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Snooping For a Cause

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Fairly Odd Mother

Frantically waving my magic wand to make wishes come true.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Snooping For a Cause

When I first heard about the 14-year old boy who was arrested for possession of multiple firearms and bomb-making materials, I thought, "how the hell did he hide all of this from his parents?"

Well, it turns out, he did not need to hide anything. It appears that his mother purchased most of the items for her "social outcast" son, and the weapons were "plainly visible in the boy's bedroom".

So, while this does not appear to be a case of clueless parents not noticing the arsenal in Junior's bedroom, it has gotten me thinking about the notion of privacy and children. Should the two go together?

When I was a teen, my room was my own. I felt relatively certain that my mother was not combing through my drawers or lifting my mattress looking for contraband. At the same time, I was a pretty safe bet. I didn't date or drink much until my senior year, got good grades and was pretty open about my life. If my door was locked, I was simply listening to classic rock or having one of those inane teenage phone conversations.

But, I did have a secret. It was a large bottle of Peppermint Schnapps that was hidden in a shoe box in my closet. This bottle lasted me a long time, and only came out for special occasions, like the outdoor parties at the old Mill in our town.

Did my parents ever find this bottle? I don't think so. My mother made my bed every morning and did all my laundry (I know, gag. . .spoiled), but she left most of the straightening up to me. So my bottle was safe from the prying eyes of parents.

Now, a bottle of Schnapps is a helluva lot different from a few automatic weapons and grenades, but it makes me think about how many secrets I want my kids to have while they live under my roof.

Right now, my kids are young: I straighten out their closets and drawers, check under their beds, go through their bins of toys and stuffed animals (all for housekeeping reasons, but you get the idea that their rooms are open books to me). I do not intend to make their beds or do their laundry forever, but that doesn't mean I will never enter their room and look around. I'm very hopeful that the worst thing I will find is a crusty plate of old food under the bed.

I will monitor their computer usage, of course, but what about a journal or personal diary? I'd like to think that these will always be 'off limits' to me, but if I suspect drug use or physical/emotional abuse or some other major issue, all bets are off.

What do you think? Is it ok to snoop on your child? (Always, never or under certain circumstances?) Can you imagine your child hiding something as large as a stash of rifles and grenades in their room? Were your parents "snoopers"?; if so, how do you feel about their actions now? Were they justified?

I'd love to hear how you feel about this subject.

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23 Comments:

Blogger theotherbear said...

My parents snooped, even to the point of going through my handbag when I was as old as in my early 20s and living at home while studying at uni. They still do when they come to my home now. Looking in the bin and the cupboards, and it makes me feel like screaming.
I guess I'd feel it ok to snoop on your kid if you really thought there was something bad going on but I'd rather the trust thing worked and you already knew what was going on in your child's life because they wanted to tell you.

7:36 PM  
Blogger Alex Elliot said...

My parents were like yours and never went through my stuff. I do wonder about exactly what you posted about. I think for now, keeping in mind that my oldest is only 4, if I thought there was ever any reason to do a room search, I would do what we did when I was a camp counselor and make my kid go through their things while I was standing there. I don't know what the right answer is though.

8:47 PM  
Blogger Blog Antagonist said...

God that's so hard. My first thought is that physical space is mine to snoop in, but I wouldn't read a diary or journal. But then I think...what if someone had read Dylan Clebold's journal? Could he have been stopped?

We monitor online activity without apology and always will. But he is fully aware that we are doing so.

I don't know...I guess I will have to cross this bridge when I come to it and make the best decision I can with the circumstances at hand.

I think a lot of parenting is winging it. I wish it wasn't.

9:13 PM  
Blogger sandy shoes said...

This is a tough one for me - I think about it a lot, and I still don't know where I come down on it.

My mother DID snoop. She read my diaries, my mail, my notes, any/everything. She may have thought she had reason to, but I have never forgiven her, and never confide in her -- and I'm 40. So. This is not the kind of relationship I want with my grown up daughters.

But: I don't know if I could look at one of their journals and not open it, especially if they're in one of the inevitable phases where they don't talk to me.

I just don't know.

And if I suspect something is seriously wrong, and I'm getting nowhere communicating any other way? Well. Their safety is more important to me than their not being angry with me, and I can live with that.

Like all mothers, I just hope we're never in that place.

9:58 PM  
Blogger Major Bedhead said...

I snooped thru my son's room when he was living at home because he came home obviously high. so I started looking for pot and found a huge honking bottle of vodka. His father and I lit into him so hard I think his head actually spun around on his shoulders. But he straightened up and is a pretty good, if a little aimless, nowadays.

