I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist right now, but my house is under constant surveillance.
I know that every evening, someone’s listening in on my conversations. I know this because I can hear them laughing at what they hear.
Before I get sent off to a loony bin, let me explain. Our daughters have reached that magical age where they must spend every waking minute on the phone with friends.
This time-honored tradition has changed a bit since I was a kid. Since most of the kids have mobile phones or iPods, these visits aren’t just audible. They can see what’s happening by their video chats.
At any point in time, there may be two or three extra kids in our house (digitally) I wasn’t expecting. And sometimes that means they get to see what happens behind closed doors.
It’s like being on a reality TV show, but you never agreed to be a participant.
The worst thing is these video chats appear, from the perspective of the parent, to just be another instance of your child watching some mind-numbing video of some ordinary child documenting ordinary things that somehow turns into a must-watch. Thus you tend to ignore them, or even become irritated by the choices your kids make.
Our children’s friends have witnessed some interesting things:
• An entire group chat saw me sneak up behind my 12-year-old daughter, tickling her while repeating, “The real world is more interesting than your phone!”
• An unsuspecting listener caught my frustrated wife yelling “PAJAMAS NOW!” when bedtime preparations weren’t moving quickly enough. (Think of Frank Costanza yelling “Serenity now!” on Seinfeld.)
• One of my 11-year-old’s friends caught me doing a variety of impersonations while trying to lure her from her room to eat dinner with her family. (Elmo loves it when you eat dinner! Yogi Bear is going to eat from her pic-a-nic basket if she doesn’t come down now. Eat dinner with us, you shall, Yoda says.)
I know these friends are hearing things, as they’ll sometimes talk or joke about them when it’s my turn to drive them home from a game or a practice. Not only are they listening, they’re remembering.
Sometimes people ask me why I’m so comfortable with all this surveillance technology in my house. Between mobile phones and Alexa devices, there’s someone listening almost every minute of every day.
That’s when I think about the kinds of conversations happening in my house. If all anyone hears are the corny jokes, efforts to be good parents and a few random impressions, let them listen into our daily humdrum lives.