By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Mar 02, 2009 at 5:39 AM

Last weekend, my 6-year-old son and I drove out to see "Coraline" in 3-D in New Berlin. During the 25-minute drive to the cinema, we had our most intense conversation to date. It went like this:

Kai: Mom, I have wanted to tell you something for a long time.
Me: Really? OK. What is it?
Kai: I feel like I’m in a video, or on TV, and people are watching me.
Me: Your life is real, Kai. You know this is real life right?
Kai: How do I know it’s real?

Whoa. And I thought the "how does the baby get in the tummy" question was whopper. This question is the equivalent of asking the meaning of life is, or if a tree makes a sound when it falls in the forest and no one is around to witness it. It’s a classic philosophical query, but one I wished my 6-year-old didn’t have to burden himself with.

Personally, I’m an "anything is possible" kind of gal, so a part of me wanted to say, "Gee, Kai, we don’t REALLY know for sure if life is real, but we accept that it is so we don’t drive ourselves insane."

But, in my opinion, that’s not so age-appropriate for a first grader. I can get heavy on him in a few years. For now, I just want him to feel safe, so I say, "Your life is real. There aren’t any cameras around us, right?"

"Maybe they’re camouflaged," he said, not worried or freaked out, just matter-of-factly.

I think the concept of being watched or feeling like you’re on TV, is a common experience. I vaguely remember feeling something similar  in my childhood.

Later, I thought about the movie "The Truman Show," in which Jim Carrey plays a man who has starred in a reality television show for his entire life but doesn’t know it. This is the flipside of my son’s feeling.

I’m no psychologist, but I wonder if he had this feeling because he already feels detached or, arguably worse, already wants to be a television star. I see a little of both in him, particularly the latter. Once, a pre-school aid told me, "There’s something about him that reminds me of P. Diddy."

"Whaaat?" I asked, a little weirded-out.

"He’s got a quality. He’s gonna be famous, like P. Diddy," she said.

The popularity of online social networking sites -- I call it "The Facebook Phenomenon" -- suggests that, on some level, most of us want to be noticed and heard. We want others to keep tabs on us, and maybe even to "watch" us as a form of entertainment.

But even if this feeling is a common one, being a mother, I have to drum up a little guilt and self-blame for the conversation I had last Sunday with Kai. I wonder if I had stuck to my water guns and never let my son watch television, would he still have this feeling? My gut says probably not, but who knows. Anything, after all, is possible.

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.