Friday, October 08, 2010

Private Thoughts

“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.


1sentencediary said...

I do find it very difficult to be comfortable with my kids' private thoughts. I'm fine with giving them space and physical privacy, but I hate not knowing what's going on in their lives and in their heads.

But that's part of letting them grow up. Plus, it's not as though I have much choice! I can't *make* them talk to me about their thoughts, even if I want to. (But I sure wish I could, sometimes!)

morninglight mama said...

I KNOW I'm having a hard time letting go, because I just can't imagine not knowing everything... I guess it's part of the challenge of parenting kids in different stages of their lives... I spend all day with the little ones, and then have to shift to a different relationship with the oldest.

Good things to think about here. I'm not much for private thoughts- I am, and always have been, an 'oversharer.' :)

dianne said...

kyle may be on to something here. sounds like a mood fish . . . might catch on big with boys and look better than a ring! good for you for encouraging him to do this!

Sarah said...

um Jennifer, did you just post Kyle's private journal entry on your blog? ;-)

Katrina @ Callapidder Days said...

It's hard to know where the privacy line should be drawn with kids...very hard. Still trying to figure it out here.

But I love that Kyle's keeping a journal of his private thoughts. And poor kid -- having his privacy immediately infringed upon by his big sister.