My eldest has suddenly reached the age where he is trying to read my work emails. I’ve so far not had to hide my screen or papers from the kids on account of them being cute but illiterate, and in reality he’s miles from reading or understanding anything of substance – but this weekend I thought it was time to have a chat about why mummy’s work things are private. And as is so often the case with serious chats with the kids – the conversation came back to poop.
He knows I work with families. He knows I try and help families when the mummy and daddy don’t live together any more (whilst blackberry picking the other weekend he instigated a very serious talk about why some mummies and daddies don’t live together and some people have two houses, so I took it as an opportunity to explain to him that I help those mummies and daddies to make a plan to sort things out. I also recently had to explain trials and judges in the course of reading them Alice in Wonderland which helped me introduce how I help when parents can’t agree and someone else has to decide for them). Today I had to explain that some of the things I read about families are very sad and they are having some tough times, and some of it is very private and it’s a bit too grown up for him. He was not at all convinced – obviously for him it was difficult to distinguish between the ability to read the words and the ability to manage the content and he was pleased to be grown up enough (i.e. sufficiently developed in his reading skills) to read it – “No, mummy you’re joking – I can read it!” So, racking my brains for an example of things people might want to keep private – we talked about how it might feel if you had a bit of an accident at school and you don’t want anyone to know about the problem in your pants, because it’s embarrassing. “Ah,” he said – “Now I understand”. I think that’s empathy developing.
The whole privacy / secrecy distinction that causes us so much angst on a macro scale is pretty tough on the micro level too. ‘Cos we aren’t supposed to keep secrets, or encourage shame. But we have to respect people’s privacy and it’s not kind to make them feel embarrassed or upset by telling other people private things. These are tough conversations to have with a six year old.
Anyway, it seems that some practical changes are required to my data handling now that my little ones are growing up. Otherwise I will really be in the doo doo.