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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Where Angels Fear to Tread (not about the book) (09/08/11)

TITLE: My Burning Eyes
By Margaret McKinney


My Burning Eyes

Teenagers should come with an instruction manual.
Normal children grow into these wily creatures nearly overnight, and we, defenseless parents, are unprepared. My twelve-year-old daughter is suddenly thirteen, and has secrets. She writes her secrets with alarming frequency in a small notebook. I ask her, casually, what could possibly occupy her thoughts so readily as to draw her to that little book so often – she carries it with her constantly, writes in it almost continuously. Whatever innerworkings of her mind that might be shared with me are jotted down in a fifty-nine-cent notebook from Target.
This puzzles me. She is thirteen, not twenty-three. Surely eighth grade cannot carry so heavy a load as to require such cerebral activity. And then I recall being thirteen, specifically the emotional minefield that was my eighth-grade-year, and I relent with a shrug. Surely God holds her in the palm of His hand, as He does the rest of us. And yet, I can’t help but peek into His palm at times to see what is going on.
She is gone one Saturday, to spend the night with a friend. Knowing she won’t return until the next day, I embark on the near-impossible task of cleaning her room. This, too, is new territory: the piles of clothes strewn about, the cryptic sayings scrawled on the whiteboard, a dozen Converse sneakers in rainbow colors crammed beneath the bed. There are papers scattered everywhere I look, stashed in books, littering the floor, even overflowing the waste basket. I sigh in exasperation, for that is what mothers do in the face of such a mountain of mess. We love our children, we wish they were cleaner, but we endure.
I bend low to sweep the detritus from the space between the bed and dresser, stepping back to avoid the mountain of books that rain down on my feet. My eyes are drawn to the small, spiral-bound wonder that sits atop the pile – the notebook.
Hands shaking, I retrieve it from the mound; turn it over in my hands. Butterflies encase my stomach as if I was the thirteen-year-old. My eyes are itching, practically burning to see what’s inside. The usual moral arguments sweep through my mind, volleying back and forth like a tennis ball: do I have the right to read her private thoughts? I should have some rights as her mother, shouldn’t I? And yet, children should have a place of privacy in which to stow their feelings. But what if her feelings are a danger to her? She should be able to trust me, her mother. But part of my role as her mother is to protect her, isn’t it?
There is no ready answer, and yet the notebook still sits in my hands. My knees knock together and I feel exposed. I walk to her door and close it, turning the lock like a final proclamation. Already my guilt sits like a hard knot in my stomach. I mutter a prayer for God’s direction, but I don’t really mean it. My curiosity will win this battle, and it will be a sordid victory, I am sure.
Brushing clothes from the bed, I sit and draw a deep breath. It is silly, how much I am shaking, as if this were a matter of life and death and not a silly notebook. I run a hesitant finger down the red cardboard cover, blank, not even inscribed with my daughter’s name in glittery markers. I open the cover and begin to read.
I am undone at what I see scrawled on the pages, and I mourn the loss of ignorance, of hers and my own.

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This article has been read 702 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Belinda Borradaile09/15/11
I must say I would do the same as this mother...not sure if thats good or bad? I think it is called being the mother of a teenager in a world gone so worldly. It is a hard case when your child does not share with you(as most do not) I just feel if we have the upper hand we are certainly better equipped to guide them. They dont need to know we know?? Oh I dont know it is a tricky one- but a good question to ask ourselves as parents. What is the rule here? Thank you for asking this question in this way! Glady my fourteen year old does not have a 'notebook'...yet. And do I really want to know EVERYTHING in her head? Actually yes I do:) What if she wrote in her book about the use of drugs? Would it be ok than to have read it?
Beautifully written to make one ask these 'burning' questions. Nice title by the way:)
C D Swanson 09/16/11
Good job of presenting the mind and thoughts of a loving parent, concerned for her child. Nicely written, good message. God bless~
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 09/18/11
I enjoyed this and could really relate. They are sweet little girls one moment and the next teens facing problems we can't fathom. Keeping the conversation open about anything and everything is key to surviving these difficult years.

Double space between paragraphs to give the reader that important white space.

At first I wasn't sure if I liked the ending. My amenity wanted to know if she was hanging out with boys, experimenting with drugs or something less sinister. But after thinking about it, I do like the open. Each reader can picture for themselves what robbed the daughter's innocence. This was well-written and an enjoyable read
C D Swanson 09/22/11
Congratulations. God bless~
Margaret Kearley 09/22/11
This is so good and well deserving of 1st place - many congratulations. Your story touched a real nerve and I read with baited breath. I so did not want her to open that book! I have learned hard lessons on this subject and wisdom learnt has come at a cost. I am sure all mothers can relate. Well done - fantastic writing.
Benjamin Graber09/22/11
Congratulations! This was VERY well-written. The open ending was an excellent stroke, provoking reflection and consideration.
Patricia Turner09/22/11
Oh now! &*$%# and everything else those measly 750 words!

Outstanding job of capturing the tumultuous emotions of the mother of a teenager! As I recall 8th grade was terror for both of my kids and myself as they made there way through it.

Huge congratulations on such a wonderful job with those measly 750 words! Left me wanting to turn the page!
Patricia Turner09/22/11
their way that is...
Linda Goergen09/22/11
Congratulations Maggie on your well deserved first place level and EC win!
Jenna Dawn09/22/11
CONGRATS ON YOUR WIN, MAGGIE! Not only for Level 2, but for Editor's Choice. WOWZERS! You must be thrilled. :)

Your story touched something in me as well. I have a 13 year old 8th grade daughter. Her room, however, is perfectly kept for some unexplainable reason, so when reading about the messy room, my mind went to my 16 year old daughter's room, which is pretty much exactly how you describe!

But then the notebook. Oh the notebook. To read or not to read?

Dr. Laura would say READ! I think the situation is different for every parent, though. WIth the direction of God, we have to decide what is right in our circumstance, with each particular child. I don't think there is a right or a wrong answer, but in general, I do support any parent who chooses to read and find out what is going on in their teen's head.

I've read texts and facebook posts to see what my kids are up to, and looked at the history of what websites they've been to. We have to watch out for our kids, who can easily be ensnared by the evil that lurks among us.

Excellent writing and a well deserved win. Congrats!

Jody Day 09/22/11
Congratulations! Very well written.
Glynis Becker09/23/11
Congratulations! You really hit a bullseye to heart of every mom to a tween or teen (like me). I admit that I would probably do the same as well. And feel the guilt, too. Great writing!
Bonnie Bowden 10/21/11
Congratulations Margaret!

Well written and thought provoking. I don't have any teenage daughters, but my great-neice is also going through the secretive stage--adult and child at the same time.

I am not sure what I would have done, but today we live in such a different time than when I grew up.
Vicki GRECH01/09/12
This is truly a fantastic insight into the world of other mothers. I am a mother of 5 spanning 3 decades, my youngest now almost 13. She too has Notebooks, and an iPod Touch and many secrets. I wonder too what she writes and reads, just like you and so many others. However, I trust in God, I keep my faith that God will watch over her and I will resist the temptation of spying on her; even if I think I should. Something I think many mothers especially forget to do; is simply "ask" if they may "share" in their children's lives willingly. The child can only say "no". But many you will find acually say "yes", although a little reluctantly at first. It is such a hard temptation to resist and such a difficult challenge of our faith. Though I do believe, to share is far greater a joy than to share in the betrayal of trust our children place in us. God Bless.
Donna Wilcher06/22/12
Best of the Best!! Congratulations!