The universe recently presented me with a very interesting moral dilemma. A big one. It’s really, really fascinating to see what went through my head.
And, by the way, my kids are going to be mortified when they read this, but that happens sometimes in life, doesn’t it?
I don’t want to name anyone or point to anyone here, so I’m going to name the child that I was having the conversation with as W (a letter with is not related in any way to any of my children) (and it isn’t X, it’s way cooler).
I heard the ping of a new text from one of the kids; I glanced at the message on my phone, but decided to answer it on my iPad because it’s easier to type. Only I couldn’t follow the conversation on there because it went like this:
Child W: [the message that I’d glanced at on my phone about our recent phone call]… followed by a string of other messages that didn’t make any sense and which I didn’t remember sending:
Child W: “you okay?”
Me: “yes, I’m good. He’s not”
Child W: “Feel relieved?”
Child W: “What’d he say?”
Me: “Just kinda agreed with me…”
My iPad hadn’t connected to the internet for a while, so I thought that maybe it was just having a hissy fit and downloading random old messages in a bizarre order. I carried on with my conversation with Child W, but as I was doing that, more random messages appeared, including some from me that had nothing to do with the conversation that Child W & I were currently engaged in.
I was getting more and more confused. I spent a few enjoyable minutes cursing the incompetence of iCloud, the idiocy of Apple for creating something that could lead to an occurrence like this, and the annoying glitches of technology in general for a while before a thought hit me: what if iCloud has arbitrarily added someone else’s phone number to my iMessages? It’s done that occasionally in the past and if it had done it again that would explain everything. I did a bit of scouting round and sure enough, iMessage had arbitrarily checked a box to add one of the kids’ numbers to my list of contact numbers. But only on my iPad. Not on my phone or my laptop, just my iPad. It was one nice, puzzling, final touch to the mix; the icing on the cake, so to speak.
What all this meant was that I now had access to the innermost sanctum, the holiest of holy places, the Area 51 of one of my children’s existences: their text messages.
The information that I now had access to was… well, let’s call it interesting. The things I could find out. The conversations that I could listen in on. The photos I could see. Oh, and look at all those incriminating videos. And that’s only from two days over the weekend. Hmm. Here was an opportunity to spy on my child and they’d never know! I’d know exactly what they were up to and whether they’d lied to me or not. I wouldn’t have to put on the Mummy Feelers and figure out whether they were being completely honest or not, because I’d know for sure what was going on.
I sat there, looking at iMessages on my iPad, wondering what to do; do I download everything, read everything, check up on what they’ve been doing, find out what they’re up to? I could have a lot of fun with this, sending random responses to people and they’d think I was my child! This could be so entertaining! I also had the opportunity to be a total helicopter parent, constantly watching my child, always 100% aware of what they’re up to.
In the end, unbelievably tempting though it was, and no doubt to the despair of all those policemen in my family, I deleted the number from my list. There are some things that a parent just does not want to know about her children. Plus, I wouldn’t like someone else to spy on me. I’m going to go all moral and preachy now: I don’t want the kind of relationship with anyone that relies on me never believing them unless I have evidence to corroborate their claim, particularly not my children. I want my kids to understand the necessity for honesty in a relationship and I’m not sure they can do that if I’m always looking over their shoulder. Unless you’ve experienced the dilemma of either telling someone the truth and getting into trouble about it or lying about it, not getting told off but (hopefully) feeling bad about lying to someone you care about, you’ll never understand the need for honesty in a relationship. That’s my thought. I know someone who makes sure she has access to everything her kids do, whether that’s texts, Facebook or other social media. She limits the time they have access to any of those things and whenever they do go on, she’s on their accounts watching them and following all the conversations. I did that while my kids were under 13 or so, but once they got to that age, I figured they needed to learn to grow up and behave responsibly.
I have to trust them. I want to know that they’re moral creatures who can work out whether things are right for them or not. I want them to be able to decide those things for themselves and understand that ultimately, they’re the only ones who have to live with the truth about themselves.
Now, I need to have a conversation with a couple of my children because it’s come to light that not only have they lied to me on several occasions, but I’ve also acted on those lies while believing them to be true. I can guarantee that this is not going to be a pleasant experience for the children involved but it will be a valuable lesson.
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Hi! I’m Karen O’Connor, hormonally-challenged, menopausal writer, blogger, self-confessed sarcasm enthusiast, mother of 4, wife of 30 years, destroyer of souls... no, wait, that's just in the mornings...