The Turn of a Key

Also re-published as “What I Found in My 5-Year-Old’s Diary” on Huffington Post.

She has been asking for a kids diary for a while now.

Her brother gave her a spare he had, and she has been announcing on a daily basis, “Do NOT look at me, Mama. I’m writing in my diary.”

She keeps the key on a ring on her finger, and even chose a special pen.

I wondered what she was writing in there. She’s almost 6 years old, and there’s a lot going on in that pretty little head of hers.

Was it a place she wrote what worries her? Is she describing her scary dreams at night? Is she sad I made her and her brother clean the basement for hours this weekend? Does she not understand why sometimes Daddy works late at night or travels for days at a time?

Curiosity got the best of me, and with a heavy, worried heart, I unlocked her diary to see what was inside.

Turn of a Key by @LetMeStart #kids #diary

What did I find?


She has been practicing sounding out words and spelling them phonetically by making a long list of all the things she loves, all the things that make her happy. 

What she loves via @LetmeStart

“I love gold”
“I love my friends”
“I wish I had flowers”
“I love cold water”
“I love movies”

She wants to be a better speller, a better writer, a better reader, and the first thing that comes to her to write down is the love she has for so many people and things around her.

The things she’d love to experience.

The things she loves about herself.

More things she loves by @LetMeStart

“I wish I can take a slime bath”
“I am weird”

I had been worried that my spritely, emotional, thoughtful girl was hiding her sad behind lock and key.

But the feelings that live in the surface of her heart and mind are those of love and joy, appreciation of the small things, and hope to experience new things.

So not only did I learn the magnitude of happiness that she is filled with, my own increased exponentially with the simple turn of a key.

Edited to add: My daughter knows about this article, approves of the photos, and keeps asking what nice things people said about her spelling. 

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  1. says

    Awww. That’s so sweet. I remember the first diary I had as well. It had one of those little spin combination lock things that eventually just broke after awhile (probably because I forgot the combination and used force to bust into that sucker.) I found it again a few years ago and cracked up at what was the focus of my life at that point–a new bunny, playing with my friends, my mom, etc. To be so happy with something so simple…a good lesson to remember. ;)
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  2. says

    I love this post. My daughter is 12, but since she was about 5 or 6, she has been keeping diaries, journals, notebooks, notepads, stray pieces of paper full of her thoughts, dreams, ideas, and wishes. I’ll admit to taking some peeks, throughout the years, as I, too, worried she was keeping her sad hidden away. What I found was much the same of what you found, and I can’t tell you the peace of mind that it gave me.
    Amy (My Real Life) recently posted..Spring is John BenderMy Profile

  3. says

    This gave me a huge lump in my throat. What a special discovery. Moments like these put the stress, fatigue and frustration we often feel into perspective and help is to realise that its such a privilege being ‘mama’.

    Thank you for this beautiful post!

  4. says

    “I love rabos.” Tell her that my girls love rainbows, too. That one melted my heart.

    And then I laughed out loud that she’s embracing her weirdness. My little one parked her butt next to a complete stranger on a plane and introduced herself: “Hi. I’m M. I am very cute and very weird.” Thank goodness the lady was charmed.

    Miss D. got her first diary right around the time your daughter did, because I remember saving her Christmas list that year–because it was too good. There were only three items on it.

    1. Diree
    2. unicorn (alas, she did not mean a stuffed one)
    3. sword

    Luckily, the diary I could do.
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  5. says

    I love this so! My daughter just got her first diary, and she’s six. She has mostly been drawing in it, so it’s a spinoff of her fairy journal (thanks, Tinkerbell) but I love them both. This is so very sweet!
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  6. says

    Aw, that is so sweet and makes me want to give me kids a diary but only if I’m allowed to read it… Oh maybe, I’ll get them blogs.

    Wait. That might be going to far.

  7. Beth Tully says

    I bet she’d love to have a mom who respects her privacy. You could start now, by taking this blog off the internet now for a start. Then, sit down with her, tell her what you did and promise that you’ll never ever ever do it again. You should ask her to forgive you and let her know that you hope that when she has real secrets she will choose to share them with you but if she doesn’t you will respect her decision because you recognize that she is a separate and independent individual.

    • says

      Thank you for being concerned about my child.
      She knows about the post, the pictures and the story. She is fine with it being “out there” to make people happy. She’s proud of her handwriting, and keeps asking what people are saying about “my diary story.” I only tell her the kind responses, which she is enjoying.

  8. Bobbie says

    The thoughts of your daughter are really sweet and touch the heart in a very nice way. I completely understand the need to see what was in her diary at least once, just to be sure she’s ok, and I agree with your decision to do so. But I’m really dismayed that you somehow felt that it was ok to breach her trust to the point of taking a picture of it and disclosing it’s contents on the internet for anyone to see… when she didn’t even want *you* to see it. She kept it locked for a reason.

