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OtterSummer 8.15-App-Propriate

The Grand Otter has used the term inappropriate for years. It’s a vague concept painted with seemingly bright colors, edges only obvious when stepping over them. Appropriateness requires judgement, and judgement’s under construction well into adolescence. There remain, of course, the obviously appropriate and the impossible-not-to-imagine-as inappropriate, but much gray territory surrounds each.

Psychologists say adolescents engage in an activity they label Propriate Striving, the search for a plan for their future which might guide their actions. Not so much who am I?, but who must I become? This involves a lot of trying on, checking out, and no small amount of what anyone not so actively striving might easily classify as acting out. Now, of course, we have apps for all of this work which enable—even encourage— all-too public Propriate Striving. Most thoughtfully include an archive, too.

The role of the grandparent in this dance is never clearer than when propriate striving steps into the obviously inappropriate. A shared link qualifying as potentially indictable or something that should have shamed its author and anyone seeing it that elicits nasty hahahahas instead. These might demonstrate propriate striving in action, but they also hint at an underdeveloped conscience, one lacking the knowledge of when to blush.

Every errant striver will argue that the world is different for fifteen year olds now, and no g-level parent can argue against that assertion. The world is different, but propriety isn’t. It will never be appropriate to curse at grandma’s table or piddle on the living room carpet. Some proprieties qualify as timeless. Even should society devolve into a gun-toting, foul-mouthed rabble, I believe the fate of our civilization might lie in retaining the ability to feel right from wrong, especially when surrounded by ferals who exhibit no compunction about anything.

Social media has plenty of anti-social edges, and propriate-striving fifteen year-olds seem to swarm toward them. Monitoring The Grand Otter’s presence there requires a strong stomach and a sometimes forceful hand, since even the foulest friend of my friend The Grand Otter kinda becomes my ‘friend’ there. I try to be relentless when I encounter clearly inappropriate propriate striving, including insisting that grossly offending posts be reported as poisonous and deleted from the stream.

The Muse and I consider this an essential part of what little we might impart to The Otter. We’re clearly not puritans, even though we might on occasion consider installing a backyard ducking stool. We do have a responsibility to help The Otter develop a well-formed conscience, even if --- especially if --- it seems so many of her acquaintances seem to revel in mucky immorality. The Otter seems sanguine in their presence, discounting disgusting diatribes as just the way some people are. We encourage her that she needn’t put up with that crap, and advise that she consider quality rather than volume when choosing her friends, concerned that even ignorant poison carries toxic consequences.

Last night, we had the first of what I anticipate as several go-rounds on this subject. We were insistent, The Muse playing her ‘no cursing at grandma’s table’ card, because social media brings The Otter’s even most ill-begotten friends to The Muse’s table. The Otter knows we could cut her off from her almost obsessive occupation; we’ve done it before. While she’s there, she has the opportunity to insist upon the appropriate while engaging in her necessary propriate striving.

I suppose every well-formed conscience sometimes appeared ill-formed when under construction. I want my granddaughter to know how to blush—and when—and how to put her foot down when gravity recognizes inappropriate levity, otherwise she’s apt to float off into some gray area and suffocate there.

©2013 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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