Posted by: Kate | May 6, 2008

Parental Control

The little notebook sat on the edge of the hope chest, just one more bit of clutter in a busy living room.  The cover, with its leopard-print motif, was already showing signs of wear, despite having come home as a prize from the school’s “Student of the Day” bin a week ago.

I know what it is.  My eight-year-old daughter came home from school waving it excitedly, letting loose a fast and girlish stream of consciousness about the new clubs that her schoolmates are starting on the playground, with friends and races and challenges and bracelets and gang tattoos and lifelong allegiances… or at least until the next recess.  Each club has a notebook, and each notebook contains the names and demographic information for each member.  Presumably, they are not yet at a point where they use identifies beyond the first names. 

We had an exchange, somewhere in between a conversation and a lecture, about the importance of having friends regardless of club status.  About avoiding words like “winners” and “losers,” and allowing admission to anyone who wanted it, and not using the notebook as a way to keep track of failures or insults.  No, no, she insisted: the notebooks are just for fun, just to know who is in each club.  Nothing bad is in there. 

It doesn’t sound like a slam book.  It doesn’t sound like a MASH page, either.  Just a notebook with names, if my daughter is to be trusted.

I don’t know that she really is.  To be trusted, that is.  She has shown, and recently, that lying and sneaking are not foreign concepts in her world.  But I’ve never seen her be deliberately malicious, never seen her be mean-hearted.

So I’m trying.  I’m trying to give her some trust and some privacy, trying to stay interested without prying.

And so the notebook remained untouched on the hope chest.  Even overnight.  Even though I remembered it was there.  Even as I laid awake, mentally sorting through a busy day, and wrestled with the temptation to get up and flip through it, just quickly, just to see.

Because I don’t want to be that mom.  Not yet.  I want her to keep talking to me about her clubs and running away from boys and when she is friends and not-friends and friends again and not-friends again with the various members (and not-members) of her circle.

So I exercised parental control; I controlled my own impulse, and left the notebook alone.

I really hope it’s not still there tonight.


  1. I would have wrestled with the same dilemma. Children are just that – children – and, as such, don’t always make the best decisions in the land, for themselves or others. But I think, or like to think, I would have made the same choice.
    I hope.
    But I don’t know.

  2. I remember playing MASH – but of course, those pieces of paper were in the garbage pretty quick.

    I haven’t had to deal with this issue yet – but oh that would be tempting…just to take a peek to make sure it was really innocent. But, then if you found it wasn’t, the whole trust issue comes into play… and really, your daughter is still young enough that you shouldn’t have to worry about that trust, right? (or are our children growing up way too fast?)

  3. I remember writing in and reading slam books, but that was when life was *much* more decent in the 1960s junior high days. I can imagine what’s written in them now . . . however, keeping the communication open, even if you know things she doesn’t know you know (which can be very useful), is the primary thing.

    Sometimes you have to tiptoe through the swamp, holding your breath at the smell, hoping she doesn’t get pulled down by the crocs.

    Is that wa-ay too much metaphor?

  4. I’d also wrestle with what to do. I’m not sure if I’d read it or not.

    I’m sure I’ll figure out what to do by the time I’m eighty.

  5. Ohhhhhhhhhh I am impressed. So happy boys never do this kind of stuff(or least they don’t write it down)

  6. I’ve never heard of slam or mash books but the club thing was prevolent in primary school. You did the right thing . . you’ll soon know if she’s being troublesome without having to read the notebook . . could be fun 10 years down the track to read it together. ClareBear kept a journal and to this day, I’ve never read it although now I don’t think she’d mind but I’d never do it without asking. Hopefully it’s just a playground fad and next term Tamagochi’s and friendship bands will be back ‘in’ they’re less exclusive and more absorbing.

  7. Okay I totally wish that I could honestly say that I would have done the same thing. But I wouldn’t have, that book would have been open quicker than she could close her eyes for bed time.

  8. I don’t think I could exercise that much control, GREAT JOB MOM!!! I would have never slept knowing it was there, if I just peeked a bit.

  9. Respect of privacy was a very big thing to my mom when we were growing up, mostly because her own mother was so quick to violate her privacy when she was young. It’s one of those things that I still thank her for.

    However, I have terribly nosy tendencies and would not have been able to exercise the self-control that you did. Good for you!

  10. I may have had to dust her room and ‘knock’ the book to the ground. Oops! It opened!

    Good for you, though. I told my 5yo who had gotten into the lotions and water again (don’t ask; she has a fascination with making concoctions in her room without permission) that she has my trust but when I don’t think I can trust her, she needs to earn it back. So, for now, I need to watch her like a hawk around toiletries.

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