My Kids Are Old Enough to Snoop and It Sucks

Overall, having little kids is a tough job. But one thing is blissfully, blessedly easy: hiding stuff from them.

When they're young, you can practically hide things in plain sight. Presents? No problem. A secret stash of candy? No one will touch it but you. Toys of the, um, "grown-up" variety? Questionable reading material? It doesn't matter where you put it! They can't reach. They can't read. They are unable to unlock, incapable of incapacitating whatever security measures you've put in place.

Since they're never really left unattended, they don't even have the opportunity to snoop even if they wanted to. And even if you slip up and leave something in plain sight, they're innocent and gullible enough that even the most ridiculous explanation is enough to satisfy them. ("Oh, this vibrating thing? It's Mommy's . . . uh . . . electric hammer.") Parenting babies, toddlers, and preschoolers may not be simple, but at least this one aspect is a no-brainer.

When they get a bit older, though, it's a different story. They start to put two and two together and realize that there's a whole world of fun, forbidden treasures waiting to be uncovered if they can just escape their parents' watchful gaze for a few moments. It starts out with the stealthy pilfering of little things you've put just out of reach. Your Band-Aids, your Post-It notes, your roll of tape. You go to grab a paper clip or your favorite pen and — what do you know? — someone has been going through your desk. Then they graduate to putting their sticky little fingers in higher places, finding, for example, the extra box of fruit snacks you've tucked away on the top shelf of the pantry.

These things are annoying but tolerable. However, the older they get, the more high-stakes their snooping becomes. A kindergartner going through your drawer might swipe a pen, but a fourth grader going through your closet might ruin a major surprise, especially if they have younger siblings and a tendency toward being a blabbermouth. Or they might just uncover something you're not exactly ready to explain.

My older kids have reached the age where hiding things from them is no longer a no-brainer, but a mentally taxing process. I have to anticipate where they're most likely to look, calculate how long it would take them — and what lengths they would have to go to — to reach certain places, and stay one step ahead of them by employing the most creative camouflage techniques I can fathom. I have to rely on the assistance of friends and family and arrange stealthy transfers of birthday and holiday gifts from one location to another. I'm not dealing with amateurs anymore; they're like in-house private investigators. It's exhausting.

It's karma, I know it is. I was the absolute worst about snooping around when I was a kid. I knew the contents of the back of every underwear drawer, closet, and nightstand in my house, which is what led to the trauma of finding my parents' book of sex positions with full-color photographs (it was from the late '70s. Hair everywhere). But did it teach me a lesson? Nope. Within days I was rifling through my grandma's dresser, trying on all her gaudy costume jewelry when she wasn't looking.

I don't know why kids are so nosy when it comes to poking around where they're not supposed to. I guess it's the thrilling possibility of discovering something forbidden (such as '70s-era erotica. Yuck). Or the anticipation of knowing what a gift is going to be before you're officially allowed to unwrap it. They don't seem to realize that spoiling their own surprises will take all the fun out of the actual occasion. Sure, maybe they'd learn a lesson when there's nothing unexpected on, say, Christmas morning — but even one ruined holiday is one ruined holiday too many.

So that's why I'll keep coming up with innovative ways to keep things away from prying eyes, setting up booby traps and strategically laid hairs so I can tell if my secret locations have been tampered with. Because they may be getting good at snooping, but I'm getting good at thwarting even their best efforts.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to cover the entrance to my underground bunker with some more leaves. The holidays are coming, you know.