Saturday, October 20, 2007

Invasion of Privacy

Maerlowe writes

You know, we still leave Huck's clothes and toys and things on the floor where he can see them. We used to put his clothing and toys away each day, but then it made him frantic -- do you remember how he reacted to the 'no pantry" thing this summer at my grandparents? Not being able to see the food/clothes/toys he has makes him insane.

I totally realize that Huck's 4 and Frankie's not... But. We've been trained not to put things in the drawers. Better to have a pile of wrinkled, clean clothes than a child who isn't sure whether he belongs or not.
I started to respond to Maerlowe in a comment, but I decided this was important enough to put in a post.

First, Maerlowe is right. Kids of all ages can feel much more secure with all their belongings in sight. I think that is probably true for Frankie as well. His being older adds another dimension: he may regard it as a justifiable invasion of privacy.

When I decided to do it I was thinking only about how frustrated he has been about not being able to find his own belongings, the fact that I knew some of Andrew's and Brian's things were in that mess, and that it really seemed to have got to the point where it was a fire and safety hazard. I also just couldn't imagine doing it with him. Not because he would not want me to (Evan HATED for me to even look inside his room), but because I just could not imagine him doing anything other than get in my way -- but that might not be fair. Another motivation is that he is supposed to have an inventory of his possessions and though I am confident that I mailed it in, they don't have it. Cleaning his room seemed to be a good, perhaps even necessary, way to do that.

In retrospect, I'm not confident that cleaning his room while he was gone was wise. In fact, it unexpectedly became MUCH more complicated: when I cleaned the room Hubby was able to see that the bed frame had gone wonky. He took apart the bed to fix it and found ... um ... a Secret Thing. It was clearly hidden from us and I am not certain how to deal with it.

If he is upset about the room cleaning, we will apologize and promise not to do it again -- and we won't. We won't however allow his room to get THAT messy again. I really think it was unsafe.

Tomorrow I am going to buy some clear plastic boxes that will fit on his shelves for all his toys and stuff. One of the things that I found was the key to his lock box, and I will offer to put a lock on his storage cupboard, or take the doors off so he can see inside -- whichever he prefers. I want him to know that I really do want to respect his privacy, and I will understand if he has a need for things to be where he can see them. Probably none of this will help. He will continue to drop toys, clothes, trash, and everything else wherever he is.

Regarding The Secret Thing under his bed...well...we are whimping out. We put it back along with some of his papers and stuff, creating the impression that we never cleaned under the bed. We are telling the social worker and counselor what we found and will follow their advice.

Sadly, though I found several things he had lost, I did not find some things he lost recently that he was upset about. I would like to find those for him, but they could be anywhere in the house.

Given that he had put NOTHING inside his dresser I am wondering if I should take it out and replace it with shelves.

Clearly I haven't given up hope that we can keep at least some of this things off the floor and the trash in the trash can.


  1. Until I was 13 or 14 my mother cleaned my room twice a year. Everything came out, swept, mopped, and put back in. After I was old enough for real privacy she would only open the door to get the clothes basket. Anything not in the basket didn't get washed. I learned to do laundry very early on.

    The rule was we didn't go into my parent's room and they didn't come into ours without a good reason.

    I can only imagine at the things you found in there.

  2. There was a certain threshold of messiness that I was allowed to get to before my mother would go into our rooms, and she would warn us when we reached it. If she had to go in and clean, we were in trouble, and got grounded. At the time our house was very troubled, but I didn't have Frankie's kinds of troubles. I was able to trust that if my mom found my diary, she wouldn't read it, for instance, though she told me she reserved the right to if she felt I was in some sort of danger.

    I don't know if you've heard of "Messies Anonymous" but it is a series of organizing books written for people who have ADD/OCD (as well as anyone else whose brains just can't organize well). They have a book for people who live with "Messies" as well as books aimed at those of us who are. They might be a resource for ideas about making Frankie's room make more sense to him and be more useful. There is a little bit of "Christian" preaching, but I thought it was fairly benign.

  3. I think there are definitely allowable limits of mess and then there's crossing the line. Slugger has to pick up his room every day. Now his version of clean and mine are different, but if he makes a recognizable effort, I'm happy.

    Regarding the Secret Thing -- if it isn't a danger to Frankie or anyone else, (and I assume it isn't) I would have done the exact same thing you did.

  4. i have two armchairs in my bedroom that have long been reguarded as my closets! all the clothes are mostly folded and neatly stacked, and one chair has the clothes i wear often and the other the stuff i wear not so much. then there is a chest of drawers behind the door that has teeshirts, underwear, etc. folded neatly on top. don't ask me why, as i have not a clue! there is a big closet and empty drawers. oh, the most of the hanging clothes hang on a hook behind the door and from hangers on the top drawers of the chest. it's all very neat, but it drives people who haven't known me forever nuts! the ones who have known me forever are just pleased it is no longer piled in the floor in frount of the chest of drawers!


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