I've looked thru my daughter's room, but not because I suspect her of doing anything. She has a tendency to leave dishes in there. I will admit to one time reading her diary, which she had left open, on her bed. She and I have a pretty good relationship and seem to be able to talk about a lot of things, which thrills me no end. I certainly could never do that with my mother.

11:56 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Tough question. I had a different answer before I had kids, that's for sure.

10:30 AM  
Blogger Kimberly said...

My childhood was pretty snoop-free except for my younger sisters reading my diary. As for my girls, I'll keep an eye out for things that flag my attention. This is my house and yes, I will make sure there are no firearms or hidden condoms in it. I won't read private journals but I will look under the bathroom sink for the peach schnapps (where I hid mine).

My motto: My daughters are not going to get away with half the crap that I did.

10:48 AM  
Blogger margalit said...

I have teenagers. Two of them. I snoop. I do it because they are teenagers and they are incredibly adept at lying, hiding things, and doing very stupid things. As I type this, my daughter, who told me she was sleeping over X's house, appears not to have slept over X's house and is missing with her phone turned off. So yes, I DO snoop. And they know it.

I don't allow then to have online journals (facebook) unless I can read them. You bet I do, too. I've found out some VERY interesting things by reading their facebook mail.

I've found lighters and cigarettes, I've found all sorts of stuff I don't want to mention, and I've found alcohol missing, even after I marked the bottles. They're locked up now.

But yes, I think snooping is a parents job, especially when you have teens. They're going to lie like rugs, and the only way you're ever gonna know what's going on is to snoop. I know, it sounds horrible, but believe me, you're going to do it because it's the only way you'll ever know what's going on. And even with snooping, you don't find out enough.

12:33 PM  
Blogger Kellan Rhodes said...

I'm like you - I had secrets from my parents (some not so good ones). I now have 4 kids - 2 teenage daughers (twins, 15 years old). They are good girls, but they have their moments. I have not run into any reason yet to mistrust them, but I do come across notes in the laundry now and then and yes ... I do read them. And, I am not against snooping to find out if there is anything going on or hidden. They are my responsibility - I am the one sending them out into the world. I am the one meant to protect them. I will watch their every move - as best I can - it is my job - whether they like it or not.

1:36 PM  
Blogger Just Seeking said...

My first reaction to your post was to say "I absolutely plan on snooping." But then I read some of the other comments and now I'm not so sure. I feel horrible for Sandy Shoes. I would die if this is what happened between my daughters and me.
My mother never snooped that I know of. She was unbelievably unconditional in her love for me. So much so that I thought (back then) that she was a weakling. Kids need parents, they need boundaries, they need some structure and guidance. I did not receive this. I know I did some of the bad stuff I did because I was pushing the envelope, trying to MAKE my parents step up to the plate and guide me. My kids will definitely be in a much different place. My husband and I have provided a lot more structure and limits for them and I'm sure will continue to do so.
I assume my mom didn't snoop because (a) she didn't care---she really thought that anything I would do would be okay (and that is so scary) and (b) she assumed I told her everything. I did tell her most everything through high school.
I guess in an ideal world our children would trust us enough to tell us everything. And we would trust them to come to us. And I guess I will hope for that and snoop if I feel I need to.
But this is a really tough question with no easy answers. Sigh. This dang parenting gig! it's so tough!

8:20 PM  
Blogger Shan said...

My girls are 1 and 5, so I'm not really sure how I'll act when they are older. Right now my 5 year old thinks I can see a dot on her forehead if she's feeding me one of those "I didn't do it" lines, but I'm thinking she might catch on to me when she's older. My Mom didn't snoop and we always knew we could come to her about anything. She just made sure she was in our lives, talked to us, listened to us, knew who our friends were and let our house be the place we hung out at.

9:27 PM  
Blogger Family Adventure said...

It is a fine line. I think I should respect their privacy as much as possible UNLESS I saw signs that things were amiss. I think I am a pretty hands-on mom, and would see those signs, or hear about them from school, or whatever. But maybe I'm kidding myself?
It's a toughie. But here's to hoping the worst thing they'll be hiding is a single bottle of schnapps!!
- Heidi

11:49 PM  
Blogger AnotherMomCreation said...

The only time that I KNOW my mom snooped was when she would find notes I would leave in pockets, or on my floor, or that period of time when EVERYTHING that came out of my mouth was a lie.
So, I guess that I would like to think that I'll have no need for that, but I am sure there will be a time when I am just so full of worry that I must snoop to keep sane. Not to mention that I am incredibly nosey. I just am, I know that about myself.

