Where do we draw the line between respecting our kids’ privacy and our rights as parents to know how they are doing---I mean, how they really are doing?
The other day, while cleaning out the girl-cave, I came across my old agenda book. Just as I was about to toss the tattered thing, some scribbling inside caught my eye. As I began turning the pages, I realized my ten-year-old daughter had been using it as a journal. She only had six entries; I read them all.
Heart pounding, I dove into her rich inner world and read each word with a mixture of excitement and apprehension. Would I discover a secret love? A buried resentment? A frightened, insecure child despite her brave exterior?
To my delight, I found little more than a running account of her daily activities. It was precious. Her parents still figured prominently in her entries. She penned with the “voice” of an innocent, young girl and for that, I was thankful. (Seriously, by age 10, my diary was already replete with posts yearning for the boy in school that didn’t know I existed or searing with anger toward the “mean girls.")
Upon finishing, I put it back, making sure to position the book just so.
A tinge of guilt overcame me.
In my own defense, most of what was written---including the “I hate Mommy because she pays more attention to my sister” stuff---had already been expressed to me. We have a great communication and being my first-born and highest-maintenance child, I spend time each day engaging her in heart-to-heart discussions.
I wasn’t caught off guard with what I had read. There was consistency between her thoughts and her actions.
Now, before you become outraged by my blatant disregard for her privacy, consider this: We are all shaped by our personal life experiences, right?
My youngest brother committed suicide five years ago. It was a shocker to all of us. He always put on a façade of easygoingness, yet none of us never really knew what crossed his mind. He was private and reticent and rather funny.
Needless to say, we were distraught; we felt we could’ve intervened had we been privy to his inner turmoil. But his feelings were always a mystery and not even his closest friends had insight into his personal struggles. He was a handsome kid---smart, athletic, and affable. Girls liked him. From an outsider’s point of view, his problems reflected those typical of a man his age, fighting to discover his passion and secure his place in the world.
My brother took his own life and put a permanent end to his temporary problems. From that day forward, I vowed to never allow silence and privacy come between my kids and me. It is a tough balancing act, I know, but standing on the sidelines, respectfully, while your loved ones suffer and self-destruct, doesn’t lead to happy endings.
I don’t plan on meddling in my children’s affairs forever. However, I’d rather be guilty of being that intrusive mom who preempts trouble than lauded for respecting their privacy and not intervening.
The latter could produce a fatal outcome.
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