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We were rushing to get out the door to get to school on time. As usual my girls were lagging behind. And I was trying to close the time gap by getting coats and book bags by the door while they brushed their teeth.

I opened up Haven’s book bag to put her lunch inside and noticed different miscellaneous items scattered throughout. It was a mess inside. And I hate anything being disorganized. I started weeding through the items, pulling out sunglasses, stuffed animals, hair ties, pop-its, and other little things that they weren’t allowed to bring to school.

As I quickly cleaned out the bag, I got to the bottom and found a small, white notebook with light blue and yellow flowers on its. I opened the notebook to see if it were something that she was using for school, and soon found that it was not.

Right there, on the very front page, my eyes were met with two, hand-written, words capitalized in blue, glitter speckled, gel ink: HAVEN’S DIARY.

Haven’s diary?! A diary? Haven has a diary? I didn’t know she had a diary, let alone her knowing what a diary even was! It wasn’t something we’d ever really talked about. And I think that I was still under the impression that her Dad and I were the introductory source of all of her knowledge and interests, or at least informed. As a matter of fact, I was the one that had purchased this little notebook for her on one of our many trips to the dollar store. I’d figured that she’d use it for doodling, or coloring. She went rogue on me and turned it into a diary. She never mentioned anything. And I did not recall ever seeing her write inside of it. This little chick had me genuinely surprised. So Haven has a diary huh?

As I stood there gazing at these two words, diary in hand, I was met with a myriad of emotions. Curiosity washed over me like a wave. I quickly fanned the pages and could see that this was a legit diary. Each page had several, scattered sentences. But from my quick scan, I could see that they were dated and consistent. This was her diary…a REAL diary. Realizing this, I was met with conflict. I quickly looked over my shoulder to see if anyone were around.

Why was I sneaking around like a crook in my own house?! It wasn’t wrong for me to look inside! Or was it? I justified my desire to go beyond a quick scan into actually reading a few pages by telling myself that the word DIARY held more weight than it should in this situation. Diary just sounds really scathing, personal, and full of secrets and sordid details. A real diary can end lives, ruin relationships, and land people in jail. A real diary is steamy and passionate. It's got BUSINESS inside.

She’s only nine lil’, baby years old. 9. She’s NINE.

Her life is not hard enough yet for her to have a diary with anything legitimately private in it. She has never paid a bill, experienced heartbreak, or even a broken bone. Life is still rainbows, sunshine, unicorns, and Skittles for her. She ain’t got no real problems. This is what I told myself. Like honestly, she’s NIIIIIINNNNE…..9……..SHE IS NINE.

And I’m her Mom. We don’t keep secrets. I wanted to read this thing. I wanted to know what she could possibly be writing. The desire was overwhelming.

I heard giggling and footsteps upstairs, and felt relief that she and her sister were still pre-occupied with not getting ready for school fast enough like I’d asked them to. It bought me time to decide on how I would proceed. Who I was kidding? Of course I was going to read it…...but just one page….1…..ONE. I’d only read one. So with my decision solid, and in place, I flipped to the first page, and gave my full attention to the brief paragraph.

It turned out to be a school entry. She’d written this at school. And it was a friend list, in order of rank from BEST to LEAST. How “9-years oldish” of her. I let out a giggle of relief. Any guilt that I was feeling immediately went away. This was kid’s stuff, just as I’d guessed… and hoped. With that, I felt comfortable going on to page two. I know. I know. I know that I said I’d only read one page. But this page didn’t count. It was a friend’s list for God’s sake. This was no real meat. This was only the glass of water that the waitress pours when you first sit down. I needed an appetizer at least. I was hungry. My appetite was raging. I knew that if I didn’t read this thing now, I’d surely feel a lot guiltier going through it once she got older. The age of accountability was fast approaching. And my condemnation has an age limit. The older she becomes, the guiltier I’d feel. I didn’t need the type of guilt that comes with legitimately defying someone’s privacy jacking up my prayer life. I didn’t need to have to answer to God for it. It was now or never while she was only 9.

