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Plateau Mama

Snooping MIL

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Just wondering what you all would have done? I was so gobsmacked I just looked at her with a look that said WTH are you doing?!

 

Last night my MIL went to my desk and started rifling through my papers. Then she pulled out DD's PSAT scores and started looking through them. To be clear, the scores weren't just laying on the table, they were filed away in a letter sorter type thing on my desk. They weren't visible unless you were rifling through the other stuff up there. when she saw us looking at her she said she was looking for DD's ACT scores.

 

My FIL & I just looked at her in disbelief. My husband said I should have called her on it but he wasn't home and I didn't want to do that without him home to support me. Because, trust me, I would have been the bad guy and she would have made Christmas miserable. Just trust me on that.

 

Edited title to fix (funny) autocorrect.

Edited by Plateau Mama
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I'd have chuckled and said, "You should have asked.  They're right here."  Then we'd have talked about the highs and lows (or whatever about the scores) together.

 

We're a pretty close family.  Nothing is off limits in our houses or conversations.  I like it that way.

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Wow.  You have way more self control than I!  I would have been asking her WTH she thought she was doing?

 

ETA:  I wouldn't have thought twice about sharing those things with her, if she'd asked, but to rifle through my personal things would have sent me through the roof.  

Edited by The Girls' Mom
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When I'm shocked by a-social behaviour (ie when people break norms, violate social conventions) I have the unfortunate and embarrassing habit of outright correcting them -- usually using the key words and phrases (and tone!) I used when my kids were preschoolers. It just pops out!

 

So, honestly, what would have pooped out of my mouth would have been firm-friendly-preschool-teacher voice saying, "Nana! That's not your desk. Hands off please."

 

Then there would have been fall out.

Edited by bolt.
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Whether or not the scores would be open for discussion is beside the point.  I'd have been angry about her going through my papers.  It's hard for me to imagine someone doing such a thing.  

 

On the other hand, my in-laws have no idea if or when my kids took the SAT, ACT, etc.  They are not that involved in our lives.  It might actually be nice to have grandparents who were interested in such things.

 

But, for crying out loud, just ask, don't start going through someone's desk!

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I have had this happen.  I think different people have different definitions/comfort zones for personal boundaries.  If there was no malicious intent then I probably would have stepped up, politely asked her to ask me for the scores next time, then provided the scores if I thought it was appropriate for her to see them.  

 

FWIW, it would have irritated me but I know from personal experience that when my MIL starts going through things she really isn't trying to be a PITA.  She just doesn't have the same boundary system.  And she leaves important papers all over the place.  Anyone could read them.

 

If you have a somewhat contentious relationship with your MIL that makes things much trickier.  She may like to push boundaries to make a statement that she is the one in control or may genuinely believe that you are "only the wife" and she has rights as the grandmother that she doesn't think you should be allowed to interfere with.  Or many other scenarios.  If you and your DH could brainstorm ways to create better boundaries and stick to those boundaries in a polite but very clear and firm way that might help.

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Wow. I'm sorry you don't feel comfortable politely telling her to please not go through your personal papers on your desk. Are we allowed to suggest a trip over to DWIL for additional help? I've been lurking over there, and they are generally pretty helpful. Very blunt, but helpful.

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Just wondering what you all would have done? I was so gobsmacked I just looked at her with a look that said WTH are you doing?!

 

Last night my MIL went to my desk and started rifling through my papers. Then she pulled out DD's PSAT scores and started looking through them. To be clear, the scores weren't just laying on the table, they were filed away in a letter sorter type thing on my desk. They weren't visible unless you were rifling through the other stuff up there. when she saw us looking at her she said she was looking for DD's ACT scores.

 

My FIL & I just looked at her in disbelief. My husband said I should have called her on it but he wasn't home and I didn't want to do that without him home to support me. Because, trust me, I would have been the bad guy and she would have made Christmas miserable. Just trust me on that.

 

I would have done exactly what you did and then escorted her out of the room without commenting.  I try to avoid confrontation and drama, especially when speaking up results in nothing constructive as the bolded indicates is the situation in your case. 

