Dear Diary, I Think My Mom is Reading This

by Marinka on October 16, 2008

So, I’m taking the Blogosphere’s temperature. Please bend over.

Here is my question: How do we feel about reading our children’s diaries? (Once they are stupid enough to keep them, I mean.) I know some of you have children who don’t keep diaries yet, because they’re illiterate. Oh, I’m sorry, I guess “young” is the politically correct term these days. So, your children are too “young” to keep a diary, but let’s say they become unyoung later. Read their diaries or not?

I was faced with this dilemma recently and I made a mental pro/con list:

Pro:

I am curious.

I may learn something important! I mean, maybe she saw Bin Laden in the park and is afraid to tell someone, I could read about it, report it and be an American hero!

It’s a parents’ responsibility to know what goes on in their kids’ lives and Husbandrinka seems to be abdicating this responsibility by calling it “snooping”.

I am really curious.

Con:

Encourages distrust.

Violates privacy.

Like she’d recognize Bin Laden. Especially if he wasn’t wearing a Hannah Montana wig.

I’d be annoyed if my parents read my diary.

So, the way I balance this out my curiosity totally trumps everything else, right? I called mama to get her input and she said, “only parents who don’t snoop are lazy the parents.” Which was somewhat reassuring, but I’m not sure it’s in line with Modern Parenting Principles.

Please tell me what you think.

Would you read your kid’s diary?

And purely hypothetically, assuming that you would, would you write a blog post about it, complete with annotations?

One year ago ...

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Kylie w Warszawie October 17, 2008 at 3:17 am

I would not read my daughter’s diary anymore than she would read my email – oh wait, she DOES read my email.

Anyway, my real answer is no. But I do read ANYTHING that is on the computer because we work for the US Government and there is “no reasonable expectation of privacy”!

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wfbdoglover October 17, 2008 at 4:30 am

my child writes in notebooks. I have found things that are very valuable information by accident. Like who is was going to marry. I have started to get to know the parents better and qualify them to make sure they are the type of family that would be able to cover all of the wedding expenses. If not, I have directed him towards the ones that would.

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melissa October 17, 2008 at 6:15 am

my daughter is illiterate, oh, i mean 15 months old… i can’t wait for her to write in her diary so i can read it all. i am master snooper and i think in todays day and age, we have to snoop, read and do everything we can to be involved. i know you can be involved without violating their privacy. but seriously, you could learn valuable information to ensure you are involved when and with what you need to be… i know, i am rambling… but i would read it. yes, if my parents read mine, i would be over the top annoyed. that is why we, as parents, have an obligation to NOT. GET. CAUGHT.

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Marinka October 17, 2008 at 6:41 am

Kylie–hmm.. maybe the solution is to get my daughter a job with the US government?

WFB–love it! Yes, we must monitor our children’s prospective spouses to make sure that they can keep them (and us!) in a style to which we could very easily grow accustomed.

Melissa–I agree, not getting caught is the most important thing here. Maybe it’s best to lawyer up before snooping.

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Jill October 17, 2008 at 6:46 am

I know that they are entitled to privacy- but bottom line- dont put it in writing if you dont want it read. I have a 14 yo son and he wouldnt write ina diary but the rule is I have all his passwords to MySpace etc to make sure all is well. And if my 9 yo daughter wrote in one- I would read it in a heartbeat!

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Alias Mother October 17, 2008 at 6:53 am

I would like to think that I wouldn’t, but I totally would. I am a compulsive snooper.

That said, I would try to restrict myself to periodic skimming just to check for any issues. And I would consider any information gathered to be inadmissable evidence.

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Z October 17, 2008 at 6:58 am

I’m pretty sure my mom never read my diary, but looking back on what I wrote, I’m pretty sure that it would have bored her out of her mind. It was awful. And not even in a funny way.

However – I’ve got a solution for you. You see, my sister? My mom also didn’t read her diary. But you know who did? Me. I was really good at sniffing out her hiding spots – and also at picking locks. But that’s another story. So : get your son to read her diary. And then report back to you. That way, YOU don’t violate her trust, AND your curiosity is satisfied. Until she stops writing in her diary because she figures out what is going on (but that only took my sis 6 months or so…) OR she gets her brother to snoop on you. Fairs fair, after all 😉

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Heinous October 17, 2008 at 8:09 am

Nah, I don’t want to know that stuff and most of it ends up being things they would go back and shake their own heads at anyway. Unless he was goofy enough to post it on the Internet.

