Well, as a matter of principle, I would of course say ‘no’. The very thought of someone reading my innermost thoughts, without my consent, is tantamount to an assault – so I simply would not do that to another person.
But…. what if that other person is your seven year old child, who has gone through a big trauma with his parents divorce, and who is very closed about his feelings?
Are these extenuating circumstances? As a parent, do I have either a right, or a duty to see what he’s written, in order that I can unravel any issues he may have. Or is it still completely taboo?
Well, as it happens, I have just recently discovered that my little one has started writing a diary.
Just like I did as a child, he loves to write little stories, many of which I have kept safely in a little box I keep their treasures in… the home made birthday cards they have made me and my eldest’s first ever pair of baby jeans… complete with holes in both knees! The things I hope they’ll appreciate when they’re older.
The discovery of his diary (which he sleeps with under his pillow) brought back a memory of the only time I have ever kept a diary. I was in my late teens and going through a particularly difficult time. I’d left home and was not on speaking terms with my parents, I had a tempestuous relationship with a boyfriend, with whom I broke up and made up and finally broke up for good. On top of all this, I’d moved to London and didn’t know many people, so it was a difficult time.
For almost a year during this period, I kept a diary. The most painful bit was the breakup with the boyfriend, for whom I carried a torch for years after. (Exorcising the Ex) Writing everything down really helped me. I kept the diary for a few years. Then one day I stumbled upon it, whilst rummaging around at the back of a drawer. I started to read it and it made me cry. It brought home to me just what a bad time I’d been having and dredged up some deep feelings. The diary had been kept in a box, along with letters from the same old boyfriend. So I had a sort of ‘exorcism’ and threw the lot away.
Throwing it away made me feel the most extraordinary sense of relief. It was as if, by throwing it all away, I could not punish myself by reading any of it again.
I think it is this reaction to my own diary, that makes me feel so strongly about reading someone else’s.
I do really dread to think what impact the last couple of years have had on my children. I have tried hard to protect them from the fall out, but there is always a limit to how much you can protect your kids.
And so, he’s writing a diary. He’s only seven. The contents of his diary are most likely to be about what naughty stuff he’s been up to with his friends! And comments about how much his brother annoys him.
So do I read it, or don’t I?
It’s such a tough one. But I can’t help but feel that even at seven years old, everyone is entitled to a bit of privacy. A little bit of himself, that he wants to keep to himself. And even as his mother, even though he’s only seven, I think he’s entitled to it.