John Y. Brown, III: Honoring My Son’s Choices

Spy Parents

It’s not a movie. That’s Spy Kids. Spy parents is when a parent puts monitoring software on their child’s computer to monitor the websites visited.

I did this to my son when he was about 12 years old. As I looked over the first weeks batch of websites visited, I was pleased to see there were no “inappropriate” websites visited.

Just a lot of kid stuff with an unusually high number of political websites visited. However, upon closer examination, I noticed almost all the political websites were republican-leaning.

I didn’t know what to do.

Was my son a “Closet Republican?”

Was this the kind of thing I should talk to my child about alone or shouldI involve a counselor?

Was 7 conservative-leaning websites visited (coupled with a Google search for Glenn Beck) in a two weeks period grounds for an intervention?

Should I explain that some of my closest friends are republican and that this is nothing to be ashamed of?

In fact, there were groups and fundraising activities for people who eventually make conservativism a “life choice” —even though many Democrats don’t believe it is really a “choice?”

I never had to answer any of those questions. At that moment I heard a loud and deeply aggravated male voice from upstairs yell “Daaaaad!” and yelled in that way that

I knew I was in trouble. My son marched down the steps and announced he had discovered the spy software and wanted it removed immediately. I explained I was leaving it on for his own benefit and bc it was my duty as a parent.

He then declared loudly that I was violating his First Amendment rights and he would not put up with me violating his constitutional rights.

I was flabbergasted–and impressed. I started to explain how the constitution didn’t apply in this circumstance….but was so darned impressed with his argument and passion, I stopped. Asked for his laptop. And removed the software. And told him, “I can’t argue with your reasoning. You got me.”

That was 6 years ago. Some nights when he’s out driving and it’s late at night, I worry. I question my decision. And wonder to myself, “I hope Johnny is safe. And hasn’t gotten sucked in to hanging out with a group of young republicans staying up late talking about Ronald Reagan and supply-side economics.

Then I remind myself that as a parent, I can only do so much. And that it could be much worse. And that it was probably just a phase and that I’d seen no signs of binge thinking (politically speaking). The rest is in God’s hands.


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