Snooping mom feels shut out by son’s insistence on privacy

Dear Abby: My partner of 12 years and I are well-educated, successful career men. Every few months my mom comes to visit, and we all enjoy spending time together.

The last few visits were not so great. We caught Mom snooping in our bedroom and our home office. When we confronted her, she got upset and stormed out of the room in tears. I have asked her to respect our privacy, but her response is that she – as the mother – is the one who deserves respect.

We recently had some renovations done to the house that included locks on our bedroom and office doors. When neither of us are home, the doors stay locked.

Nothing was said about it during Mom's last visit, but last week we received a note from her telling us not to come for our usual summer visit. I tried to call her, but she won't answer.

Today I talked with my aunt (Mom's sister), who told me Mom is furious over the locks. My aunt also expressed disappointment in me or "shutting Mom out." I don't understand how I could be in the wrong, but it seems my whole family feels I am. Please advise. – In A Jam in St. Pete

Dear In A Jam: Although your mother deserves respect, it is hard to respect someone who goes through one's bedroom and office after having been asked not to. You may be her son, but you are also an adult and have the right to some privacy. What Mom is doing is the equivalent of throwing a tantrum. You were not shutting her out; you were drawing the line. Regardless of what your aunt said, you owe no one an apology.

Let's hope this storm blows over soon. And as to your summer holiday plans, an Alaskan cruise might be a lovely change from the humidity of Florida and the steam coming from wherever your mother lives.

Dear Abby: My grandmother was very poor, but she was generous with what she had.

As a child, I noticed that most of the gifts she received were regifted to others. At first, it upset me because I spent a lot of time choosing a "perfect" gift for her. Then I realized she was enjoying the gift twice. She loved receiving it, but it gave her even more pleasure to pass it on to someone else to enjoy when she couldn't afford to buy a present on her limited income.

I get so tired of people whining about "regifting." Instead of being happy that someone gave them something, people worry about how much was spent. (I'm willing to bet the real reason for the upset is that the regift can't be returned or exchanged.) People who don't want to receive regifts should let the givers know so they won't waste their generosity on them in the future. – The Joy Of Giving

Dear Joy: I see the issue differently, because I suspect that some complainers may have confused the monetary value of the item with how much they – the recipients –are valued in the relationship. As you point out – and I agree – it really IS the spirit in which a gift is given that counts.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.