Parenting Teenagers and Ignoring Their ‘Right To Privacy’

English: A small and simple white mortar and p...
English: A small and simple white mortar and pestle, on bamboo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes us mothers have to do things we are not proud of.

I admit that I have inadvertently found myself, on more than a few occasions, skimming through my children’s Facebook pages or stalking their friends; I may even have mistakenly checked their private messages.

Sometimes when you parent teenagers, you have to ignore their ‘right to privacy’ for your own peace of mind and their own good.

To protect them.

I call it ‘parenting’.

What our kids don’t understand is that sometimes we have to do these things to teach them the right values and integrity. Admittedly, it might sometimes be more of a case of divine retribution.

Last week, I had to search clean Kurt’s room from top to bottom. For someone who is so OCD in certain areas of his life, (like having to have his uniform washed every day), that boy can happily thrive in a festering pit.

But the reason I was searching cleaning his room this time was not in search of dirty washing, but for illicit substances.

Kurt’s been a little crazy without the old man’s rod of iron discipline to keep him in check (AS FUCKING IF!), this last ten days.

And my nostrils, (which, for some reason, seem to recognize the sweet perfume of ‘cigarettes that aren’t cigarettes’, if you know what I mean), tipped me off that I might have something else to get anxious about.

And you know how much I thrive on anxiety.

Initially, I convinced myself that the not-unpleasant odour was wafting from our hip but rather cray cray neighbours….well, for all of about three minutes….then I began planning my mission.

First I appointed my team. NC was mission control – being the brains and the Princess Spoodle was our sniffer dog.

I retrieved my forensic kit, which was gathering dust in the laundry as I haven’t had much use for it since the mystery of my chocolate fingers stash, and began my search for the evidence.

Kurt’s room was as dark, fetid and pungent as I imagined it would be when I opened the door. What is it with teenagers and gloom? No wonder half of them are so fucking depressed. I inhaled deeply before I attempted to cross the obstacle course of musical equipment, dirty laundry and shoes that lay between the door and the window.

English: Two regular Oreo cookies. Please chec...
English: Two regular Oreo cookies. Please check my Wikimedia User Gallery for all of my public domain works. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After 30 seconds of inhalation and psyching up, I covered my nostrils to evade the predictable stench of BO, stale cigarettes and decaying left-over pizza (that was no doubt concealed under the bed), and vaulted straight over the mess to the window to release the foul stench of boy germs.

Then I turned around to inspect the crime scene, hoping for obvious clues.

There were none.

There was nothing for it, I pulled on my rubber gloves, got my torch out and began to investigate more thoroughly, carrying out what I have been prepared for my whole life as a mother, a perimeter search of the area, combing every millimetre of foul carpet.

I opened each drawer gently, careful not to tidy any of the dirty shirts crumpled into balls inside and give myself away.

I poked between new school textbooks – books that had obviously never been opened – I recognized many of the books titles from letters that we had received from libraries over the past ten years.

I found my nail scissors, tweezers, hairdryer and deodorant…….. but, alas, still nothing to suggest that my son was a junkie.

Finally I put on my ski mask, to get down to the real nitty gritty. I got down on my hands and knees and braved the underworld that grows beneath his bed.

The Refuse Mountains in South America have nothing on the debris that collates in that dark, dank habitat.

Kurt (Photo credit: S. Ramírez)

The decaying scent of old Pizza, congealed Nerds, empty Coke bottles and Oreo cookies assaulted my senses immediately, but aside from my own pestle and mortar (that I have never used to mash up fresh herbs but it just looked right on our wedding list), there was nothing I wasn’t expecting to see under his bed.

I sat back up on my knees and relaxed for a second, praying that my assumptions had been misplaced.


I shoved my head back under the bed as quickly as a middle-aged Ninja might and dragged the bowl out with difficulty – (it’s surprisingly very difficult to pick up anything with rubber gloves).

The bowl was full of white powder with a straw protruding from the centre of the incriminating pile.

My worst fears had been realised. I sat down on the bed and shed a tear for my son.

I called mission control NC on my phone. She picked up immediately from her bedroom next door.

‘The eagle has landed,’ I whispered.

‘Why are you whispering? Kurt’s at school,’ she responded drily. ‘And what do you mean, the eagle has landed?’

‘Sorry, I mean’t ‘mission accomplished.’ I still whispered, shakily. ‘I’ve found his stash….the evidence,’ I said, ‘and it’s worse than we thought.’

‘Bring it in here,’ she answered, sounding authoritative but bored.

I covered my tracks by throwing a few more crumpled tee shirts on the floor as well as three wet towels from the bathroom, and then proceeded to the lab NC’s room to get the evidence examined.

NC looked at the bowl sitting in the palms of my trembling, yellow rubber hands, gravely.

She put her finger in the powder and licked it, (authentically, like those real detectives on CSI), while I held my breath.

‘This is serious,’ she said, as any final hope of saving my son began to disappear in a cloud of Cocaine. The shower scene in Midnight Express flashed before my eyes.

