Why My Children Have No Right to Privacy
My friend Kim at Let Me Start By Saying wrote an essay that was featured on the Huffington Post. It was about reading her five-year-old daughter's diary. Kim knew her daughter had been writing in her diary and Kim wondered what was going on in her daughter's head. She took the key and opened the book. She was apprehensive. She was worried she might find out that her daughter was sad or angry or hiding something. Instead, she found that her daughter was happy and loved her life. Kim wrote a sweet and endearing post about this experience and her relief to find her daughter happy and healthy.
Now, it's known that the Huffington Post has some of the meanest, angriest, trolliest commenters around. I always imagine many of them living in vans down by the river or licking Cheetos residue from their fingers while typing their raging opus in their mother's dark basements. Well, Kim struck a nerve with her post and got those vans and basements rattling with anger.
So many people came out screaming at Kim for "violating her daughter's privacy," for "betraying her trust," and flat out calling Kim a terrible mother.
All of the comments got me thinking.
If they thought Kim was a terrible mother, then I must be a HORRIBLE mother. I saw nothing wrong with what Kim did. A few people made the distinction that her daughter is only five, but if she were 15 then it would a be a violation, blah, blah. But I disagree.
I have been very clear in making sure my children have never even gotten the idea that they have a right to privacy in my home. Sure, my kids can bathe in private or close the doors to their bedrooms, but they cannot keep diaries locked away or drawers in their dressers off limits from me and the Hubs.
Why do we think that children deserve privacy? Why do we think that some how we're betraying our precious snowflake's trust by reading her text messages or his emails? I'm not betraying their trust, I'm parenting. They don't get to keep secrets from me. They don't get to leave this house without telling me where they're going, who they're going with, and when they will be back.
They can have an opinion and they can tell me my rules suck, but I really don't care. I have a job to do. My job is to raise them and to keep them safe and to make sure they're not entitled assholes.
Only entitled assholes demand a right to privacy. They're kids. They're not adults. Not even adults have complete freedom. I know I've had to pee in many a cup to get a job and I know that my emails were read and my phone conversations were monitored. That's just life.
My children will never have privacy. I am their mother. This is my house. I am determined to know everything that goes on under this roof. I'm not stupid enough to think that I will always know what's happening, there will be secrets they'll manage to keep, but I'm also not stupid enough to think my kids will just tell me everything that's going on in their lives. I have to be an active parent. I can't be lazy or complacent and just think my kids are good kids because they have decent grades and their friends seem OK.
You know why not? Because kids lie. All the time.
When my kids are teenagers, they will know that at any moment I can ask them to hand over their cell phones, laptops, whatever equipment they'll be carrying by then, so that I can see who they're talking to and what they're talking about. Can you imagine if those boys in Steubenville had parents who enforced this rule? Can you imagine getting your son's phone and seeing pictures of a girl being violated by him and his friends? Do you think those boys would have taken those pictures if they suspected their parents might see them? Do you think they would have uploaded videos to Youtube laughing at the victim and calling her names if they thought for a second their parents would access their Youtube accounts? I don't think they would. But I'm not surprised the Steubenville boys didn't have rules like these. Those kids were dicks and they had parents who enabled them and let them be dicks. My guess is, those kids had privacy. Those kids had parents who didn't want to betray their trust or invade their personal space. That's bullshit.
(Of course I'm not saying that every kid who is allowed privacy is going to be a rapist or an asshole, but your chances are pretty high. Good for you if you've raised a good kid who was also afforded privacy!)
A few weeks ago I had lunch with a friend who has a teenage daughter. My friend was upset because her freshman daughter had been caught sending inappropriate photos to a senior boy. The mother of the boy was doing her usual random search through her son's phone and came across the photos of a scantily clad young girl. She demanded to know who the girl was and her son told her. She tracked down my friend and told her about the photos of her daughter. The mothers agreed to delete the photos and punish the kids.
Can you imagine if the boy's mom didn't find that photo? Can you imagine if the boy decided for some reason to share the picture with the rest of their school? Girls are killing themselves because of photos like these.
Kids make dumb choices. They are not equipped to think about consequences. That's why we need to parent them. We need to be there guiding them and helping them and supervising them. And to me, that means no privacy.
What about their diaries? I will read their diaries and their journals and anything else they write. Too many kids struggle with depression, addiction, low self esteem, and more and a good place to find out about it is through their writings. I would rather violate their trust and read my child's journal and get them help than stand by with my head in the clouds hoping they'll tell me what's bothering them while they're contemplating their suicide.
Too many kids are hurting themselves and others because they're in pain and they need help. I can't stand by and just hope my kids will tell me what's bothering them.
So, their journals and texts and emails will be ours to read. Their drawers will be ours to search.
I do this, not because I'm running a police state or because I wrote the Patriot Act (as a brilliant HP commenter accused me of), but because I am responsible for them and I love them and I want guide them and help them.
I am all for kids learning through their mistakes, but I want those mistakes to be flunking a math test or getting a detention for too many tardies. I don't want the mistake to be sending a text message while driving and accidentally killing a child walking home from school. I don't want the mistake to be emailing naked photos to the captain of the football team and hoping he keeps those to himself. I don't want the mistake to be a child who is so depressed he hurts himself and/or his classmates. I love my children fiercely and I don't want to be that parent who says, "We had no idea she felt this way."
Maybe you think I am a terrible mother, but I really don't care.
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