My 18-year-old daughter has a hidden life in which she does things I don’t know about, with people I’ve never met, at places I’ve never been. Scary, right?
Actually, she’s had this secret side her whole life. Every time she’s been with friends, teachers, babysitters, she’s done things I really know nothing about. Maybe they made up fun games or silly nicknames for each other. Whatever my girl does away from me, she may tell me about some of these experiences but there are certainly others locked out of my knowing.
Now that she’s well into adolescence, the proportion of her existence that is hidden from me has grown to the point that, really, I only know what she chooses to share with me. I’m accepting, mostly, that this is part of growing up. I resent it sometimes, but I try to respect her privacy.
Once in a while, though, she crosses a line and doesn’t let me know about something that she should. At these moments, she stumbles into the dreaded world of secrecy, starts down the path of concealment, leading to the forest of lies, stoking the fires of deception and then flees from the burning remains of trust falling all around her.
Of course, she sees it differently.
More and more, I find we spend our time together negotiating the gray area between privacy — boundaries she reasonably expects me to respect, like not reading a diary — and secrecy— things I have a right to know but she hides, like why she always seems to need money on the weekends.
Recently, the issue between us is an English paper that isn’t done. When I first asked about it, I got the, I’ve-got-this-covered-now-get-out-of-my-life look. Then there was the, “I’ve talked to my teacher so get off my case” argument. I feel entitled to know what’s going on but she feels that it’s between her and school.
We’ve each staked our position and dug in for some parent-child trench warfare. She gets mad that I pry too much. I get annoyed she shares so little. I see that compromise is the only solution. She needs to give up secrecy in order to get the privacy she so desires and I need to give her more privacy so she won’t be all cloak and dagger with me.
For now, we are in a constant state of negotiation. Will she give me a progress report on the paper every day or can I live with less? We do this on other issues as well. For example, will she text me everywhere she goes on a Saturday night or can I leave her alone as long as she’s home on time?
Soon, this will all be moot when she goes to college. I won’t have any idea except what she tells me about life on campus but for now, we’re still sharing a home and we have to find some middle ground we can both live with, a private life for her without too much secrecy for me.
Easier said than done.