    • says

      She does approve of the photos and my sharing a story about it.

      The reason I shared this (after careful consideration) is because I thought more adults in my shoes who associate diaries with sad secrets would be lifted by the story. Many were, I have received countless kind messages about it, and that feels great. It’s wonderful to tell my daughter that she lifted some peoples’ spirits with her words.

      • Lisa says

        Kim, I am really impressed with the evenness with which you’ve responded to these comments.

        I am not 100% supportive of having posted your child’s private thoughts on the internet, but I’m glad you and she enjoyed a good outcome of it. That’s what matters.

        I have a genuine question for you, and I’m not being snarky at all… You mentioned earlier that part of the reason you read your child’s diary is that you associate diaries with angst, and the fact that she was writing SO often caused you concern. Now that you see that your child doesn’t associate her diary with angst, do you think you’ll still “snoop” in the future? If yes, what would draw you to do so? If not, why?

        I’m really asking genuinely; I am always torn on the “snooping” thing and consider it a case-by-case possibility for my own children; just interested in your thoughts, as a fellow mom.

        Thanks, Kim.

        • says

          Hi Lisa,
          I believe – in short – as the parent, I need to know what is going on with my kids. I’ll withhold judgement, I’ll keep it all 100% to myself, but I will always, always look. My kids know we need to know everything. When they’re old enough to have cell phones and emails, we (my husband and I) will have passwords, access, and be their silent “friends” on social media.
          My husband and I are open with our kids about this. Sure, there is discretion (just because I know it, doesn’t mean anyone else needs to), but they should expect that we need to know what they’re up to.
          Kids should know that they can trust their parents with any information about themselves. The better we know them, the better we know how to parent them.

  9. Gigi says

    you have a smart child and that is a blessing. the contents are precious but she kept it locked safe she may be too young to understand now but i do hope and pray that this incident does not take root in her heart as a sense of distrust. it is what it is – a privacy breach. you only sought permission AFTER you called dibs on her locked diary. when she’s older and in need of a confidante, may she not reference to this time in her life when what was precious and hidden away was surfaced.

    • says

      Hi Gigi,
      Thank you so much for your concern for my daughter, but I never would have shared it if I didn’t think she would be comfortable with it through the years. I’m happy to see so many people come to her defense, though I do wish more could have done it as respectfully as you did. For that, I thank you again.

  10. says

    It’s so sweet that you found tons of love and that’s she’s writing to practice. You can tell her that her spelling is wonderful and her handwriting is full of character. I’m a big fan of five year olds :)
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  11. janec72 says

    Your daughter clearly understands and values the concept of privacy, or at least she did before you rationalized her privacy away. Your reasons for snooping into her diary are between you and her. Your reasons for sharing it with the whole wide world are beyond comprehension.

    I would imagine that by now, after your Huffpost article, you are finding out that the Internet at large is not the mutually supportive hug-fest that you normally enjoy here on your mommy blog. I see only two possible outcomes of your decision and subsequent justifications: either you have created a little exhibitionist who, like you, will grow up to stop at nothing to get attention, or you have laid the groundwork for a secretive teenager who will never trust you with anything important. Send us an update. The Internet is waiting.

    • says

      Jane, those that know me personally or have been reading my stories for a while now have a pretty solid grasp of who I am as a parent and a person. These people read that post in the framework of that knowledge, and were touched by the story itself, because they knew I did not break my child’s ability to ever trust again by doing what I did. I am sorry you would believe that there were only these two negative conclusions. There are so many more lovely ones that could come from this, and I look forward to seeing my daughter continue being proud of her handwriting and spelling attempts that many people have complimented since seeing them here and on HuffPost.

  12. janec72 says

    Good for you. Think positive. Keep adding up those compliments, just like a gambler in Vegas only counts their winnings.

    • says

      I’m not a gambler. Never have been. I’m someone who likes to go quiet and listen, learn the whole story, and only make decisions on things I have all the information on.
      I wish you the best, and am sorry you can’t see the joy in a happy child’s sweet words.

  13. Mel says

    Your daughter might think its cool right now that her diary is online….but in a few years, she will realize that it was a horrible breach of trust. It’s one thing to snoop a little (I know my mom snooped in mine I’m sure!), but unless there is anything in her diaries that are of concern?? Leave it be.

    She will one day get rather PISSED and EMBARRASSED if you bring up a subject that she wrote about. Trust me on this one.

    Make this the last time you share this. Not everyone thinks journal writing is about angst and sharing this was unnecessary.

    • says

      I appreciate your opinion – really.
      Rest assured, this is the one and only time I’m sharing something like this. And while I understand that “not everyone” sees diaries & journals as a place of sadness, many, many people who had abusive childhoods do. I’ve had quite a few people who have been through that and appreciated this lesson send me private messages saying so. I had to learn it, and I knew I wasn’t the only one.

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