Thursday, August 21, 2008

Some Philosophical Waxing

You betcha (she is SO Minnesooota), baby, and this has nothing to do with ears. Although Dr. Matron has been known to give the occasional lecture on this blog, this isn't so much lecture as Query and Ponder, out loud.

This post, rendered by the ever intriguing Tootsie, got the Matron thinking. Thanks, honey!

I'll pause while you read. Hum, hum. . ..

Okay, then.

So the Matron started thinking about boundaries and when we let children move through them. The crib is a boundary, of sorts, then the baby's territory is expanded! She's in a bed. Same logic runs with the back yard. When Little Angel is 5, he's in the back yard. At 12, riding a bike down the block. Territory expands! While territory expands, so does the self - you need to have the brains, the emotional tools, the social skills to navigate your new terrain! Because--and here's what it gets tricky -- the new terrain always has some kind of relationship component! You're not alone navigating that terrain, from the toddler whose parent tucks Junior in bed at night (and picks her off the floor when there's a bump in the dark!) to the 12 year old Junior riding her bike into the world of drivers and neighbors -- and potential creeps or criminals.

Are you with her? So this is all about growing up and going out into the great big physical, relational world!

But this generation of parents, the one she shares with you (damn that third person narrator and grammatical restrictions), is confronting a new set of boundaries: electronic, online, alive! Children aren't just growing up as their physical boundaries expand -- or growing into just the physical world, but the online world as well.

You all know this.

Here's what interest the Matron.

She's sure there's a name for this and damn, if she just can't remember what theory she's theorizing. Philosopher Mom? Are you there? Is this just plain old poststructuralism below or somethin' else? She vaguely remembers a theory . . .

Anyway, if Self is shaped through the endless series of interactions between self and other -- whether that other is an object, animal or person -- if you've ever had a transcendental moment in nature or a 'light bulb' go off in your head when talking to someone, you were conscious of a change in YOU but this happens all the time without us knowing, we're becoming with every interaction -- okay, if Self is shaped that way, what are the implications for that Self if so many of these memorable interactions are virtual. Just you, interacting with nothing tangible. Solid. Real. Yet this shapes you.


Veering down a different technological path, if growing up involves a thoughtful parental extension of boundaries, the Matron laments the contradiction, the difficulty, the pain of even understanding the virtual boundary. Because the child (at least hers) sometimes confronts and desires the new terrain before the Matron even knows it exists -- how can she set the pace for him? How can she set the terms of expanding boundaries without knowing where in the hell that terrain is -- and, new terrain gets created constantly!

Luddites among us? Well, the Matron just left her virtual classroom. In the spring, she is teaching nearly entirely online. Her son's new junior high school employs all kinds of parent portals, chat rooms, peeks and spies and various online, electric possibilities. Social networks, Couch-surfing, telecommuting.

The Matron is making herself dizzy. If you haven't heard of couch-surfing you're not in your twenties. See how the world has changed! Now there's an example of ever-expanding territory.

Finally, she's noticed something else. Even as the online and electric terrain expands at eye-popping speed, the physical terrain available to our children has shrunk dramatically. Whose urban children roam free these days? Not many. She knows that in her corner of the city, packs of children don't roam free for hours, unattended, like she did. But Little Johnny has the world at his fingertips once he hits that laptop.

There's no gold standard for the contemporary parent--when you get to go to the Magic Mountain alone -- because the Mountain itself shifts, every few hours.


AuthorMomWithDogs said...

Interesting dichotomy, isn't it. What a skewed "reality" so many kids are growing up on.

Lisa Milton said...

We live in strange - and often exciting - times.

I was playing around on Facebook yesterday. (Cyber crack.) Anyhoo, I was inundated with connecting and chatting and I felt completely overwhelmed.

I can't imagine being 12 and overwhelmed.

Interesting thoughts.

(And thanks for your kind words today.)

Angie said...

Whatever it's called, it scares the crap out of me. How in the world do we protect them and give them boundaries with things I don't understand?

Being in the blog-world helps - all you ladies out there keep me 'in the know' and that helps, but still.

Let me know when you figure it out, will you? I could use some help too.

Tootsie Farklepants said...