‘Kurt’s seriously addicted to WhizzFizz.’

6 thoughts on “Parenting Teenagers and Ignoring Their ‘Right To Privacy’

  1. My husband and I both believed that whilst our two sons lived in our house with us, there was no “right to privacy” as such. We were both in and out of their bedrooms every day – putting freshly ironed uniforms in wardrobes, taking out dirty laundry, picking up odd bits and pieces off the floor, pulling up the doona on the bed. No food, drinks or plates were allowed in bedrooms. Drawers were checked simply when we put fresh undies and socks in them, under the bed was vacuumed as a matter of course. No locks were on any doors or even anything in the house We never felt the least bit guilty about this – our two beautiful sons were the loves of our lives (and still are) and it was our duty to keep them healthy and clean, happy, well educated, hopefully well adjusted, and out of harms way. They had no televisions or computers in their bedrooms, just their study desks. We had a large family room off both their bedrooms which was for their use. Televisions and computers were in the main family area and the swing door into this room was in constant use by all of us. They were allowed food and drink in these areas and we often looked over their shoulders at what they were up to on the computers. It simply would not have occurred to us not to look at what they were doing as we were always interested and it would not have occurred to our sons to ask us not look as it was private, or secret. A mobile phone was given to each of them when they turned 17 and got their drivers license and we bought them a car. They were basically for emergency use in the car only and any phone calls made to friends were made from the landline phone at home. We don’t believe we were overly protective parents, or overly intrusive parents. We are just loving parents who did the best we could with the knowledge we had and the instincts from our own up-bringing. My younger son has often said he had the most wonderful childhood a kid could have. For my elder son, the verdict is still out, but one out of two isn’t bad and my husband and I believe we did the best we could do and are content with that. It’s not my place to give advice to anyone, but OCD or ADD or whatever, I’d go in Kurt’s room EVERY SINGLE DAY and clean it up (I mean check it out) and he could scream his head off till he went hoarse, or got used to it. Your house, your son, your rules.


    1. Thank you for taking so much time to respond. I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks that kids aren’t old enough to know what’s good for them when their brains are still developing. I try not to be a ‘helicopter’ parent most of the time but if I can prevent Kurt doing something really stupid, I will. Of course, he doesn’t know I was in his room sniffing his sherbert, but that doesn’t matter. If the powder had been something else, we would have taken action.


      1. I guess we didn’t know we were “helicopter” parents, we just did what seemed natural to us. Not that we didn’t find Playboy magazines under my elder son’s bed, a few cocktail ‘gas’ bubblet things for sniffing when he started work as an apprentice chef, and later a strange wafting smell at 3am after he came home from his shifts at the restaurant. My husband had a conniption, but I said Playboy magazines were normal at his age and he should just leave them on his bedside table, not bother to put them under the bed. The ‘gas’ bubblets were completely banned and we told him why and how harmful they were to his brain, especially as he wanted to be a great chef. We agreed that he could smoke one ‘funny cigarette’ after work at home and also have a drink in the comfort of his own home. About 4am I’d get up and put a rug over him as he had usually fallen asleep on the couch by then. He doesn’t drink or smoke anything nowadays, is a loving father of my two gorgeous baby grandsons and with two individual Michelin Medals from restaurants in London where he was Executive Chef, he is one of the top 100 chefs in the world. He now runs his own (very tiny) gourmet restaurant, working 100 hours a week unfortunately. AND, he is still very ambivalent about his relationship with me and his Dad. (Free babysitting, washing and ironing of both personal clothes for the family and all the work uniforms, daily book-keeping for the restaurant and also daily errands for stock aside). He is a typical bad-tempered chef and a misery-guts into the bargain. But what the heck – you have kids, you have them for life, the good and the bad and all the work included. Our younger son is my joy, my love and the sweetest child God put on earth. Loves me, loves his Dad, married a gorgeous ballerina, loves his life, his job – the world is a most wondrous and wonderful place to him. I guess we did something right, but who really knows?


      2. I love your writing. It’s really hard finding the balance isn’t it. I feel we keep compromising to keep our son on side and on track but he ends up hating us. But we have a life too. I suppose we all end up trying our best and if that doesn’t work, we can’t really blame ourselves. All kids blame their parents for screwing up their lives at some point, don’t they?


  2. Thank you, needless to say, I absolutely adore your funny, sad, and “right on the money” blog and look forward to it every day or so. It’s so funny isn’t it – we swear we’ll never be the terrible parents we THOUGHT our parents were to us (and sometimes they were pretty bad, with corporal punishment being the norm in those days) and we swear we will be the best, most understanding parents in the world and our children will grow up happy and well adjusted and love us all our lives. Well, that dream just flies out the window, doesn’t it? Things you don’t even remember having done, they seemed so trivial, are WRIT LARGE in the little black-hearted darlings minds. And we were the same about our parents “mistakes” in child rearing. I firmly believe that there has never been a case in all the world, down through history, of a Mother bringing up her children RIGHT!


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