Dinner and a Dilemma

Hot on the heels of Really Dumb Stuff, I had the following conversation with my 15-year-old daughter the other night at supper.

Daughter: (nonchalantly whilst shovelling rice and lentils into her maw) Oh ya, if Carly’s[1] mother calls, Carly’s sleeping over.

Mother: (looking around for Carly who does tend to sleep over a lot unannounced) Is she?

Daughter: (rolling eyes at my apparently limitless stupidity). No-weh! Obv.! (most one-syllable words develop 2 syllables in teenagehood, while multi-syllabic words are shortened to one syllable and/or an acronym)

Mother: Well, where is she then?

Daughter: With her boyfriend.

Mother: What? (aghast). What boyfriend?

Daughter: (completely exasperated at how long this conversation is getting). You don’t know him. He doesn’t go to our school.

Mother: (freaking just a bit at thoughts of Carly having maybe  run off with an internet perv) What school does he go to?

 Daughter: How should I know?

 Mother:  Well, is he your age or what?

 Daughter: (looking at me like I’m totally insane). Yes-seh… Oh! Em! Gee!

 Mother: And his parents let her sleep over there?

 Daughter: NO-WEH! (Shovelling faster to get away from this seemingly endless interrogation)

 Mother: So, does he sneak her in or what?

 Daughter: (mumbles something)

 Mother: What?

 Daughter: They sleep outside.

 Mother: (speechless, yet somehow manages to find speech). They sleep outside? Are they crazy?

 Daughter: I told her she was crazy. But she’s done it before. They sleep in the park or under a bridge. ( she says coolly like this is a normal thing for teenagers to doSupper’s done. Daughter looks yearningly toward her room) Can I go? I have to study for my exam tomorrow.

 Mother: Wait a minute. What am I supposed to do with this information?

 Daughter: (wide-eyed with panic) NOTHING!

 Mother: (thinking furiously).

 Mother and Daughter have kind of a pact that she can feel free tell me anything that she’s done or her friends have done or other people have done to her or things that are troubling her —  no matter how awful she thinks it is and I promise not to freak out or do anything unless she wants me to.

 Mother and Daughter discuss the current dilemma.  If Daughter was sleeping rough with some boy – a boy no one even seems to know – I would sure want to know about it.  I explain all the possible awful things that could happen to Carly. Do I phone Carly’s mother and tell her?

 If I do, Daughter will be labelled a snitch. If you have a teenager and/or remember being a teenager, you’ll know that would pretty much put an end to her high school social life.

 Also, she’ll never tell me anything again. 

 On the other hand, if anything happens to Carly, I’ll feel responsible.

 I tell Daughter that for sure, I won’t lie for Carly.  If her mother calls, I’ll have to tell her what I know. Daughter agrees with this. But Carly’s mother has never called before. Carly has a cell phone, so that’s an unlikely scenario and easily agreed to.

 Daughter fully understands that what Carly is doing is dangerous and really dumb and has told her so, and swears she would never dream of doing anything like that herself, but Daughter is also vehemently opposed to me calling Carly’s mother.

What would you do?


[1] Not her real name.

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21 responses to “Dinner and a Dilemma

  1. i think i would devise a way to explain the pact to carly’s parents so they could bust carly without letting on that your daughter told you. even your daughter wouldn’t have to know.
    tough one though – it’s so great your daughter feels comfortable telling you stuff, and you def. don’t want to breach that.

  2. oy, tough one.

    I don’t think kids grow up with the limited set of critical skills that I did.

    A boy on the bus of about 8 or 9 had a cell phone. I wondered if he was too small to be on the bus alone. The conversation went like,

    -who’s this?
    -you got the bag?
    -we’ll have to coordinate that later.
    -I sent a message to mom’s blackberry.
    -She’ll call to confirm.

    Could lie and mention to Carley next time you see her that you were expecting her over. Her mom called and thought she’d be there…and see what comes out? Course, that might work, or else shunt her off to some other friend? Can you give condoms to every girl in the room and do a sex toys talk? can’t presume sex, but dialogue never hurts…?

    uh, what do I know. the cat never gets up to much.

  3. Ugh. This is a tough one! I think I would do what you did…tell Daughter that you’re not lying for Carly. If Carly’s mom calls, tell her she’s not there and tell however much of the story you want.

