On a learning walk of your home, you swoosh past your daughter’s empty bedroom (you are obviously clad in a garish, silk kimono) and you stop. In an instant the silk settles and you see on her desk, her secret (oh-most-secret) and usually locked diary.
You worry about her. See, she’s getting to an age where she’s becoming a little more worldly: she’s singing songs around the house that contain more than a smattering of lyrical innuendo; she’s got a poster of Angus Young and another of Axl Rose on her wall (not the most photogenic pair, I’ll warrant, but musical taste mustn’t always equate to visual taste).
Do you sneak in and take a peek at her diary? She is vitally important to you. You kind of understand that she in fact is you. Just a little knowledge could only help, couldn’t it? You might be able to glean something, to avert something, mayhaps.
You hover, silken and garish, in the frame of her doorway. If you open and scrutinise the diary, you may find the means to help her further, to steer her more surely towards whatever destination you unconsciously envisage on her behalf. However, if you have an ounce of respect for her privacy; if you understand how fragile is the foundation of trust, and how devastating it is to find that there is no corner of your life unscrutinised, you will do the right thing. You retreat and swoosh on into the living room, reclining onto the nearest divan and reaching for a broad and deep glass of chilled Torrontes.
Ahhh, the life of a virtuous parent!
On this occasion, you decided against prizing open a secret garden. You did not open her diary, and you have refrained from auditing the history on her computer. Instead, you vow to allow her the space to make the same mistakes as you did, even though you have very little hope of really understanding the pixelated world frequented by your once-little, now digital native.
Your daughter will do some things right. She will also do some things wrong. As did you. If you show her no trust, she will do more right for you, but not for herself. Your daughter will not become intrinsically good; she will acquire a learned goodness that is no goodness at all.
By all means, we must protect our children, but not by any means. And we must always balance that protection against their privacy and their right to a rich, inner world.
That rich inner world is our Secret Garden. To break into it, as we have, forces a retreat into ever deeper, darker corners. To lay the garden bare is the ultimate dehumanisation: a life lived for others – a life of total and complete self-regulation. An obviously impossible existence.
What you are prepared to do, for the protection of your child, you must be prepared to have done to you: to be judged by the colour of your kimono; to have your wine tasted for poison; to willingly submit your diary for inspection.
To do so, we become a cadre of lives living for others – a closed loop of mutual snoops.
A totality of scrutineers.
This post was inspired by a truly excellent, and far more obviously informative blog by Elemental: a valuable addition to the education debate on trust and accountability.