Would you read your child’s diary?

I started tidying up this afternoon and ended up doing a major clean. Well, the place needed it. And my wrist needed a break from outlining. I was slathering it in A535 just to keep going. Even though the touchpad can be used ambidextrously (yay), the right one always ends up hurting more because the page up/down and arrow keys are on the R-hand side. Hmm. Not to mention enter and backspace and delete.

Would you read your child’s diary? I’ve thought about it quite a bit. Not that I have kids, but it’s one of those big moral dilemma questions. What I’ve come up with is that it’s not something I’d do as a matter of course “oh, my kid has a diary, therefore I will read it.” For one thing, I wouldn’t want to do it, and then pretend I hadn’t—give the kid a false sense of privacy. That’s just nasty. And so… basically you get one shot. You read it once, you tell him/her you read it and that’s it. The kid’s either a) going to stop writing; b) continue writing but fill the pages with fiction; c) find a better hiding place. You’ve also lost—or seriously damaged—your kid’s trust in you, because you’ve not invaded his/her privacy for any particular reason. And I don’t think “because I’m your parent and therefore I have the right to know everything you’re thinking” cuts it. Because you’re penalizing/punishing kids who write. The kid who doesn’t write doesn’t get the same treatment. The message the kid gets is not going to be “my parent is looking out for me.” It’s going to be “if I want to keep something private, I can’t write it down.” That said, if there was a reason to be concerned about the kid’s well-being, then perhaps diary-reading may be warranted. I wouldn’t rule it out. But I think the kid would have to have given me reason to be worried about him/her. It’s a line between temptation/curiosity and purpose/genuine concern. Save the one-shot diary read for when it’s really warranted. When the benefits outweigh the costs. If your kid is basically a good kid, I can’t help but think that more harm will be done by showing you don’t trust him/her. Like, why bother being good if no one believes I really am. If they think I’m bad, well, then I really will be bad. The other thing is… when does it stop? When do you no longer have even the theoretical right? I think part of the dilemma lies in that in the beginning parents have total control over their children—they’re dependent on them for everything. But by the time the child is writing their thoughts down in a diary, the parent has already lost a good chunk of their control, not necessarily externally—mom or dad is still in charge of when the kid can do what, but internally—the kid is thinking for him/herself. The diary may be the first manifestation of this. So there’s that realization: “my kid’s doing something I have no control over!” which has to be scary. But there it is. You can’t stop it. It happens.

Of course, this may all be a moot point in the future with blogs and all. I think people tend to self-edit in online journals / diaries / blogs, though. Of course, I self-edited way back when in my paper journal I kept when I was teenager. I always wrote with the awareness that someone might read it. Even though I always buried it at the bottom of a drawer. But there was a lot of stuff I never wrote about back then. I spun stuff quite frequently too, to make it sound better or more exciting or whatever. I didn’t want anyone to read it; I would have been mortified. And it’s not that there was anything “bad” in it. I don’t buy the “a person who’s done nothing wrong has nothing to hide” argument either. I hadn’t done anything illegal or risque. In fact, most often my entries were about how my life was hopeless because it didn’t involve anything illegal or risque. It’s just that it was personal. It was something I had control over (think about it: diary or eating disorder?). It was my hell. And someone else reading about it wouldn’t have made it better. Especially my mom reading it wouldn’t have made it better because her teenagerhood was pretty much the exact opposite of mine. It’s part of the reason mine was so hard. It’s not her fault, but it just wouldn’t have made it better for her to say “I read your diary I feel your pain” because she didn’t. She may have felt pain but it wasn’t my particular brand of social outcast pain. So.

Enough. Got teenagers on my brain I guess because I’m working on CSS. McKenna’s not an outcast though. Well, I guess she’s a pseudo-outcast at the beginning. But she’s not really. She’s just out of her element. Has to learn to swim. Does M have a diary? Definitely not before the beginning of the story. She never had a reason to. But maybe somewhere along the way. I don’t know about a traditional “diary” though. Songwriting, I used to think. If I could write a decent lyric that might work. We’ll have to see.