 

I think it is extremely inappropriate to go through someone's personal papers, regardless of whether or not they are family.  If it were me, I would make sure that personal items are locked up before MIL's next visit.

 

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We intentionally did not tell her DD's scores. This year or last. My niece is a senior this year and my DD has done much better than her on standardized testing and is overall a better student. My MIL tends to make stupid comments comparing the girls that I feel are harmful for my niece to hear. Thing like well niece has no community service. How on earth will she ever get into college. Niece didn't take calculus as a freshman what is she going to do. Etc.

 

We were telling no one the scores so MIL wouldn't go back and make niece feel bad.

Edited by Plateau Mama
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My mom reorganized my kitchen desk once, when she was watching the kids while we went to a wedding out of town.  She thought she was helping.  And yes, it made me lose important papers (you know, because everyone thinks to look for the important ones taped to the inside of the cabinet).  My blood pressure rises just thinking about it nearly ten years later.  This is the same person who opened my snail-mail admission decisions from three colleges because I was at work.

 

I do think it's a boundary thing.  My mom seems to feel that her children's spaces are hers and always needs to be called out because she doesn't see the boundary.

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Whether or not the scores would be open for discussion is beside the point. I'd have been angry about her going through my papers. It's hard for me to imagine someone doing such a thing.

 

On the other hand, my in-laws have no idea if or when my kids took the SAT, ACT, etc. They are not that involved in our lives. It might actually be nice to have grandparents who were interested in such things.

 

But, for crying out loud, just ask, don't start going through someone's desk!

This is how I feel - someone's desk is private.

 

As for the test scores, those are the intellectual property of my children - not me! I don't share those without THEIR permission! So even if my mil asked me, it wouldn't be my right to share that info with her without first asking permission of the student. By the time my kids are old enough to be taking college entrance tests, they are old enough to have an opinion on the privacy of that sort of info. If the student wants to share that's his or her business, but not my privilege.

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I have a friend who realized her MIL was doing this exact same thing -- except looking for financial papers to figure out how they bought their house -- when she took care of the kids and my friend was out of the house.

 

I'd met the MIL at several parties and she's clearly narcissistic. Rude, cold, demanding, "her way." Just lots of fun.

 

Alley

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After reading your reasons for not sharing the scores, I don't know what I would do. My DC are usually on the receiving end of the comparisons; even when my DC do better, things are twisted around to make my SIL's children appear to be more social, more competent, more caring, more gracious, more everything. 

 

I would have been upset about the intrusion into my personal space. My desk is where I keep all sorts of personal information - bills, appt reminders, work info, etc. I don't know ow I would have reacted but I'm fairly certain it wouldn't have been pretty. I tend to have knee jerk reactions when blindsided. I would have, however, composed an eloquent retort about three days later when it wouldn't have helped at all.

 

I'm sorry you had to experience this.

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I'd probably print off some 'interesting' things for her to find next time. Lab reports. Letters from the local government. Letters from bill collection agencies. All sorts of 'interesting' reading. 

 

And then we'd talk about it NOT being appropriate to snoop in other people's houses. No matter what relation. We respect each other's privacy in our house. I had to go through college girl's drawer looking for a specific piece of paper. I didn't like it but she was texting me to go find it, where it was, and what it was. She needed a picture of it. Your desk, your room, your stuff - I'll stay out of it. I expect you to do the same.

 

 

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I think you handled it as best as you could, given the circumstances (shock plus no DH available to back you up -- I understand how this can be necessary).  I would have been ticked for sure.  My MIL is a doctor.  Great when a kid runs into a wall and you don't know if they need stitches.  Not great just about any time I am pregnant or sick. We have serious boundary issues in this dept and I can't stand the thought of her in my papers. 

 

Going forward, are they staying at your house? Or going to be in your house a lot over the holidays?  I'd have my DH tell her to leave the desks alone, it can wait until after Christmas (so she can't ruin it) but just keep her chaperoned with a kid or yourself.  Or lock that room (idk if it is in a main family room).  Or simply put a "do not touch" piece of paper smack in the middle, with a thank you and a smiley face of course.  Maybe even a disclaimer about "avalanche risk" or something if I was trying to be more careful of feelings. 