But, as of now, Sweet girl and I write in her journal together and I leave her little love notes. I never criticize what she writes or how she writes it. I hope that this will always be the case, that she shares her journaling with me... I hope.

4:37 PM  
Blogger Mary Alice said...

I have teens. We are a close family. Often I know when something is wrong with them before they even know it. I can tell when they are going to get sick, or when my daughter is getting her period, or when something is bothering them and they have not yet even processed it enough to articulate it. And, I am pretty sure I can tell when they are lying to me.

I have not had to snoop so far. I give them their privacy; but, that said, if I ever had the sense that something was amiss, I would go through everything they have in a New York minute....and they know it too. We have the passwords to their myspaces, facebooks and e-mail accounts - so that if anything ever seemed to be wrong we could get in there and check up on things. Kids do need privacy and if they are not abusing the courtesy I see no reason to pry...but I am by no means in lala land. I know kids will try things - I was a kid once myself - so I am ever wary and vigilant.

When they come home after a night out, I am up and I kiss them goodnight and tell them I love them.. I do love them and I do want to kiss them goodnight, but I am also, unbeknownst to them, taking the opportunity to give them the alcohol sniff test.

I think MOST people have that little feeling that tells them when something is wrong...I can't believe that the Columbine parents had NO clue that their kids were troubled. When you feel like something is wrong, you have to trust your intuition.

5:51 PM  
Blogger Anna said...

I have thought about this, and wish I knew the right answer. Mine are 3 and 1 so I have a little time but it is a question that gives me angst, that's for sure.

4:45 AM  
Anonymous pinks & Blues Girls said...

Well, I don't have kids, but my (and my siblings') experience as a teen was that my parents NEVER snooped on us. We had a very open relationship with our parents (and still do). I knew that anything in my room was safe to be "mine."

Of course, we were all pretty good kids and didn't have a lot to hide. If my parents suspected something was awry with us, they would have first tried to talk to us about it (which they did have to do on occasion).

If they really thought we were deceiving them, I don't know the next step they would have taken. I guess it never got to that point. Of course we got "caught" in lies a few times (like being somewhere we weren't supposed to be, for example), got in trouble and had arguments, but I honestly never felt that my personal space was violated. And I am grateful for that.

I think that's why we all have such a close, open relationship to this day.


Jane, Pinks & Blues

8:37 AM  
Blogger Jessica @ A Bushel and a Peck said...

I think that it depends on the circumstances. If I feel suspicious that there might be something I need to know about, I will do what I have to do. And if they leave something out where I can see it (notes, etc), its fair game I think. Hopefully it will never come to that though--I am SO hoping they will feel like they can talk to me. How do I get them to that point???

9:21 AM  
Anonymous Doug said...

My kids are older (in their teens). We keep tabs on the internet usage, and I watch the numbers on the cell phone bill. My wife checks my sons email, and peruses his facebook when he leaves it open (which seems to be about once a week).

As for playing CSI in their rooms, it isn't done overtly. Gathering clothes, dishes, coat hangers and other assorted items seems good for now. Then again my spidy sense is pretty sharp.

9:23 AM  
Blogger Oh, The Joys said...

I will try not to snoop. I believe that is the right approach, but I will have to sit on my hands or be restrained.

12:05 PM  
Anonymous Summer said...

I had a mother who always snooped. Nothing was private, not even my journal. I feel that my kids derserve their privacy as much as anyone else. But there is always a time and a place to invade that. If a police officer can't come in and search my home without a good reason I'm not going to search my children's things, but if I feel there is a good reason I will do wahtever it takes to help my sons. Even if that means snooping through their things.

12:07 PM  
Blogger nuttnbunny said...

I was snooped and won't snoop. But I will have access. I just don't think it's snooping b/c I will let him know that I'm looking. It's not my job to maintain his approval. btw - I know it's all good and fine to say this while he's 3.5 and that my perspective may change as he gets older.

When we were young, my littlest sis was so bad that for 6 months Mom took the door off her bedroom. Whoa!

3:35 PM  
Blogger Whirlwind said...

I don't know what I'd do. I'd like to hope we have an open relationship wher eI can trust them and where Iwouldn't have to snoop.

11:14 AM  
Blogger suburbancorrespondent said...

If the teen is keeping up a normal level of communication with you, don't snoop. If she refuses to tell you anything or let you meet any of her friends, snoop. But never tell!

7:16 AM  

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