Yesterday I was getting ready for work, and noticed that the computer was on. I assumed my wife forgot to shut it down. I also noticed the toilet in the utility room had been used, but not flushed. Also, not that unusual, as flushing is still something my kids have to be reminded to do.

Then my wife called me at work. “Did you turn the computer on this morning?”

“No, it was on when I got up.”

“…I’m going to get our kids out of bed and find out what they were doing last night.”

Sure enough, they had gotten up at 4:00 am, turned on the computer, surfed the web, and watched some TV. Less than a week after getting their privileges restored from the last time they were wandering at night. Unbelievable.

Of course, our children are still somewhat unsophisticated. They left the computer on, because they didn’t know the Shut Down procedure. They left footprints in the browser history, because they didn’t know it tracked the sites you visit. But as my wife has pointed out “Don’t ever tell them how you know what they were doing, or they won’t ever make that mistake again.”

This is a very real concern. My kids are bright enough to learn from their mistakes. I am beginning to feel like Jean-Luc, trying to battle the Borg. “They’ve adapted their shield harmonics. Phasers have no effect!” “They’ve learned to clear the browser cache, we don’t know where they surfed!”

I have semi-seriously suggested that I put tripwires in our house, connected to bells or some other noisemaker, so we can catch them in the act. My wife was appalled at the suggestion. Her solution? Put some key objects (like the TV remote) in a particular arrangement, and see if they have been moved in the morning.

When I take a step back, I am astounded that we two rational adults are having strategy sessions on how to outwit a 9 year old. And what’s more, I have the sneaking suspicion that we’re losing. Between the two of us, we’re Inspector Clouseau and Kato.

Just don’t ask me which is which.