In The Genes

I never want to be referred to as one of "those" parents. You know what I’m talking about. Or maybe you don’t. I guess the term is loose enough where "those" can refer to behaviors on either end of the spectrum of "not good."

For instance, there are "those" parents who beat their children. I’m definitely not one of those (although I won’t deny the thought doesn’t cross my mind more than once on any given day, or that my hand hasn’t made contact with their little asses on occasion). There are also "those" parents who don’t believe in any sort of discipline whatsoever and believe that a future generation of decent human beings is created by making sure that little Johnny never suffers a single second of displeasure. "Those" parents can also include the ones who let their children subsist on a diet of donuts, or perhaps "those" who think that their spawn are supposed to be raised strictly in the parental image rather than let the kid grow to his/her individual potential.

And I also don’t want to be one of "those" parents who reads their kids’ diaries. When I was growing up, I almost always kept a running journal and I would have been mortified if it had been read by either of my parents. In fact, I still have the two written journals that chronicled periods of my life between the ages of 16 and 23. After that, I started blogging and with that gave up any notion of privacy. Interesting how that happens.

At any rate, my six-year-old daughter received her first diary in her Easter basket today. Over the last several weeks, I have noticed my little girl go from a timid but curious reader and writer to one growing in confidence, enthusiasm, and complexity. There is a sort of joyful yet abrupt awakening that happens with parents when they realize that written words are no longer indecipherable codes in the eyes of their children. We can no longer pull the wool over their eyes when we lie and say we aren’t anywhere near a Dairy Queen when they are clammoring for ice cream in the backseat, and I find myselfing wonder what will happen in a few years when one of them to stumbles upon something a written by ol’ mom that wasn’t intended for juvenile eyes (see: Chocolate Jesus).

As I saw my girl bent studiously over her pink and green diary today, working the pink pen with the little tassle on the end, I couldn’t help but wonder what thoughts she was expressing. A couple of times she would ask me for some spelling help, and I would be fascinated to watch the shiny little gears turning in her rapidly growing brain. I recalled sitting in a similar posture with my own diary, on the light blue couch with the white flowers on it. I believe I was doing just such a thing when I proclaimed to my mom that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. I often think the one thing we say we want to be when we are that age is probably what we ultimately should be doing as adults, when we are at our purest level of thought and at the peak of childhood optimism before any notion of cynicsm and self-doubt dare take seed like insidious mental crabgrass. It’s probably because what we express then is the most essential form of what we truly want. Most children are only focused on what instinctually drives them, not whether it will make someone else happy, pay the bills, or make us mount up insurmountable student loan debt. Sure, we will specialize that desire as we age through life, but that basic idea borne from our childhood’s most ferverent wishes is still there, and it fulfills us perhaps more than anything else we could have chosen.

After she closed and locked the journal, I felt my curiosity burning. What did she write? What delicate little bloom of thought from that six-year-old brain did she pluck out and place to dry between the pages of that little book? I could easily crack the goofy little password mechanism the diary has built into it, but to do such a thing would be petty. A child should be entitled to a few secrets if they so choose, and a parent should be secure and trusting enough to abide them.

But I didn’t have to wonder for long. Just before bed, Natalie brought her diary to me, opened it and showed me what she wrote in her sprawling, shaky (but not as shaky as before) first-grade hand (I think the kid will be bound to a life of bad handwriting like her parents, unfortunately) and with only one grammatical error there was the following written on a few little pages:

"Mom is cool. There is more then a pretty face. I love my Littlest Pet Shop book." Below that she had drawn a picture of what looked like the two of us and a cat.

Beneath my pride at her incredibly sweet sentiments, her wonderfully developing syntax, and her joy at writing was the certainty of something that could only come after someone willingly lets me read what one wrote in their diary:

This kid is a born blogger.


  1. My six year old doesn't have a diary yet, but she too is starting to write. The other day she said "I am going to write a paragraph: so she did, one about trees. I will cherish it for the rest of my days.


  2. What a lovely story! Wait until you have teens though. Mine knows her myspace page is totally NOT private and I swear not to comment on any comments she has about me. She can call me a douchbag for all I care, it's the other douchebags out there I monitor!