Friday, July 27, 2012

Locks and snares

Last day of writing about stealing.  For me, if there were a fun aspect of this --- there's not, actually, but if there were --- it would be the physical part.  James Bond-esque traps to detect the burglar.  Carpentry projects that remove objects from temptation's way.  So, I admit that when I start suspecting theft, I go all 007.  

When I thought maybe one of our kids was drinking our booze, I removed all bottles but one (that's not unusual in our home).  On that one, I drew a small, unobtrusive line at the height of the remaining alcohol.  I also used candle wax to attach a piece of thread to the cap and the bottle.  This was not so much to catch the child in the act as to confirm whether I was imagining things.  When, a week or so later, the thread had come off and the liquid had gone down a half-inch, I felt almost a relief -- I hadn't been hallucinating.

It's for the same reason -- to make sure I'm not losing my marbles -- that I sometimes leave a small object like a ball at the base of our bedroom door, in such a way that opening the door would roll it away.  It's almost more for my ease of mind than anything else.  And peace of mind is especially important in a home where there's been stealing going on -- otherwise, any thing I casually misplace becomes a reason for panic that it's been picked up by the wrong person.

On the other hand, when the ball gets rolled away AND the candy jar seems lighter than usual, then I know I'm not just misremembering the candy level.  A weirdly helpful kind of certainty.

So, if the "traps" are for my own sanity, then the locks are to help the kids:  "Lead me not into temptation".  Once they're convinced (after many half-hearted tries) that the gummy vitamins are completely inaccessible, they begin to lose interest, develop new habits.

The problem with locks is that they're a pain in the . . . in the family.  I resisted putting locks in my sewing room for a long time, and finally gave in when I realized that was the most humane way of keeping my kids out things they couldn't help themselves from getting into.  When C-son recently  started going through things in our bedroom, I was much quicker to add them.

I don't recommend safes for deterring kid-burglars.  First of all, they're very expensive -- tiny ones too small to use can easily be $70, and most safes run in the hundreds of dollars.  But more importantly, they're a pain to use: you don't want to bend over and lock and unlock a safe several times a day.  And if you start leaving things out of the locked area and your kids discover this, you've extended ten-fold the number of times they'll scout around to see whether you've done it again.  The locks have to be easy to use consistently.  All the time.

Combination locks are great.  Not only do you not need to keep track of a key, but if you worry that the kids have mastered the combination you can change it.  (In contrast, recently one of my kids found the key to a regular lock and took it, which resulted in very very tense discussions to get it returned).   Another huge plus for a combination lock is that it has its very own "trap" aspect.  That is, I remember two combinations:  the one that opens it, and the one I leave the lock on once I've locked it.  If I see anything else, I know the kids have been trying to get in, and I can step up my vigilance.
My sewing room closet door, with an added lock.
 Here's a lock I added to my sewing room closet door last year -- in that closet, I can store lots and lots of stuff away from the kids.  The combination lock uses letters, not numbers.  My current "closed" word is "Woote" (that changes occasionally).  I'm very certain that the kids haven't messed with this lock in months.
Close-up of the lock in standard (for now) closed position.
Here's a lock we just added this past weekend to my husband's ugly dresser.  

The lock didn't make it any prettier, but it does mean he can use his entire top drawer to stash away electronics, his wallet, etc -- which is what he was used to doing anyway, without the lock.  And we do know that unsuccessful  attempts were recently made to get in.  So we'll be careful about being consistent and careful about this for the next month or so.

Here's a somewhat less ugly lock.

I have a solid oak nightstand, and I didn't want to completely uglify it.  So I added what my hardware store calls a "keyed sash lock".  It's meant for windows, but I think it doesn't look that bad on my nightstand.  For what it's worth, I got this idea from a lockable nightstand that my sister bought two years ago.  She doesn't have kids who are live-in burglars like I do, but one summer when she had a bunch of different house guests she lost some heirloom jewelry, and decided to have a safe place of her own.

The disadvantage is keeping track of the key.  I thought I could put it discretely on a hook elsewhere in the room; as I mentioned above, that was a huge mistake.  Drat.  

These locks were fairly inexpensive and easy to install (each lock cost me somewhere between $8 and $20, depending on the type).  As I've said, I really wish I didn't have to lock things up in my own home.  But given the circumstances, these are the least stressful part of restraining and retraining my kids.

1 comment:

  1. You are not the only one who has had to lock things up. We have had to do the same at various times and for various reasons with our own blood children. Sometimes a child's curiosity and/or need is more than their maturity level can withstand. Now that our children are mostly grown we don't have to have the locks anymore, but if there are any problems they know the locks will go back on. Physical barriers help children to learn to resist temptation and redirect their attention to "legal" things, or to ask permission. Keep up the good work.