 

OR if I was feeling super passive aggressive I would at least day dream about buying a mega roll of saran wrap from Costco and wrap my desk with it, so you can SEE all the papers, but you can't TOUCH anything but saran wrap.  This takes time, effort, and frustration.  Especially if you need something while you have company.  And it may look silly to those not in the know.  But I'd still day dream :)

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I would have, however, composed an eloquent retort about three days later when it wouldn't have helped at all.

 

I'm sorry you had to experience this.

I tidied my desk this morning. I'm thinking when she arrives today I am going to say something along the lines of "I straightened my desk so it would be easier for you to snoop."

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I'd probably print off some 'interesting' things for her to find next time. Lab reports. Letters from the local government. Letters from bill collection agencies. All sorts of 'interesting' reading. 

 

And then we'd talk about it NOT being appropriate to snoop in other people's houses. No matter what relation. We respect each other's privacy in our house. I had to go through college girl's drawer looking for a specific piece of paper. I didn't like it but she was texting me to go find it, where it was, and what it was. She needed a picture of it. Your desk, your room, your stuff - I'll stay out of it. I expect you to do the same.

 I thought about doing exactly that. Some divorce papers. My will opened to the page that show who gets custody of my kids right next to print outs of some horrible medical diagnoses. The only thing that stops me is that you would never convince her that those things weren't true.  

I think you handled it as best as you could, given the circumstances (shock plus no DH available to back you up -- I understand how this can be necessary).  I would have been ticked for sure.  My MIL is a doctor.  Great when a kid runs into a wall and you don't know if they need stitches.  Not great just about any time I am pregnant or sick. We have serious boundary issues in this dept and I can't stand the thought of her in my papers. 

 

Going forward, are they staying at your house? Or going to be in your house a lot over the holidays?  I'd have my DH tell her to leave the desks alone, it can wait until after Christmas (so she can't ruin it) but just keep her chaperoned with a kid or yourself.  Or lock that room (idk if it is in a main family room).  Or simply put a "do not touch" piece of paper smack in the middle, with a thank you and a smiley face of course.  Maybe even a disclaimer about "avalanche risk" or something if I was trying to be more careful of feelings. 

 

OR if I was feeling super passive aggressive I would at least day dream about buying a mega roll of saran wrap from Costco and wrap my desk with it, so you can SEE all the papers, but you can't TOUCH anything but saran wrap.  This takes time, effort, and frustration.  Especially if you need something while you have company.  And it may look silly to those not in the know.  But I'd still day dream :)

. They do not stay at our house. That's another story. They are here till the 27th. The desk is in the main area. I don't really keep much there. Just general stuff I'm currently dealing with. The PSAT scores came the day before they arrived and I just put them on my desk because my file cabinet is hard to access ATM and I didn't want to lose them.

 

I really like the Saran Wrap. Maybe I'll do that along with some "shocking papers" peeking out.

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I don't know what I'd do if she were doing it right in front of me!! One time, my MIL was babysitting our first child when I was pregnant with the second, but hadn't told anyone. I deliberately hid the prenatal vitamins. When we did announce, she said they already knew because they had seen my vitamins. The ones that I had carefully hidden. She isn't at our house often, but I have thrown everything I don't want her to see in our bedroom and locked the door. If she is snooping and finds a locked door, what's she going to say? If she's not snooping, she'll never know the door was locked.

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This is how I feel - someone's desk is private.

 

As for the test scores, those are the intellectual property of my children - not me! I don't share those without THEIR permission! So even if my mil asked me, it wouldn't be my right to share that info with her without first asking permission of the student. By the time my kids are old enough to be taking college entrance tests, they are old enough to have an opinion on the privacy of that sort of info. If the student wants to share that's his or her business, but not my privilege.

 

That is a very good point.  I didn't think of that at first because it's never come up.  But now that you say it, of course I would ask them first.  Thanks for adding that.  

