My 9 year-old daughter informed me yesterday that she had found a way to lose weight while sitting at her pink laptop all day. It seems she’d ventured into a virtual field of subaural noise – subliminal suggestion sites that promise to give listeners confidence, take away those winter pounds, boost their GPA, make them beautiful, funny, love-objects who need never lift their little fingers from the keyboard to achieve self-perfection.
Or, in her words, “They’ve found a way to affect your brain with sound hidden under the music. It’s BIN-AURAL, Mom. It’s a product of the new generation. You wouldn’t understand it.” (Eye-roll at goofy, techno-challenged Mommy)
Uneasy, I suggested perhaps she might want to use a bit of caution before subjecting her developing brain to the mind-trickery of random Web peepers. (Okay, my exact words were something like, “That’s ridiculous! The only way to lose weight is to eat less and exercise something besides your fingers and thumbs. And besides, who knows what kinds of creepers create those things? They might have programmed some brainwashing mantra of depravity into those sites. And I’m pretty sure I’ve heard that binaural noise is bad for your central nervous system.”)
To which she replied (another eye-roll), “Mom. That was only a handful of kids in Japan that committed suicide or got migraines after listening to a Pokemon theme which has long-ago been removed from the Internet. Those aren’t allowed online anymore. I happen to know it’s a FACT that listening to these makes you lose weight because I read it in the comments.”
(Me: head cocked, brows furrowed mouth open, but nothing is coming out.)
Did I mention she’s 9?
As so often happens these days, I stood there in stare-down mode for a few seconds before deciding this battle wasn’t worth the energy. I sighed, shrugged and proceeded to pick up the dirty socks all over the floor of her room, mumbling something under my breath (binaural) about “…your brain…your life..blah blah blah…if it were ME, blah blah blah, thought you were SMARTER than that…blah blah blah… ”
The truth is, I do tend to be anxious about things, exceptionally wary–especially the Internet. (That’s the subject for another full essay, I’m thinking — How I Turned my Daughter into Howard Hughes.) The other truth is I’m exhausted. And the computer keeps her occupied and entertained during this climate change odyssey that has turned Western Jersey into Siberia for the past 6 months. I figure sunshine, real friends and physical activity will come soon enough, with spring. Her brain is still plastic enough that we can undo any temporary damage then.
Then I leave her there, happily pointing and clicking, oblivious to the extra 25 pounds she’s put on since September, unconcerned about the metabolic syndrome that threatens to harden her little arteries and land her in sugar-free diabetes Hell by the time she’s 10. It’s Sunday. Things need to be cleaned, organized, written, read. I do all the things her tuning out allows me to do, riding on the steady, familiar magic carpet of mom-guilt, silently shaming myself for negligence and a childhood whizzing by like virtual time. I check in on her every hour or so. She hasn’t moved. She’s still listening to it while chasing zombies or battling animated wizards. She wiggles in her molded plastic swivel chair, and I ask her if she needs to pee. She shushes me. I’m interrupting her game. I tell her five more minutes, then she has to do something in the “real” world. I invite her to play a game of backgammon or make a craft. She doesn’t respond. She’s concentrating on the wizards, listening/not listening to the thinning, confidence-building messages.
I place the folded laundry into her dresser drawers and close her bedroom door on my way out.
Artwork by Linda Scharck