The question

My daughter and her husband recently moved into a lovely house with windows from ceiling to floor. This house is on a residential street, where people walk by with their dogs, children ride by on their bikes and parents walk by with their strollers. So the occupants of the house i.e. my daughter and her husband are totally exposed to those passing by. The neighbours can look right into their windows. My daughter has told me that window coverings are not on their priority list and that “they have nothing to hide.” I’ve offered to pay for window coverings but she flat-out refuses. How can I convince her?

The answer

Good one! It’s interesting, but I would say this is an underrated domestic problem. Not No. 1.

Hmmm … how shall I put this? Let’s say I were a Tony Robbins-type seminar speaker and I were pacing back and forth on stage with my microphone and I said something like: “Everyone who’s married in the audience just yell out the answer to the question: What’s the No. 1 low-level thing – i.e. not money – you and your spouse wrestle over? Hint: it may be some sort of device.”

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I think a lot of people in my (admittedly fictional) audience would yell out: “The thermostat!”

Certainly, indubitably true in my household. My wife and I (used to) tussle over the thermostat constantly. She wanted it hotter, I wanted it colder – other people would even weigh in on the debate, roughly dividing across gender lines.

Finally I thought if she’s happy, I’m happy – and promised never to touch the thermostat again. I said, “I’ll just sweat it out in our sauna-like house,” and I kept that promise: I haven’t touched the thermostat in years.

But lately I have noticed a secondary battle: over the curtains in the front window of our house. My wife opens the curtains, I close them, she opens them again, on and on it goes.

I don’t get it. We live on a busy street, across from a community centre, where people are constantly coming and going. I don’t want everyone staring in and knowing what we’re up to. But she wants the light or something.

As a corollary: I don’t want to know what anyone else is up to, either. I find it odd when I walk by someone’s house and I can look in the window and see some dude, say, slumped on the couch, bathed in the blue glow of the TV, potato-chip crumbs all over his T-shirt.

Makes me want to tap on the window and say: “Hey, buddy: Shut the curtains!”

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What I’m saying is: I understand what you’re saying. And I certainly understand how hard it is to “let go” when it comes to kids.

On the other hand, the word “busybody” comes to mind to describe your worry over an issue this picayune.

Choose your battles! That is I would say the No. 1 rule of parenthood. Save your energy for more serious problems/worries, like the ones that keep me up at night, tossing and turning: Will there be enough freely available potable water? Will they find love?

Well, sounds like your daughter has – for now! – but will there be problems and could they experience the heartbreak of divorce?

Worry about those matters. And one of the biggest for me: Will real estate prices be just so sky-high they won’t be able to afford decent housing?

In fact, that’s one of the biggest things I want to say to you: Concentrate on, even celebrate, your offspring’s “lovely home” and forget about whether they keep their windows covered or not.

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If you really feel like you can’t help yourself and want to say something, you could suggest, “If people can see in, they can see your stuff and might be tempted to break in.”

I don’t really have nice stuff, so I don’t worry too much. But I have a friend who runs a computer store and some punks peeked in the window, saw some laptops and smashed and grabbed. Now he’s having blinds installed.

So you could mention something like that to your daughter. But bottom line: I think you have to relax, sip your tea and realize it’s up to her what she does in this department.

Although you could ask her if she could close the blinds or curtains while you are there, and it would be nice and decent of her, I think, if she accommodated you on that score.

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