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Jess October 17, 2008 at 8:53 am

My son doesn’t keep a diary but I have the password to his MySpace as a rule. It has come in handy a few times to bust him on stuff. I didn’t outright tell him I read but my questioning was such that he had to reveal himself.

My daughter doesn’t keep a diary (that I know of) and she is barely on MySpace so no good finds there.

Bottom line is if I see it I’ll read it. I can’t help it.

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Roadchick October 17, 2008 at 8:53 am

Yes.
I would read it.
And I do. Although I guess my son’s diary would be called a “journal”. I don’t check it every day, but I do skim through from time to time.
I also toss his room regularly. It’s such a mess he never knows I’ve done it unless it looks cleaner when I’m done. And if he asks, I was collecting dirty dishes to take back to the kitchen.

It’s my house and I’m kind enough to let him live there. I don’t need a search warrant. And really, since he doesn’t have a job or any money of his own, it’s all my stuff anyway. I paid for it.

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Kate Coveny Hood October 17, 2008 at 9:27 am

Being serious? That’s a hard one. My first though it that you should never violate trust – but then what if my reading the diary could save my child’s life from secret drug problems, suicidal thoughts, alien abuductions… I think about these things.

Not being serous? Make sure to check for little traps like a strategically placed hair or the exact position of the book. People with secrets are paranoid.

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Finn October 17, 2008 at 10:31 am

No. Not unless you truly suspect that there is trouble. To do it out of curiousity is a violation of privacy. Period.

Now, I like the idea of having all the passwords, etc. to MySpace and that. But you are telling the child ahead of time that you will be checking — he/she has been warned.

Everyone needs someplace to put their private thoughts. Everyone.

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Kimmguru October 17, 2008 at 11:02 am

I would read it for sure! That I would secretly hope I found her marijuana to smoke while I was reading it …you know for my own personal entertainment!

READ IT…and then tell us all about it! It’s almost your civic duty as our blogging friend to inform others what tweens are doing these days!

*Civic Duty* We are counting on you!

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sdl October 17, 2008 at 11:23 am

That’s an ethical dilemma for us, too. Good sdl says, “No, you shouldn’t read it unless you have reason for concern”. Bad sdl says, “I’ll bet there’s some great material there–go for it!”

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Tracey October 17, 2008 at 11:39 am

Basically, my advice to everyone, especially my kids, is this: DON’T WRITE STUPID STUFF DOWN. If you’re just tracking your thoughts on life and death, etc. that wouldn’t be embarrassing or incriminating. But to write about boys, kissing or sex? STUUUUPID!!!!!

I would totally read anything in my house. And if they wrote anything ridiculous, we’d probably discuss it and BURN IT together. Who needs those embarrassing thoughts following them for the rest of their lives?

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anymommy October 17, 2008 at 2:02 pm

I’m with Finn and Sdl, only if I thought there was a specific problem or she had given me reason to question my trust in some way. That said, it would KILL me not too. Thankfully, my kids are illiterate. I think I may have just found an excellent reason to keep them that way.

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Tami October 17, 2008 at 2:05 pm

I would definitely read my child’s diary. Is is it a breach of trust, of course, in many ways it is. But if (God forbid) my child is smoking, drinking, drugs, etc, then I want to know. And would it not be worth the breach of trust to find out and be able to intersect and (hopefully) stop and talk and redirect? And let’s be honest – I am terribly nosy!

As much as I would LOVE to read what your daughter’s diary would say however, I don’t think I would post it! It’s bad enough for her to be mad that YOU read it – much rather if she found out the WorldWideWeb got a peek at it as well!

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Insta-mom October 17, 2008 at 2:50 pm

Like a lot of others, I’d only read if I felt I had reason to. Although I don’t even allow closed doors with our oldest, so who really knows what I’ll do when all my children are literate.

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Vodka Mom October 17, 2008 at 4:47 pm

Here’s what happened to me. I started reading Sassy’s text messages. I felt it was the only way to get a real grip on what was going on. I found some bad stuff- called her on it cause I COULDN’T KEEP MY MOUTH SHUT, and it was a MESS. Yeah, I did keep her out of SOME trouble, but in the end….there are just some things that mom’s DON’T need to know.

I like that she made some choices, fucked up, and learned from them while she was STILL at HOME and we could kind of carry her through. She is a much better person because of it… whew.