If there is going to be a pop quiz on this later then I need to study harder.

tammy said...

I think the most troubling aspect is not that the world as we know it is changing, but the alarming speed with which it seems to be spiraling out of control.

I think as children, we had a little more time to *be* children and not get sucked under by the tidal forces pulling us toward (real or percieved) maturity.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Very insightful and wise. I've given my kids almost no cyberworld and so much freedom to roam out here in the country--I don't know how 75 acres translates in city blocks, but they have full free range on it.

Anonymous said...


When I lecture to a sea of laptops, students lost in e-mailing, texting, posting, surfing (legitimate sites and x-rated ones), gaming, etc., I lament lost worlds. I recall, with almost anachronistic feel, a professor in Psychology 100 who pointed her finger towards a hall of over 300 students, scoped out one, and said, "You, reading the paper, you're being very rude." Now, as you noted earlier Mary, many never bother with a paper, on-line or in print.

Sadly, I wouldn't know where to start. I wouldn't know how to instill any interest beyond that of the next mouse click.

I lament eerily quite streets that once may have teemed with children; children today, sociologists tell us, obese from spending too much time in front various screens.

Luddite? Yes and no.

Ultimately, I think of young boys, drunk on the elixir of on-line pornography, affected by glamorized, plastic images of womanhood that may render them incapable of respecting, relating to and understanding real women, forming any meaningful, life sustaining bonds.

Ultimately, I think of a prominent British professor who is advocating we accept alternate grammatical constructions, text messaging as legitimate language, because to aim and fight it is a losing battle. We may already have lost the war. "2Bad4U," a student might say. Adapt or perish.

I'm expecting to give birth any day now, and I've frequently left the nursery door closed, and it's still not fully ready for his arrival. It's a space that is controlled and safe, territory so virginal and pure right now, only to later be left behind into worlds real and virtual, with all their challenges and dangers. I sit in a corner of the room at times, and lament this little world, so soon to disappear.

Thank you, as always, for writing.

Cheri @ Blog This Mom! said...

The mountain is moving indeed, but "they" said it was moving when things like electric lights, gasoline engines, televisions, and moon landings were new frontiers crossed. I'm enjoying the view, although I need reading glasses to see my screen.

Lynda said...

Jeez...I have a teenager and have faced this issue...basically, I think you just have to be involved. Be subliminal... be THERE...we can think ourselves into so many situations and never scratch the surface of what IS. Hopefully, we adjust the boundaries to keep our kids balanced. And, maybe just let them see WE have boundaries, too.

phd in yogurtry said...

Fortunately, in the midst of so many unknown cyber frontiers, there are bloggers willing to connect the old fashioned way. With words that make us think, and smile, and feel not so alone.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I'm with Cheri--it's always happened this way, it's just happening faster.

I think it boils down to what it always has--communicating with your kids.

Minnesota Matron said...

Anonymous writes . . . .

Ultimately, I think of young boys, drunk on the elixir of on-line pornography, affected by glamorized, plastic images of womanhood that may render them incapable of respecting, relating to and understanding real women, forming any meaningful, life sustaining bonds.

If you have a boy, read Boys Adrift by Leonard Sax. He says just this. I know many amazing, wonderful and caring boys too -- including mine, who might be fully wired but is as compassionate and concerned about others as I am. I think the difference, as people say here is that we talk, we hug, we are together in the physical world.

And I miss the old classroom, too. Never heard about the famous British professor but I would disagree. . . in fact, I'm teaching an online etiquette course at our college and the course talks a lot about how to write online. As in, use salutations when writing your professor instead of just 'hey there.'

Hope the birth goes perfectly!!!

Minnesota Matron said...

Anonymous - lost your email address but if you zap me one at petri017 at I'm always open for a conversation about mothering boys. Thinking of you. . .

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Mary for your suggestion of the book. I'll definitely read it.

Yes, the baby is apparently a boy, but this was not fully clear to the technician; another commentary on technology, perhaps.

Thanks, also, for your well wishes. I'll drop you an e-mail.

Lela B said...

Parenting is just like Disney World and Magic Mountain it all does keep moving but don't blink its all over in a short time. Then after the laptop they are off to the races themselves. Great Read!