I seem to have entered a new phase of parenting for which I feel most unprepared.  Braedan, currently completely engrossed with reading The Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, purchased a “Dude Diary” at his school book fair the other day.  It came with a key and everything!

Of course, he worked extra hard to hide said key from Austin, which is sort of ironic since Austin doesn’t know how to read yet.  But it gave us an opportunity to talk about respecting each other’s privacy, which then gave me an opportunity to ponder how much privacy a parent should grant her child.  I casually asked Braedan in conversation if the diary was only for him or if anyone else could ever look at it.  He promptly said only for him to which I replied, “Oh, okay,” like it was no big deal. But I suddenly felt left out — like there were some deep dark secrets he was sharing with the Dude but not with me!

After one short day, he excitedly showed me the pages, which are a series of prompts, like “If you had one superpower, what would it be?” (Braedan’s response was “to make all the kids be nice.”) There was nothing private or personal about any of his entries and he shared them willingly and proudly with me. The whole thing turned out to be a silly teaser of what is yet to come.

But it brings about some important issues of parenting: How much privacy do you grant your children and when does that start?  If your eight-year-old were to tell you not to come into their room or not to look into that third drawer of their desk, how would you react?  What if it’s your twelve-year-old?  When does the dynamic shift from you controlling most, if not all, aspects of their lives to allowing them to make their own decisions and have their own space, both physically and emotionally?

I think sometimes parents use safety concerns as an excuse to overstep those boundaries, always checking up on their kids simply because they’re nosy.  I agree that the world, especially with the Internet, can be a dangerous place for teens, who often don’t have the sense or know-how to navigate potentially dangerous situations.  But I also think we need to let our kids grow up and make mistakes and experiment and figure things out on their own, without our constant interference.

Of course, that’s easy for me to say because Braedan’s not quite there yet and, boy, am I glad.  I’m not ready to give up the reigns or have a dark curtain drawn over his emotional life. I love that he lies next to me in bed each night and tells me everything he’s thinking. But I know the day will come when he doesn’t and I also know that I probably won’t be ready for that no matter when it comes. He will be his own person, with his own ideas and thoughts and feelings and he may only share those things with the Dude and not the mom.  It’s not today, thankfully, but it will come.

How have you handled it?