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Vodka Mom October 17, 2008 at 4:48 pm

and another thing. ALL IS FAIR when you are the mom. There is no breach of trust, no rules, and nothing is off limits when you are the mom. It’s like a wild animal protecting her young. You do what you gotta do.

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Madge October 17, 2008 at 5:53 pm

i don’t know! don’t ask me this question yet! i have two boys, maybe they won’t even keep journals….

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kia (Good Enough Mama) October 17, 2008 at 6:02 pm

I’d probably read my kid’s diary, learn some juicy details, then feel really badly that I did it at all. So then I’d blog about how bad it “hypothetically” is to read your kid’s diary. 😉

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Robin October 18, 2008 at 3:28 am

I’m all for making sure I have all internet id’s and passwords, because anything a child says online is then “out there” and accessible to anyone who comes along. A diary to me seems more personal, more private. My kids are still too young (one literate, one not) but I’d like to think that I’d only snoop if I had serious reason to think there was something going on. Personally though, I never ever wrote down any of the stuff I didn’t want my parents to know – only the stupid stuff. The scary things they really would have wanted to know and react to were never committed to paper.

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iMommy October 18, 2008 at 7:48 pm

Hmmm, well first of all… if your kid is publishing a blog, which seems likely, and it’s not locked to friends only…. you have every right!

If it’s a paper diary with a little lock and hidden under the mattress… well, I’d look if I felt something was going on. If I had a reason to be concerned, I would absolutely have no problem snooping. If it was just because I’d run out of reading material? I might not be able to explain that one away.

And as for an annotated blog post…well it all depends on what I found! I mean, if I found that my daughter had spotted bin Laden in a Hannah Montana wig, for example, I would have to share. 🙂

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Marinka October 19, 2008 at 12:20 pm

Jill–that’s a good point about having passwords to all the online stuff. I have that too, but so far my kids only have Club Penguin and Webkinz.

Alias Mom–it’s definitely inadmissible evidence, unless you find something that you have to confront about and then it gets in under the “interests of justice and because I’m your mother, punk!” exception.

Z–you’re absolutely right, I should deputize my son to snoop, except he has the world’s biggest mouth, so I’d have to bribe him to be quiet about it. And he’s probably write comments in the margins, as well.

Heinous–HOW CAN YOU BE SO CALM AND RATIONAL?

Jess–See, if he knows that you have a password, it’s not snooping, right? I mean, couldn’t you read the stuff he posts even without a password? The more I read about MySpace, the more I’m considering becoming a luddite. With a blog. And Twitter.

Roadchick–I uberheart your attitude. That is so nice of you to let your son live there! I hope he knows that and stays on your good side!

Kate–great, now I have to worry about my daughter being paranoid! But your serious reasoning is exactly what I go through, too. I totally respect people’s privacy, except when something’s right in front of me and may contain important information!

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Marinka October 19, 2008 at 4:45 pm

Finn–yes, everyone absolutely needs privacy. But I would rather violate that privacy than not know something important. I know, ideally, we’d have such open relationships with our kids that they would come to us, but unfortunately, that’s not always the reality. I agree that it shouldn’t be for idle curiosity, the “I wonder what’s up?” which, by the way, I acknowledge is exactly what I implied in my post, but I also don’t think that it has to reach the Danger! Danger! level before a parent snoops.

Kimmguru–hey, no fair playing the patriotism card on me!

SDL–good point, but isn’t having a kid=reason for concern?!

Tracey–you know, you may have shared this advice with me before I started this blog!

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Heather, Queen of Shake Shake October 25, 2008 at 3:44 am

If I ever found out my mom read my journals or love letters from my boyfriends, I would have been fucking pissed at her. To this day, I would still be pissed about it.

Funny. She doesn’t know about my blog. heh

Anyway, I have boys so I don’t think I’ll have to worry with it, but if they do have them, no, I wouldn’t read them unless I had a strong reason.

Can I be completely blunt? I think the reasoning of “I may learn something important” is a cop out for being nosy. Ouch. Did I just write that? I’m sorry!

Yes, I think it is a parents’ responsibility to know what goes on in their kids’ lives, but again, I don’t think it justifies breaking trust and respect. Now, if there are valid reasons to be suspicious of dangerous activity (drugs, meeting older men for sex, etc. etc) then possibly. Otherwise, no.

May I stop bending over now and pull my pants back up?

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