CHECK OUT ALEXYS'S NEW Web site!" says the e-mail message in my box. Alexys? Who? She's the new baby of the cousin of an in-law or something. I have no idea how I got on Alexys's address list. But this is not the first time I have been invited to a baby's Web site.
When I click to Alexys's page, the most interesting thing happens. "Waah waah waah!" comes out of my computer. Apparently, this is Alexys's actual fitful cry. The sound is accompanied by little ducks waddling across my screen. Soon, and excuse me because my modem is slow, a photo of Alexys, 7 pounds 6 ounces, will appear.
Here comes Alexys. Smack in the middle of the page. The photo features her minutes after birth, being held by her nearly-dead-looking mother. Hmmm. Not the most attractive presentation. I decide that my baby's Web site should just have the baby, no miserable pictures of me stepping off some plane from Beijing or anything. And no, I don't like the duck action. Too busy. And if I am going to have sound, I think it should be a Chinese lullaby. I have to put that on my shopping list of things to buy in China: lullaby for Web site. Also, what kind of wallpaper should I use on my Web site? Where do you get wallpaper for a Web site? That's probably a stupid question. I should know that. I should go learn that. I have so much to do.
"Create your own FREE babies page," says an ad not too far from Alexys's little bald head. I click there and go tumbling into a search engine, and soon I land on a list of thousands of baby Web sites. Wow. Here's Krista at 6 months old. And here's Evan and his entire family. And here's Madison, 8 pounds 4 ounces. "You are the 000023 person to enter this Web site," says the little counting thing. Twenty-three people? That's not a lot of people. If I don't get a lot of people clicking onto my baby's Web site, I'm going to have to start advertising or something. I definitely should get her included in some Yahoo category. How do I get my baby to show up on a Lycos search?
Used to be you carried a wallet full of baby photos to show at the office, to neighbors, and even to people you met at the grocery store. You wanted to brag about your baby. Of course you did. It's only normal for a parent to think of his or her child as the most famous celebrity in the land. And now with the Internet, it appears we actually have the ability to turn our babies into public figures. Little humanoid commercials for happyfamily.com. Is this a great time to be a parent, or what?
"And here's Baby Khiara!!!" says the next site. Baby Khiara has a lot of hyperlinks leading to a detailed biography of her six months of life. (Her first thumb suck was on April 14, 1998.) "Click here for Baby Khiara's first ultrasound picture." I click. There she is, in utero. There are little arrows pointing to her legs. How about that? I sit here awhile trying to figure out what all the gray splotches are.
Hmmm. And what exactly am I doing inside this woman's uterus? Do I really want to be here? Shouldn't some moments be reserved for family members only?
Absolutely. This is why I think: password encryption. Definitely. I don't want the whole world having access to my baby's multimedia scrapbook. You're going to have to sign in, give your vital statistics, prove you are who you say you are, before you get a password into my baby's life. How do you add that stuff to a Web site? Also, is there any way I can copyright my baby's Web site so nobody can print out pictures of her without my written permission?
This is getting complicated. I'm thinking maybe there's another way. A way of both password-protecting my baby and copyrighting images of her at the same time. I have an idea. What if she had . . . no Web site? Imagine: a baby with no virtual self. Poor kid. But I think this might buy us some time. Time to play stupid peekaboo games and go splish-splash in the tub. Time to go outside and look at worms and beetles. If I choose not to document these moments and publish them on the Web, I might actually have time for them in real life.
I hope this doesn't make me a neglectful parent, a bad parent, a parent who won't do everything possible for her kid. I hope my baby doesn't mind if she doesn't have a Web site. I hope when she goes to school on her first day and she sees Ashley.com and Brian.net and http://www.Taylor.enteringfirstgrade.org, she doesn't feel left out.
Jeanne Marie Laskas's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.