but nothing beats 9. They are erudite, smart, cute, full of energy (sigh), and still require copious amounts of snuggling and tickling. Adoration from a 9 year old daughter is a heady thing I wish I could bottle it, not for sale (no one had that kind of money) but for those times when nothing else will do. Oh yeah, my boy just discovered puns; there is a petard involved methinks.

  32. Whoa. Athena bears a striking resemblance to Jewel Staite in that first picture…

    (And she is adorable, of course. I’ve admired her acting chops since “Schadenfreude Pie.”)

  33. You are in a maze of twisted images, all cute.

    I’ve been having a bad couple of weeks, and this brought a long-needed smile. Thank you, both of you.

    (Remembering little brothers) Does she have a bucket you could take?

  34. I’ll let you know when your vote on the matter counts, TCO. Don’t be waiting up, now.

  35. tripp @#35: Back in the dark ages my parents delighted in showing some of my bare-naked toddler pictures. I HATED that. I didn’t even like seeing the vintage photo of my own Dad as a baby bottoms-up on a bear skin rug. I hear those were traditional way back then. WTF?!

    I’m only 27, but the first thing my mother did when we came back from the hospital was to put me on the bed, naked, and to take a number of pictures. She still has the pictures, they’re nice. Not something I would show on the new, however.
    My parents did the same thing with my younger brother: I remember when they took him home, undressed him, put him on my bed, took some pictures… then he pissed. ON MY BED. It marked our relationship.

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