Jay Lake: Writer

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[child] Privacy and parenting

Yesterday I was speaking on the telephone with a friend in Seattle who had spent some time with [info]the_child on her recent visit there. The friend mentioned in passing having had some serious conversations with my daughter about things which were said in confidence. I assured them that I was fine with this.

Which is a funny feeling, in its way, but also very true.

Mother of the Child and I have always tried to respect [info]the_child‘s privacy, even from very early on. In age appropriate ways, of course. Children, especially young ones, have so little control over their world. Allowing her space and time of her own has always been a method of empowering her.

This plays in multiple directions. She has, for example, come to me in the past and said, “I want to talk to you about something that happened at school, but you have to promise me you won’t tell anyone.”

To which my response has always been, “I’ll try, but I cannot promise that. If the health or safety of another child is involved, I can’t not tell their parents. How do you think I would feel if someone else knew you were in trouble, and didn’t tell me?”

So far in this situations, she has accepted this, and has shared her confidences with me.

Now, closing in on her fifteenth birthday, [info]the_child is developing independent friendships with some of the adults in her life. I honor this, I love this. Especially when she builds trust and social connection with women who are self-actualized and empowered.

I don’t think she can have too many role models, and the more varied they are, the better. Her mother and I do the best we can, but we suffer from the fatal deficiency of being her actual parents, and thus our advice and experience is deeply suspect to her teen aged mind.

All of which is to say, I continue to respect her privacy. Which at this age feels risky. I mean, she could be drinking, or acting out sexually, or, or, or, or… But I remember what it feels like to be fourteen-going-on-fifteen. I remember what it feels like to be a teen, seeking my independence and trying to set my own boundaries and resenting the way I still needed my parents for what felt like almost everything. And this is a child who has proven herself trustworthy and sensible over and over and over.

Her privacy is a critical part of her growing maturity. Letting go of my parental control of her life is a critical part of my growing maturity. So when my friend mentioned there had been confidences, all I could do was smile and be happy.

Our life is a river, and the current is starting to carry [info]the_child away from me. Which is right and proper and as it should be, and I celebrate her maturation process.

But still, letting go is hard to do.

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