“I had so much to say, and no one to listen” said Tom Cruise in the opening scene as the title character Jerry Maguire. So he wrote a mission statement and called it “The Things We Think and Do Not Say.”
Private thoughts have been on my mind a lot lately. I’m not sure that we have many private thoughts in this age of blogs, email, facebook, and twitter. We can share our thoughts with many people in an instant, and we often do without really thinking about them. The media feeds this tell-all frenzy with a popular genre of memoir and “reality” TV (yes, the quotes are necessary).
I myself have expressed a few thoughts recently that probably should have been kept private: a barb meant to be good-natured and funny that came out sounding critical, an email sent off expressing my displeasure about a policy that could have been left unsaid.
What should we do with our private thoughts? How should we coach our children?
My son declared earlier this week, “I’m going to start a private journal for all my private thoughts. No one can read it.”
He’s a typical 6-year-old boy and writing is something that comes only second to eating spinach in his book (Wait, he actually likes spinach, so putting pencil to paper is at the bottom of the list for sure). So other than the practice of writing down his private thoughts which can be healthy, I was excited about him voluntarily wanting to write anything, so I jumped right on it.
I gave him an unused notebook and he took it to his room and composed his first entry.
The next day his sister said, “I read your private journal. When did you get a fish?”
There were many tears and angry shouting (and broken feelings), and then an apology and a promise that she wouldn’t read it again. I also reminded him that I wasn’t going to read it, so he could continue to write.
Even saying those words made me wonder if I was telling the truth. No, I don’t care to see what his thoughts are about the fortune-telling paper fish* he received as a party favor, but years down the line would the same be true if I had cause to believe that he was doing something illegal or immoral?
With Kyle the journey is just beginning, and I hope that I am able to strike a good balance so that he wants to share some of those thoughts me. Amanda is keeping more and more thoughts to herself, I'm sure, but especially if I ask her, she'll usually tell.
Giving our kids privacy is important, but it's hard.
*Apparently Kyle's first journal entry was about this fish. The fish tells him that he's in love, or he's happy, depending on how it's facing. I did tell him that it was all a game and that's the way he should think of it, not as something that really knows his thoughts and feelings.