At the moment, my ten-year-old is away at summer camp. In a million ways, it seems not much has changed since my own days at sleep-away camp; his days are endlessly joyful, jam- packed with new friends, adventures, lots of structured activities, a healthy dose of absolutely free free-time, and above all, a soaring sense of independence. He is, day by day, minute by minute, relishing the space to stretch his own wings away from the ever-watchful eye of his loving -- but sometimes hovering -- parents.
There is one thing his camp has that we didn't have in my day: a website posting photos of what he's doing all day.
This was, of course, not my idea. This is a lovely service the camp provides to keep parents appraised and assured that their kids are indeed healthy, happy and safe.
When I first heard about this, I was, to be honest, a little put off. It seemed a bit "Big Brother-ish" to me, "spying" on our own kids. Granted we're not talking about 24-hour-a-day surveillance cameras behind every rock, bush and bunk cubby. These were random photos of the kids in activity, taken here and there over the course of the day. (And, obviously, pre-screened and edited by camp management. They're not stupid; they're not going to post pictures of kids crying or killing each other.)
I confess: the minute I saw the first pictures of my son laughing radiantly in the summer sun, I got over my civil liberty concerns pretty toot-suite. I was thrilled. I loved seeing how happy my boy looked, and also having at least some sense of what he does there. It was in fact, the only way I was gong to know because whatever measly, minimalist postcard we get are ingeniously non-informative. ("Can't write now, gotta go. See you soon.") And when he comes home finally, I know he's not going to tell us anything useful then either. So these images, refreshed every couple of hours, are priceless.
I so liked having them, in fact, that I started thinking how to set up a system like that at home. Not to "spy" on my kids, but just some way to be a "fly on the wall"; to be able to witness their days without actually being there, which would, naturally, alter the whole experience. And irritate them unnecessarily.
I gave some thought as to how we could pull this off. A little camera that I would surgically attach to their foreheads in their sleep. No -- could be morally/legally questionable. Okay -- how about this: mount the camera under the brim of their hats, which would then involve me coming up with some excuse to explain why I insist they now wear hats around the clock. ("Kids, I'm very concerned about direct sun reflecting into your eyes, and also, things might fall from shelves. So... put this on.") (Again this is very much a work in progress; I'm not saying I have it all worked out.)
But I liked the idea. Constant visual updates of my kids' day. These pictures from camp were very informative.
Though not as informative as they were for my wife. Not surprisingly, given her innate and impressive parenting skills, my wife would look at these same photos and within microseconds, glean a thousand times more information than I did.
"See that scab on the side of his knee? That wasn't there yesterday. He must've fallen this morning. He's not sleeping -- look at the lines under his eyes. He's not eating protein. See how angular his face is looking? And he hasn't changed his clothes in three days. See? These pictures from Tuesday? Same shorts!"
Like a crazily astute and accurate TV detective. And all from one glance. Me? I looked at the same shot and came away with "Hm. Cute kid."
So now, in addition to the mini-surveillance cameras I have to get implanted in my children, I am working on developing some sort of remote that goes from my wife's brain directly to my own, that tells me what I'm supposed to notice and, subsequently, what I'm supposed to think about whatever it is I notice.
It's probably not going to be cheap, but you know what? If I'm going to be a better parent, I am going to need all the tech-support I can get.
Start here, with the latest stories and news in progressive parenting. Learn more