Fear of a Friends’ Echo

Travelling with a child is like flying down to an unknown alien planet. Leaving your calm and carefully constructed environment, you must carry everything you’ll need, keep constantly vigilant against unknown hazards, and  no matter what you do the rapidly evolving life-form causing all the stress will be in the vehicle with you. Except babies are so much more terrifying than science-fiction monsters, because “They’re learning from everything you do and growing new abilities from your genetic material” is an obvious fact instead of terrifying revelation.

I just took TNG to Ireland and back to visit my mother in hospital. (Don’t worry, she’s fine and resting at home again). The first stop was my sister’s house and a family visit hasn’t involved this many blades since Game of Thrones ended. My sister is spectacular but her children are teenagers, the incarnated opposite of baby-proofing. In the first ten minutes of toddling I out-dashed any Olympic sprinter, and out-panicked the same sprinter stuck in a small enclosure full of cheetahs who’ve discovered the concepts of jealousy and human flesh. “I’ll just move this battery. And these razors. And this carpet knife.“ was an actual quote, and scarier than hearing it from behind the chair you’re tied to. Because at least that’s only threatening you and really won’t be your fault. Everyone was awesome and everything turned out fine but my heart rate didn’t drop below “person with a pacemaker wrestling power lines”.

We moved on to visit friends with their own young children. Much more relaxing. NOTE: “more” is not “entirely”. For example: a bottle of glitter is brilliant for a seven year old but a flare pistol for a two year old: it immediately draws attention and can cause absolute disaster if misused. Adorably stylish accident averted, I could finally take a breath. Even take my eyes off my child for the first few seconds in three days. And I’d need those moments of rest when little TNG started screaming their way to sleep in a strange house that morning at 1 AM. And I discovered an unexpected modern worry.

Soothing a small air-raid siren in someone else’s house, endlessly crooning of comfort as you cuddle the poor kid, obviously you’re worried whether they can hear. Less obvious is their Amazon Echo. I knew they had one in the house. I’d seen it safely shut in the downstairs kitchen, because household robots aren’t yet capable enough for “the room with all the knives” to be a concern. But did the damn thing have outposts up here? Was that wireless light control a simple switch, or secretly siphoning up everything I said?

Because forget following my shopping or scrolling my social media, if corporations can collect the things that pour out of an exhausted parent stream-of-consciousing into their distressed child at Early O’Clock then they’ve got the master plans of my subconscious. That’s the psychological profile equivalent of the Death Star plans. Next thing I know facebook’s foisting on micro-targeted ads so specifically tuned to my brain that an apparently random smash of words makes me automatically spend our savings into a new kind of cryptocurrency, because the back of my brain interprets it through the logic of sleep deprivation as “soothe my child” and the concept of rest.

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