I Need to Know Less
By Janice Quirt
Photo © korneevamaha/Envato
Aug 4, 2022
They say it takes a village to raise a child.
Nowadays, that village includes technology allowing a parent to know almost everything about their kid, from banking transactions to how many times they were late to class.
Truthfully, I’d like “the village” to back away.
For me, the amount of data about my kids that is readily available is making parenting harder, not easier. Do I want them to be safe? Of course. Do I want to have a fight every day because they’re making decisions that might differ from mine?
Sometimes Ignorance is Bliss — Lessons from the Past
This isn’t a nostalgic post about “remember when Mom used to drink Tab, smoke and drive us to the cottage unbuckled while we rolled around in the back of the station wagon.” It was fun, but the back of the car smelled like dog vomit. Tab, however, was delicious.
Rather, the one aspect of parenting that was commonplace when I was growing up was that sometimes knowing less is OK. Ignorance is bliss.
Clearly I don’t want to be ignorant of all facets of my kids’ lives, but there are a few details that I think I can skip in the name of letting my kids have some freedom to make their own choices and live out the consequences.
Lates and Skips
These days, parents often get a phone call every day their child is absent from a class in high school, and you can track their lates online.
While, obviously, it is important for safety to know if a kid doesn’t show up and is unaccounted for, I think this system is rife with potential for conflict.
Even as a do-gooder in high school, I skipped class.
Occasionally my parents found out, usually not.
Teenagers need to learn how to make those choices about attendance, because post-graduation, whether in a job, college, university, or an apprenticeship, attendance either won’t be tracked or there will immediate and severe consequences for repeated, unexplained absences. So my kids need to experience how to make that decision and live with the effects on their performance in a safer, learning environment.
That comes from the consequences from the external environment, namely school or a part-time job, not their screeching mother.
Not to mention, the system is hardly infallible. Teachers don’t always get attendance exactly correct. I’ve learned to take the missed class robocalls with a grain of salt and question from time to time, as needed, not barging into conflict as soon as I hang up the phone.
As for lates, of course the students are going to be late after a ridiculously short lunch hour. They go out to local restaurants for food because that’s the thrill of finally being a teen in high school — the sweet, sweet freedom.
Besides, it's not like adults haven’t ever been late for work or another obligation after being stuck in the Tim Horton’s line.
So I need to know less about every time my kid was late to class — at least they are eating and socializing.
I really don’t want to have a fight every time a late appears on the attendance record. I want to have one or two calm discussions about trying to be on time and balancing eating, socializing and attendance. But that’s all. Not a daily rundown accounting for every minute.
Digital Piggy Banks
Banking. Oh, online banking. Yes, I want my kids to be fiscally responsible. But I also want them to have a bit of mad money that they can spend as they see fit. It might be on Peace Tea, gum or fried chicken. That’s akin to me slipping money out of my piggy bank as a kid for a run to the corner store to indulge in some sour keys — nothing ever tasted as good as those candies obtained without explicit parental consent.
Were I to monitor and question every single transaction, I believe that would be sending my kids the message that they’ll never get it right. That they won’t be able to handle money, or that they will and should always be stressed about money.
I’d rather not obsess over every small purchase. I want to talk about finances in a broad and positive way, and skip monitoring the virtual piggy bank so that there can be a bit of fun spending.
A Modicum of Privacy
I have read the messages on my kid’s phone. And now I don’t.
Because, really, my kids are allowed privacy, as well.
That’s akin to someone else reading your diary (if that ever happened to you, I’m very, very sorry).
If the situation with your kids seems unsafe, that definitely warrants a discussion and perhaps monitoring a phone for a certain amount of time, with limits as agreed upon. Every family will have their limits, depending on their situation.
But as I see it, my kids' phones are a personal expression of themselves. Besides, to be frank, you probably won’t like what you read about yourself if you’re in that position. There’s got to be a better way that is mutually agreed upon. There was a reason that the most coveted diaries came with a lock and key.
Teens need a bit of freedom to safely learn cause and effect. Parents need a bit of freedom from the constant barrage of information and stats about their kids, too.
So to the data village that is trying to raise my kids with me, I say thanks but no thanks.
I’m going to go write in my diary and drink a Tab.
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