Sunday, 25 November 2018

Don't believe a word of your child's diary!

There’s a debate raging on the radio. The mother of an 8 year-old boy texted in to say she’s worried because her son has recently been spending a lot of time alone in his room, and now she’s found his secret diary.

Should she read it?

The expert in the studio is very clear with her advice:

“Absolutely not. That would be a massive betrayal of trust. Even if you pretend that you haven’t read the diary, the truth will very quickly become apparent to your son, in the way you respond to what he says.”

The texts flood in. Several say screw the expert and her opinions, this is that mother’s child and if there’s something strange going on, she needs to know about it.

Others agree with the expert, who replies to the dissenters by suggesting that if they want to know what’s troubling their children, why don’t they ask them?

Angry texts arrive in response, venting fury with this so-called expert. Has she ever tried to get information out of a child? If there’s any way of looking inside their childrens’ heads they’d do it: they’d read the diary and then at least they’d have the comfort of knowing what’s going on.

The expert fights back, rather sarcastically pointing out that the clue is in the name. It’s a secret diary.

I drive along with a big smile on my face as I listen to this absolutely pointless squabble.

Of course I understand how these fearful frustrated parents feel, and equally the expert’s suggestions are sound and sensible, but everyone on both sides of the argument appears blindly ignorant of one massive factor.

It’s not that the child in question is writing a diary at the tender age of 8, which in itself is quite wonderful and remarkable.

The vital insight the expert and parents all ignore is the very distinct possibility that what their children write in their diaries might not represent the absolute truth.

Quite apart from the fact that they’d have to decode the inner monologue of a pre-pubescent, it would be foolish in the extreme to decide that these private words, written on a hidden page, express anything that might resemble reality.

Any child of 8 taking pen to paper has my undying respect. This boy has discovered very early what solace can be found in scribbling.

My diaries started unofficially around 12 or 13, in no way coincidentally arriving the same time as puberty.

As my bits changed size and shape and hormones started racing around my system, I started slapping down atrocious poems, pure wails of angst and confusion, lacking only rhythm and rhyme, originality and substance.

By the time I was fifteen a torrent of testosterone and several other hormones had turned me into a walking sulking bag of boiling blood, powered by a cocktail of primal urges, ignorance and complete inexperience.

January 1st 1975 was the date I officially started my diary. Every single night before sleep for the next six years I wrote and filled a full day’s segment.

Somewhere along my peripatetic life’s journey 1976 has gone missing, but I still have all the others, including the half-filled final effort.

By that time I was 21 and no longer needed that kind of diary. If I wanted to purge my confusion and express my desires I could write fiction.

There was no point in blending fiction into my journal, but try telling that to me as a teenager. Massive insecurities and an overactive imagination filled five volumes, which I have now here in front of me, opened at this week in 1975, 77, 78, 79 and 80.

A glance over these pages confirms my worst suspicions. If that 8 year-old boy is anything like I was, his parents would be well advised to stay far away from their son’s diary.

There are some truths scattered sparingly over the years, but also there are glaring and often quite ridiculous lies.

Well, let’s not call them lies. This was written by me for me. I wasn’t trying to fool anyone, not even my sad and dejected teenage self, because even then I knew better.

Didn’t stop me though. Any woman I met in passing got a mention, regardless of whether she was an optician fitting my glasses, a girl I had a single dance with at a disco or the stranger I sat next to on the bus back from school.

All encounters were reinterpreted as either flirtations, potential relationships or major sexual encounters that absolutely never happened.

If my parents had read and believed my diaries, they’d have thought I was an adolescent sex god.

More importantly, I can see entries here which would deeply upset and trouble any parent or child psychologist.

Thing is though, I was a teenager, so if you look at Tuesday I want to kill myself, what’s the point, I hate life and everybody else. Nobody understands me, so why not finish it all off?

Then on Saturday I’m partying with people I describe as the best friends anybody could ever wish for.

If you’re concerned, ask your children questions. If they don’t answer, leave it a few days and ask them again, saying that you're simply concerned, that’s all, and if they ever want to talk about anything, you’re always available.

Afford your children the same level of respect you expect from them. As parents you set the rules and the standards of trust. If you’ve already breached those borders, do me a favour.

Don’t believe a word you read.

©Charlie Adley


Bob said...

Nice read, Charlie. Some chiming recognition there. Well expressed.

Charlie Adley said...

Thanks Bob!