I had this photo I wanted to take of me reading Miles the recent Ethicist column in the New York Times where someone asked a question about the ethics of putting pictures of your kids on Facebook. I was going to make the caption something like, “Reading the Ethicist to Miles about the ethics of using your kids as your subject matter on social media and trying to explain irony.” Solid joke, right? If you’re curious, while there is obvious room for exploitation (the commercials for Dance Moms always struck me funny; I felt like these women were begging the audiences to call social services because they just couldn’t) I think it is hard for parents to know exactly where their identity ends and their kids identity begins.
An example: this blog. Another example: this summer when Miles and I were hanging out and Shannon was out of the house for a meeting I put on an old Otis Redding record and just cranked it. This is not scientifically provable but there is nothing better than that record playing at an incredible volume. It feels so warm and reverberates through the house. At the end of “Try a little tenderness” Miles turned to me and said, “Daddy, play that one again.” I did, and we danced not quite Pretty In Pink style but not too different. It was one of those moments I would box up if I could and thinking about it now brings tears to my eyes.
Now, I have always loved that record. And I do mean record here. I love the weight of it, the way it pops on the record player and the mix which makes it sound like you are in an empty practice space with Redding back in the ’60’s. I remember sitting in our house on Sunday mornings in North Carolina, making breakfast with Shannon with that album on blast. It was just lovely, and I would have boxed that up too if I could have. Of course, our lives are so different now that leisurely Sunday breakfasts don’t really exist without a thousand questions and, usually the moment I finish cooking, Miles wants to get down and play. The experience that I associated with that record has changed. It can still bring tears to my eyes, but that is a little more complicated.
For Miles, I suspect the reason he loves that record is because I love that record. I think that might be true of a lot of his experiences. And while I see differences develop that seem specific to him and I am not sure if what he is isn’t the developmental equivalent of mixing Shannon and my tastes and personalities. I mean, good Lord, he calls the hiding hole Shannon made him in his room ‘old campus’ and last night went to look and see if I was there teaching.
I altered my artist’s biography a couple of years ago to include the fact that I am a husband and a parent. It finally seemed foolish to me to pretend that I wasn’t affected or shaped by these things. Of course my artwork was affected. Of course my dissertation is being affected by these things. Of course the way I interact with the world is being affected and shaped by these experiences. At times this plays havoc with my conception of my identity, but I think I am beginning to get used to the idea that I am not Thoreau marching off into the wilderness on my own. Rather, I am a product of my relationships. The edges of my identity are not as distinct as they once were. The implications for this long term are huge for me (and maybe I will try to address this more later); for today, you just are going to have to look at more pictures of Miles.
Gratuitous picture of the day- (Shannon and Miles “Same-Same” with their sweatshirts on)