    But, and this is going to sound odd to some, I wouldn’t feel responsible for Carly. Kids have to make their own mistakes, and, when it boils down to it, you’re responsible for your own daughter (who, at a certain age, will be responsible for herself). Who knows what the truth is and what Carly really did with whom, where. (What she tells your daughter may not be how it actually plays out…). Like you said, she has a cell phone, so in theory, her parents can reach her and vice versa.

    I think it’s great that the lines of communication are open between your daughter and you. I’m sure you’ve talked to her about *why* meeting a boy no one knows and “sleeping” outside behind everyone’s back isn’t the best choice.

    It’s at times like this that I’m glad Claire is only 2-yrs old. 😉

  4. OK, that would be reason 568 why I don’t have kids.

    I’d have never made it to 47 if I had children. They would have been the death of my by the time I was 30 tops.

  5. Meanie – If I knew the mother better, it would have been easier decision. I did run that idea by my daughter — what if I explained to Carly’s mother that she wasn’t allowed to say where the info came from. It was vetoed. So I had to promise my daughter I wouldn’t say anything unless asked directly.

    Chris – Oh was that you at the end of the table? I was wondering who’d hogged all the salad dressing.

    Pearl – I am always in awe at the way your mind works. I find it hard to keep up with your thought process. It’s very minimalist or poetic or something I can’t quite grasp. Intriguing though…very intriguing

    CP – Before you know it Claire will be 15. Hard to believe, but oh so very true. And I certainly feel more of responsibility for my own daughter, but your child’s friends become an extension of your family, too — as you must know with Claire’s little friends — and you end up feeling a responsibility for them as well and not only when they’re under your roof. You can’t help it.

    Jazz – Ya, I’m glad I only have one. There are so many scary things that could happen to them and I think every single one of them has crossed my mind over 15 years of 3:00 am lying- awake-brain-crazy-sessions. I’m already panicking at the thought of her and her friends turning 16 soon and getting their licenses and driving around. Ye gods….

  6. Growing up in a small Italian town when you are 15 (and when instead of being in 2008, it was 1990). -“Mum I am going out”. Mum’s answer: “NO”. “But mum, all my friends are going and it is only evening and I promise, I promise I get back by 10 pm and the father of XXX will bring me home”. Mum’s answer: “NO”. -“Ok mum, if you talk with XXX’ mum and she agrees on letting XXX go out, would you let me?”. Mum’s answer: “Maybe”. At the end you manage to go out, all the mothers of your friends know that you are all going out together and you have all to be home by 10 pm and when you are out, you casually meet a lot of friends of your parents who are just by chance walking around.
    By the time you come back home, everyone knows where you went, with whom and what you did.
    It was frustrating for a 15 old girl, but also reassuring. I would be scared of having a 15 old girl now, in 2008. I think you are doing a good job if your daughter trusts you so much to tell you everything.
    I love the way you wrote the story.

  7. You’re really fortunate you can have these conversations with your daughter. I’ll bet Carly isn’t having this conversation with her parents.

    I was always fortunate my daughter was fairly transparent with me too, and she managed not to get into any trouble as a teenager.

    And, I agree, don’t lie for Carly if her mother calls. You may save her life. As far as calling her mother, that is a tough one. I once had a friend who was sleeping with her boyfriend when they were both 15. The boy’s mother found out and approached the girl’s mother and told her. One teen pregnancy was avoided.

    Oh, gosh, what a dilemma!

  8. You handled that perfectly, Zoop.
    A pact is a pact is a pact, and the trusting relationship you have with Daughter is the most important thing.

  9. This is what I do when my kids and their friends put me in positions like that (and I promise, every kid will do it at least once): I do what you did and refuse to lie. But then I also tell my kid that the next time the other kid is in my house, we’re going to talk about this. And then the next time I saw the kid I’d say: 1. Don’t do this to me again, and 2.Don’t do this to yourself. Eventually your mom’s going to catch you and she’ll never trust you again. I know…I’d never trust one of mine if they lied to me like that.

    I had the opposite problem once with one of my kids. Her friend’s mom called me and said, “I just read Carrie’s letter to Hannah. Do you want to know what it said?”
    I said, “Nope.”
    She said, “No, really. You should hear this.”
    I said, “No. Really. It’s private. I don’t want to know.”
    Years later I told Carrie that story and she said, “That bitch! She was always going through Hannah’s stuff!”

    I was really glad I never knew what was in the letter.