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My mom is the type to snoop, but she won't drive the 1 1/2 hours (or have my sister drive her) to come see my family. (She did come down for an old work friend's graduation-from-college party. I drove up, picked her up, and drove her back down as it was important for her to see her friend on her important day. Note: She refused to let my sister drive her down to see my three girls receive Confirmation a couple months ago.) So, I don't have that problem. When she wants to know stuff, I either tell her or refuse.

 

My FIL has apparently snooped on both of his sons to find out how much they make. BIL caught him. We didn't, but he started throwing around numbers with DH - numbers that were accurate for *that year* (since dh's income changes year to year). The only way he'd have those numbers is if he found where DH files away his pay sheets and studied them.

 

So, I don't know what to tell you because I wouldn't know what to say to FIL if I caught him other than "No decent person snoops on other people like what you are doing. Get out of my house [and don't come back.]"

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Since it's already done, I would just clean out the desk and put the papers elsewhere until they leave. I would make it uncomfortably obvious that I had done so. ;)

 

I have a snoopy mom, so I am pretty sensitive to stuff like this.

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I tidied my desk this morning. I'm thinking when she arrives today I am going to say something along the lines of "I straightened my desk so it would be easier for you to snoop."

My oldest does academically better than a same age nephew so I understand. My paternal grandmother is a snoop so everyone learns to lock the master bedroom when she comes to visit. My MIL also snoops even though ill intent is not there, she is just gossipy. My hubby leaves bills out for me to file and I do filing when it is a nice tall pile. So my MIL is welcomed to look at all the dental, mortgage, insurance, property tax bills. Besides she doesn't believe how high it is until she sees it so she is welcome to rummage through the bills.

 

My kids test scores are in one of many identical zip binders. The binders are under my piano bench due to lack of space. It would be funny for anyone to hunt.

 

Hubby's payslips are electronic. His parents do snoop but they asked about my parents pay and my pay before marriage so I expected the snooping. My pay was higher than my husband so that shut the conversation down. Income tax documents are in a storage tote below my kids toys storage tote. So no one will lift three 18 gallon tote packed with Legos to look for W2s.

Edited by Arcadia

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My FIL has apparently snooped on both of his sons to find out how much they make. BIL caught him. We didn't, but he started throwing around numbers with DH - numbers that were accurate for *that year* (since dh's income changes year to year). The only way he'd have those numbers is if he found where DH files away his pay sheets and studied them.

.]"

A couple of years ago my MIL told my husband. "Our financial planner says you are worth $x-xx million." DH, after getting over the shock of his mother speaking of his supposed net worth to others laughed and said "Do you think I'd really be going to work every day if I was worth $xx million.?" I don't know if the conversation really happened with the FP of if she was just trying to get him to reveal our finances but either way he wasn't happy.

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When I'm shocked by a-social behaviour (ie when people break norms, violate social conventions) I have the unfortunate and embarrassing habit of outright correcting them -- usually using the key words and phrases (and tone!) I used when my kids were preschoolers. It just pops out!

 

So, honestly, what would have pooped out of my mouth would have been firm-friendly-preschool-teacher voice saying, "Nana! That's not your desk. Hands off please."

 

Then there would have been fall out.

Preschool teacher voice is better than spontaneous pet trainer voice...

"Nana! NO! Drop it...Drop it"

*holds spray bottle at the ready*

;)

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I think that anyone who cannot be confronted for inappropriate behavior without making Christmas miserable has a bigger problem than being a snoop.

 

Saying nothing sends the implicit message that the behavior is acceptable.

 

I would have been shocked also, and would likely not have known what to say in the moment. But either myself or my dh (probably dh because it's his mom) would be sitting down with her saying something, politely but firmly. "PlateauMama told me you were looking through the our papers on our desk. We'd like our things to be private. If you have questions about xyz, please ask." The boundary is about expected future behavior.

 

Then enjoy your Christmas and let her decide if she's going to enjoy hers.

 

Hugs. FWIW, I have had to deal with some boundary crossing with my MIL that was even weirder. She's still speaking to me. We actually have a good relationship, and I think that's partly because she knows she can trust me to be (lovingly) straight with her.

