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.