Mary sent me this article from the New Yorker "Downton Abbey" with Cats, and I must confess, it pretty much nailed us. We've been watching Downton Abbey with Natalie as much as possible this year, and it's been a ton of fun, since she never watches television with us, preferring to watch downloaded sitcoms on her iPod from the comfort of her bed.
So, allowing for the fact that John Hodgman wrote the article with his tongue lodged pretty fully in his cheek (so I have to assume it's better as a written document than it would have been delivered orally), he intimates something rather interesting: other people often don't really care much about stories you tell about the things your kids say or used to say. The irony here is that, for me, nothing is more poignant than remembering the kids our things used to say, and the richest moments in life are often when we are milling about the kitchen, perhaps pretending to prep food or clean while secretly trying to get the other one to do the lion's share of it, and Mary or I digs up some chestnut from back when the kids were younger: "You remember how Natalie used to get us confused and call me 'mom'?" I might say, and we get a warm feeling. There's not much better than that in life.
And I post that sort of thing here on the blog, and I'm pretty sure that at least our family members, particularly those who know and love our kids but live far away, dig it. But maybe it's of little interest to others.
Similarly, lots of people will say of Facebook: "It's a time sink. I don't really care to see pictures of other people's kids doing sports or getting ready for the prom." Me, though I can't spend that much time on it -- because it can become a time sink -- I love that stuff. Like Amy's pix of her kids playing volleyball, or Jeff's of hunting and fishing with his son. I think it's because it's less about the specifics of this kid or that doing or having done thing X, but because I identify so strongly with the love for and pride in their kids that the parents demonstrate by posting the pics. And often the outfits are great too.
A couple of points here on different levels:
- It is one of the key tasks of representational narrative art to bridge these gaps between the specific (picture of or anecdote about a child) and the general (the love of a parent for a child). Good realistic novels and movies do this.
A further codicil to this thought: to the extent that social media usurp this function from traditional forms (novel, movie, etc.), they threaten the economics of those industries.
- Although one hates to overgeneralize (but hell, it's my blog), I think that most people get this: they want to be in a position to be proud of their children. It is to some extent a first world, bourgeois luxury to be able to do so. If you are trying to subsist and need to have a lot of kids so that you'll be certain someone will be there to take care of you where you're old, you don't have that luxury.
This means that it must be a goal policy to seek to universalize this luxury to the greatest extent possible. There is a delicate dance between letting the private sector and markets operate as freely as possible and having the public sector step in and supplement and control in the right places, and we will never figure out the perfect balance between them. Optimizing the fluid and dynamic relationship between public and private sectors what policy is all about.