Edited by myfunnybunch
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my mil would do that sort of stuff.  (she's now in a wheelchair.  has slowed her considerably.) actually, that's tame to some of the stuff mil would do.  her children regard her as nuts -so that helps.

 

I would have gone up to her, grabbed the paper out of her hand, said "oh, I need to put that away".  stared her down if needed, grabbed her arm and walked her to another room.   "here, have some bean dip."

 

arguing/confrontation doesn't work.   and "no you can't." isn't in her vocabulary.   think of a toddler - you redirect.

 

eta: and your husband is telling you *you* should call her on it?  she's HIS mother!

Edited by gardenmom5
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Leave sex toys in there next time.

 

I can understand being shocked and not able to say something. I would be shocked too. We keep privileged work documents at home sometimes, so that would be a reason to stop her for me. I would practice boundary-setting phrases and stick by them. If she gets ornery, tell her to leave. It's your house!

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I remember coming home from work and being confronted with my mom. "I found your booze!"

 

:-) She had been rummaging through my kitchen cabinets and ran across a bottle of wine and a bottle of Jack Daniels.

 

My brother had her visit this year and made sure to specifically show her his fully stocked liquor cabinet, "Help yourself." (She thinks anyone who drinks alcohol is a drunk, morally bankrupt, and will amount to nothing in life.) I admired his panache.

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I would not confront - especially people who would come to your house and then make your christmas miserable (I have a few of those types in my family). I would have taken the scores away and locked it away in a filing cabinet while she was looking. That should tell her that you don't appreciate the snooping and you would like to keep your daughter's scores private.

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I think that anyone who cannot be confronted for inappropriate behavior without making Christmas miserable has a bigger problem than being a snoop.

 

 

Saying nothing sends the implicit message that the behavior is enjoy your Christmas and let her decide if she's going to enjoy hers.

 

 

There are much bigger problems and whether I confront her or not she is going to do whatever she wants to do and justify it later.

 

It all just depends on how much of a ruckus I want to make the day before Christmas.

Edited by Plateau Mama
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eta: and your husband is telling you *you* should call her on it? she's HIS mother!

He wasn't home. He was just saying he would have been ok with me callin her on it.

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Leave sex toys in there next time.

 

I can understand being shocked and not able to say something. I would be shocked too. We keep privileged work documents at home sometimes, so that would be a reason to stop her for me. I would practice boundary-setting phrases and stick by them. If she gets ornery, tell her to leave. It's your house!

 

This is genius.

 

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I would've been shocked my inlaws 1. Know what the ACT is and 2. Had any interest in my child's scores. I love them but 🙄.

I'm sorry OP. This is a lose lose situation. I'd be so tempted to be sarcastic and tell her to wait to go through my things until I go out for coffee or whatever.

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Ya'll need to see this as an opportunity. I'd be leaving CIA credentials, incriminating photos, mob correspondence or something good for them to find.

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Just wondering what you all would have done? I was so gobsmacked I just looked at her with a look that said WTH are you doing?!

 

Last night my MIL went to my desk and started rifling through my papers. Then she pulled out DD's PSAT scores and started looking through them. To be clear, the scores weren't just laying on the table, they were filed away in a letter sorter type thing on my desk. They weren't visible unless you were rifling through the other stuff up there. when she saw us looking at her she said she was looking for DD's ACT scores.

 

My FIL & I just looked at her in disbelief. My husband said I should have called her on it but he wasn't home and I didn't want to do that without him home to support me. Because, trust me, I would have been the bad guy and she would have made Christmas miserable. Just trust me on that.

 

Edited title to fix (funny) autocorrect.

 

 

"Why are you going through my papers looking for it? Why didn't you just ask to see it?"

 

That would have come out of my mouth, whether or not I tried to stop it. 

 

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Ya'll need to see this as an opportunity. I'd be leaving CIA credentials, incriminating photos, mob correspondence or something good for them to find.

 

That's hilarious.

 

But it could backfire.  All she needs is the feds knocking on her door on Christmas.  ;)

 

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My FIL & I just looked at her in disbelief. My husband said I should have called her on it but he wasn't home and I didn't want to do that without him home to support me. Because, trust me, I would have been the bad guy and she would have made Christmas miserable. Just trust me on that.

