Mama Madison: Preserving children's stories

All that social media can be put to good use

My daughter, who turned twelve just this past week, is not legally "of age" when it comes to social media. But I guess, in many respects, especially in those that involve screens, I am a permissive pushover. I've allowed her join some networks. She hasn't expressed much interest in Facebook (she swears it's "over," likely because I am a reasonably heavy user and just about everything I do, according to her, is "over") and doing the 140-character thing hasn't quite grabbed her either. But man, is she is a big, big fan of Instagram. Or what's better known around our house as the "Selfie Site."

My daughter snaps, and often posts, pictures of herself eating breakfast, experimenting with new hairstyles and shopping with friends on Monroe Street (it's a group "selfie," she says -- I guess such a thing exists). I really don't know what one girl could possibly plan to do with so many self-portraits. It's kind of like living with a smaller, blonder, Frida Kahlo all the time, although with slightly thinner eyebrows and without the monkeys. In my daughter's "work," these elements have been replaced with our overweight gray cat.

But I think I have found another place where my daughter's digital dalliances can find a home, and it takes place on Wednesday, May 7, this year. Inspired by such projects as Isthmus' My Madison Day, UW-Madison's UW Right Now and Day in a Life by TIME for Kids, the Madison Children's Museum is inviting all area kids, parents, teachers and friends to join together next Wednesday to take part in a Day in a Kid's Life. On this single day, kids, and those who have kids in their lives, can participate by posting photos, text and video using the #DayinaKidsLife hashtag on social media or via email at DayInAKidsLife@gmail.com. The museum will then upload all tagged and emailed items and weave them together into a narrative fabric for display ate dayinakidslife.com.

According to the folks at Madison Children's Museum, this undertaking is part of the museum's KidShare program, the culture and digital media project that aims to make the Children's Museum into a highly accessible living repository of children's knowledge, wisdom and culture. The goal for the project is to ensure that the gorgeous building on North Hamilton Street is seen not just as a destination for hands-on learning, but also a place for collecting, presenting and preserving children's stories.

And I guess I'd never really thought about my daughter's Instagram indulgences in quite this way. Sure, I may occasionally snap a few shots at birthday parties, graduations and religious celebrations, but those pictures are really expressing what I see as important and noteworthy in their lives, not necessarily what my kids were feeling or wishing to express at a particular moment in time. I guess those selfies, which I long considered a hopefully harmless self-obsession, really can be considered my daughter's visual diary. And it's a diary, since I "follow" her, which I have permission to view.

As Frida Kahlo once said, "I leave you my portrait so that you will have my presence all the days and nights that I am away from you." And as I see time passing on every day -- I know turning 12 will flip to turning 21 in the blink of an eye -- I will be thankful to always have my daughter's "portraits" archived online at the Madison Children's Museum.

Even if it's an iPod she's using instead of a paintbrush.

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