Dad tells the ‘moles’ to forgetaboutit

“Because I Said So” column for The Commercial Appeal

Feb. 13, 2014

Dad tells the ‘moles’ to forgetaboutit

As parents, how many of your conversations with other adults are peppered with your children asking “What?” when they don’t catch the thread of a conversation or miss an aside? My kids have a knack for inserting themselves into any conversation, rapt with attention as though the topic might revolve around them.

Everything revolves around them, though, doesn’t it? Our daughters and sons are the suns of our universe. That’s according to their understanding of science, and they aren’t all that good at science.

I’ve had to start scheduling a meeting with my wife for time alone to discuss the issues of the day — finances, kids’ behavior and subsequent punishment, social matters. Without a closed-door meeting, our business becomes part of the public discourse.

Short of a conference booked days in advance, our conversations sound more like those from gangster films, both fictional and law enforcement surveillance. We fall into “Goodfellas” speak: “Remember that thing we talked about last week?” “The money thing?” “Yeah, that.” “The house thing or the car thing?” “The grocery thing.” “Yeah, yeah, I made that happen already, it’s taken care of.”

We’re being watched and overheard, and there have been occasions when, a lá “The Godfather,” I’ve turned to my daughter and said, “I’m going to speak Italian to your mother.”

We don’t speak Italian, but my daughter doesn’t know that.

Our kids look at us, confused and left out. “What?” they ask. “Forget about it,” we answer.

It isn’t that we’re talking about them. Not necessarily. Not all the time. It’s that there should be some expectation of privacy even with four children underfoot. We talk around them, we resort to e-mail and text messaging — often from within the house, even across the room — to impart information.

This is the age of information. My children’s generation may be the one with the most access to available knowledge. At the touch of one of their sticky fingertips, they have Google, Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, YouTube and an infinite number of media outlets. At the merest thought or curiosity, the answer will appear before them, in the palm of their grungy palms.

But are they the most curious generation?

My kids seem to be. And they’re most interested in what it is that their parents are up to, what we’re talking about, what it is we’re planning. So they lurk, and they hover, and they question us about our conversations.

At a reading hosted by Burke’s Book Store last week for novelist, physicist and MIT professor Alan Lightman, the author asserted that within the next 100 years people will probably have microchips embedded in their brains for the sending and receiving of information. My children are getting a jump on that, such is their need to know. They’ve bored into my brain, stepped up their surveillance game, and eavesdrop with the resourcefulness of a 21st century federal agent.

I can’t be the only one out there who has fathered a family of moles. If you’re in the same situation, meet me at Louis’ Restaurant in the Bronx to discuss it. But come alone, and don’t mention that other thing. You never know who might be listening.

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