 

Honestly? Given what you said here and in other comments on this thread, the only advice I can think of to give is "Set boundaries, and stick to them." I don't know what level of boundary you are willing to set - this is something you and your husband will have to decide together - but whatever you do, I strongly suggest you don't make any attempt to argue the point with MIL. Just tell her what the rule is and, if she breaks it, do whatever it is your husband and you have agreed will happen if she violates the boundary you set for your life. (I'd send her home, honestly.)

 

If this sounds like how you'd treat an overtired two year old, you're exactly right. There is no point in trying to reason with unreasonable people, and they look at the fact that you're engaging with them as a win anyway.

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There are much bigger problems and whether I confront her or not she is going to do whatever she wants to do and justify it later.

 

It all just depends on how much of a ruckus I want to make the day before Christmas.

Hugs.

 

Yes.

 

I get it. Believe me, btdt, have the t-shirt.

 

And, something to consider for the future, if you feel it's necessary someday....people like that count on their threatened ruckus stopping you from setting future boundaries. They count on their irrational reactions stopping you from enforcing rational expectations.

 

Setting boundaries and letting them be responsible for the repercussions of whatever tantrum they decide throw puts the responsibility for their behavior squarely back in their court.

 

Totally not saying you *should* do something different, btw. I know it's super hard to sort it all out when you're dealing with someone difficult. Just...her behavior is hers to own. Hugs again.

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That's hilarious.

 

But it could backfire. All she needs is the feds knocking on her door on Christmas. ;)

 

She IS the Feds! Did you not see the documentation?

 

Oooh oooh, make a witness protection relocation packet!!!

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Leave sex toys in there next time.

 

I can understand being shocked and not able to say something. I would be shocked too. We keep privileged work documents at home sometimes, so that would be a reason to stop her for me. I would practice boundary-setting phrases and stick by them. If she gets ornery, tell her to leave. It's your house!

Miss manners once advised a gentle reader to put marbles in her medicine cabinet. Something that would make a lot of noise when snoopy opened it. " oh, is that where I put them? Thank you for finding them for me." This said in front of everyone.

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Hugs.

 

Yes.

 

I get it. Believe me, btdt, have the t-shirt.

 

And, something to consider for the future, if you feel it's necessary someday....people like that count on their threatened ruckus stopping you from setting future boundaries. They count on their irrational reactions stopping you from enforcing rational expectations.

 

Setting boundaries and letting them be responsible for the repercussions of whatever tantrum they decide throw puts the responsibility for their behavior squarely back in their court.

 

Totally not saying you *should* do something different, btw. I know it's super hard to sort it all out when you're dealing with someone difficult. Just...her behavior is hers to own. Hugs again.

 

Like like like, because once isn't enough

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Ya'll need to see this as an opportunity. I'd be leaving CIA credentials, incriminating photos, mob correspondence or something good for them to find.

 

For real, they don't. My friends nephew, whom I've known since he was three, won't even confirm he's with state. And does things the large extended family have asked if he's cia. He won't confirm or deny that either.

 

eta: autocorrect is not your friend.  and on your phone - it's your enemy.

Edited by gardenmom5
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A filled in application to be a phone sex operator!!!

I'm going to have to add this to my list! Here's what I've come up with for her next visit.

 

 

 

1. Names of divorce lawyers.

2. Home listings. In Alaska.

3. Webmd printouts for a terminal (male) illness.

4. Drug rehab brochures.

5. Boarding schools. In Europe.

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I can't believe so many of you wouldn't say anything. I am somewhat private but tend to think I am not confrontational. Even so, I would have no problem telling a snooping relative (calmly) that I would like her not to do so again.

 

I don't think I need a reason. Even if it was were a stack of coupons, it just doesn't seem like anyone has a right to do that. I would never ask anyone, including my adult kids, what their child scored on such a test. I might say, "how did he do""?" But would not press at all if my DIL said, "He did fine."

 

I think this is a family culture thing. I can't imagine my mother looking through my mail or my papers.

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