It happened like this, and if my supersensitive mom-hearing (you know, one of those superpowers they give you before you leave the hospital with your baby) hadn’t kicked in, I never would have heard it:
Isabelle, who is 4, was playing with a neighbor girl, who is 6. They were whispering about something when I heard these words: “Don’t tell your mom because she’ll tell my mom and I don’t want my mom to know.”
Well, this mama immediately went on high alert, and I not-so-secretly turned my attention to their conversation in the yard next door. My thoughts went something like this:
1. Hmmm, what exactly does our neighbor not want her mom to know?
2. Wait, isn’t this what teenagers do?
3. I’m SO not ready to deal with teenage issues!
After a moment of panic, I looked for an opportunity to get Isabelle alone so I could pry. (Because that’s what moms do, right?) Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait long and Isabelle came inside to use the bathroom. Also fortunately, she can’t keep a secret to save her life.
“(Neighbor girl) doesn’t want me to tell you something.”
“Oh, and what doesn’t she want you to tell me.”
“I can’t tell you.”
Thus began a circle argument about some secrets being okay to tell. I promised we’d talk about it later. Again, fortunately, I didn’t have to wait for later. Isabelle ran outside and rejoined her friend, confessing to her, “My mom wants me to tell her what you told me.” To which the neighbor girl began to panic, raising her voice and saying, “Why does she want to know that I have a boyfriend?”
A boyfriend? She’s in kindergarten. Whew. I breathed a sigh of relief that, for the moment, I really didn’t have to tell her mom what was going on. So-called boyfriend appeared on the scene later, and as far as I can tell, their relationship consists mostly of the girl chasing the boy.
Isabelle and I did have the chance to talk about good secrets and bad secrets and how she needs to trust her parents to know the difference and whether we really do need to share the information with another parent or not.
Is my memory so bad that I don’t remember things being like this when I was younger? Or is the world so much worse a place that I automatically assume the worst when secrets are involved?
Lately, I’ve started to become the neighborhood mom. I’m generally outside, reading a book on the porch, when the kids are playing, so if other kids come by to play, I end up being the “babysitter.” I’m kind of okay with this because I want to know what my kids are doing and I want our house to be the place where kids hang out and find love and acceptance and ice cream bars or popsicles on a hot summer’s day.
But I want to know where the line is. When do my rules for my kids apply to other people’s kids? And when am I overstepping my bounds to step in to a gap left by another parent? I’m not generally in the business of telling other people how to raise their kids because I’m still figuring out how to raise mine day by day, and I’m tellin’ ya, there are NO easy answers for this. But I’m not the sort of person who can keep her nose out of other people’s business, especially if that “business” (in this case, kids) is hanging around my yard and playing with my kids.
So, what’s your experience? I know there may not be right or wrong answers but I’m curious how other parents have handled (and are handling) these types of issues.
I know this really is kindergarten stuff when it comes to parenting, and the teenage issues are yet to come. I just want to start preparing myself now and make decisions now, before it’s too late, that will help when the secrets are more serious.