So I turned to page two. It was another school entry. Only this time, the friend’s list had someone’s name scratched off, a girl in her class. And she’d written a brief summary as to why. It all boiled down to a boy. This was getting interesting now. I checked over my shoulder again. Now my interest had been peaked. Haven had mentioned both of these children to me in conversation, daily as a matter of fact. She’d never let on that she liked the boy, and was jealous of the girl. But from what I was able to gather from her brief summary, and what I’d further read on page 3, (YES. I’d flipped over to page 3. AND?!) she was in fact in her feelings about the situation.

As I perused a few other pages, I compared her diary entries with our conversations. Haven is my talkative child. She’s an all-consuming, verbal fire. The girl can talk. She talks so much, that as some point you just black out from having said: “Oh really?!”, “Okay then!”, “Uh Huh…” at least 500 times during the time she’s talking. She literally does not take a breath. She wakes up at 8:00am, and by 8:01, as she’s wiping sleep from her eyes, she picks up wherever she left off the night before. It is effortless. She’s a talker. And with all this talking she’d been doing in the car, while I’m in the tub, on the toilet, cooking dinner, doing laundry, working, she’d never once mentioned having a friend’s list, a boy that she liked, and a girl that was an obstacle.

As I jogged my memory, I realized that the tone had been there all along. But she never relayed this to me. So as I flipped through a few more pages. YES. I was fully invested now. So I was flipping and reading. I was now curious for a different reason. I was not judging Haven. I was judging myself. I was comparing these entries directly to our conversations. Having established the innocence of the nature of her diary entries, I didn’t feel like I was invading her privacy anymore. I was invading my own.

Lord knows, if there is any desire that is the nearest to my heart, it is my number one desire and prayer to be a good mother. I’m raising daughters. I’m raising women. I am their number one source of influence. Just a few months ago as I stood singing in church, I looked on the front row and caught Haven’s gaze. I had her full attention. The look on her face was unmistakable. She was literally sitting there studying me. After church I asked her about it. I said: “Haven, I saw you looking at me. What were you thinking?” Without hesitation she replied: “…..THAT I WANT TO BE JUST LIKE YOU.”


Her response nearly broke me down. It humbled me to my core. It almost made me weep. I’d always known this. But she’d never articulated it. She’d never verbalized her recognition, acceptance, and affirmation of this desire. It was something I’d witnessed without words. Her giving it words told me that it was something that she was fostering and breathing life into. She wanted to be like her Mommy. And with this in mind, I wanted to see just how comfortable Haven was with her role model. I wanted to see how much she trusted herself, and how much she trusted me. I wanted to see if all of the things that I was teaching her about God, life, and people were developing well in her spiritual, emotional, and social life. This diary was now a tool. It was a Bible. It helped me to see the fruit of my teaching, or lack thereof. I wasn’t snooping. I was looking into a mirror.

I heard footsteps coming downstairs. I quickly closed the diary, and put it in her book bag next to her lunch. The girls came running downstairs, and I grabbed my coat and keys to announce the urgency of us needing to leave soon. As we drove to school, I held Haven’s hand as I drove. I told her how much I loved her. I told her how special she was. I looked in the back seat, and did the same for Cadence, my 7 year old.

I decided that I would not mention the diary to her, or my husband. I kept it a secret.

In the coming weeks, while placing her lunch in her book bag, I ran across the diary several times. Most days I didn’t pick it up to read it. I decided that I didn’t want to become dependent on needing to read it to know my own child. Instead, I put the added effort into not auto-responding during our conversations where Haven is rambling, but giving my undivided attention, no matter how menial, trivial, or immature the topic. I wanted her to be able to tell me anything, from the least to the greatest, and for that to happen, she needed my full engagement. I made it a personal goal, that the next time I decided to pick up her diary, and catch up on Elementary School Soap Operas, that I will perhaps learn a few new revelations, but even moreso, find confirmation of the one's that I already know because she told me so.

Sincerely Honest,

Shaunee Brannan

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