  10. I agree with Ev. Talk to Carly next time she’s around. She might listen to your reasonable perspective, but she’s convinced her parents are completely insane and out of touch. Hopefully she’ll get through this reasonably unscathed, but even so, I can’t imagine that she won’t look back with regret.

  11. The times my sons have confided similar “situations” in me, they did it because they wanted an adult to handle the situation. They knew their friend(s) were screwing up. So, I would devise a plan with my son(s) to get the person over to our house… Usually, my son(s) would blame it on me saying things like, “I don’t know how she figured it out, but she did. You better come over now… if you come over now she won’t tell your mom…” I know, it was somewhat deceitful, but at least then I knew the kid was safe. Once the kid was in my house, we would talk calmly. It is tricky to do, and I am surprised how lucky I was that it always worked out. Good luck with this one XUP… It shows that your daughter trusts you…

  12. When I first read this I had no idea what I would do. But now that I’ve come back and read the responses, I think I’d do exactly what Ev and Woodsy recommend.

  13. I too have a teenage daughter (16) and know the situations (and there are some doozies) as parents we are obligated to the right thing to do. You (I, or we) have to decide what that is.

    Love the pact (bonding) you and your daughter have. I long for the assurance of truth. At times, my daughter lies to protect (her and/or friends) interest, freedom, named as a snitch, etc etc etc. Not often, but it keeps you guessing, wondering and skeptical in it’s logic.

    You need to tell your daughter that Carly is not sleeping over here anymore. That is where you have the control, exercise it.
    Has Carly’s mom ever called? The next one should be an interesting conversation, after all you do have to answer any questions she might have.

    Remember in their eyes, it is their world, we just happen to live in it.

    From one alien to another, find out and do the right thing.

  14. Honestly, I won’t know how I might handle that until one of the twins puts me in that situation…and honesty and trust is what we’re doing our best to establish with them, even now, at their tender age of two. In their first five years, before their outside influences increase in leaps and bounds, we’re hoping to establish the kind of trusting relationship that it sounds like you already have with your daughter.

  15. I’d have the Daughter call Carly and tell her the cover would be blown if her mother called. The onus is back on Carly to live dangerously or not, and the daughter is not a snitch.

  16. My son’s friends were welcome at our house for dinner – anytime. It gave me a chance to find out what was going on and a place for the kids to get a meal and relax with each other.

    Being a Mom, I could get my ‘two cents’ in. Since the kids came for dinner from the time my son was in grade 7 until after university, I can only conclude, I didn’t poison anyone and I wasn’t that intrusive – all the time.

  17. I have no advice for you, XUP, but reading this post has put me in a panic. My kids are 5, 3 and 1 — and I feel so unprepared for the teenage years! Thank goodness I have a few years to figure it out. And to let the rest of my hair go grey in anticipation.

    Ev — your willpower about the letter is an inspiration!

  18. fromtheworld – Oh how I wish the old time, small time values still existed where the village raised the child. Now we’re all on our own. You’re lucky you had such a close knit community in which to grow up.

    Josie – Oh ya – the things my daughter comes home to tell me about what her friends are up to. I’d be on the phone all the time to parents! This was a biggie because I know the girl so well, though.

    Bob – Ya that was my first priority, too. Along with have a very long conversation with my daughter about the rights and wrongs of the whole situation.

    Ev – I will definitely have a conversation with Carly the next time I see her! Rest assured.

    Stella – That would be interesting, because I’m almost old enough to be Carly’s mother’s mother. Carly’s mom is very young and hip with piercings and tattoos, so I can’t imagine how I (the grey-haired oldie) would be considered less out of touch. But I do understand that she’s a bit scared of me, so that might help.

    Woodsy -We did that once when a girl she knew at school thought she was pregnant and was afraid to tell her parent or school counsellor. We had her over and had a good talk. She turned out not to be, but did save her from doing a lot of stupid stuff in the meantime (and in the future, I think)

    Zoom – thanks. I agree.

    Hunter – I don’t want to ban Carly from the house. I think that would be counterproductive, but I do think my daughter is having second thoughts about her friendship with Carly.

    JB – Yes, making sure they know you love them no matter what and that you’re open to whatever they need to tell you I think is important. You have so many, many interesting years ahead of you!!

    Bandobras – My daughter did tell her that right off the bat. I think she was pretty sure I wouldn’t lie for her.

    Deborahlee333 – YES! I always encourage my daughter to have anyone over. I like to meet the kids she spends her days with and we have some good, though brief conversations over dinner or as they revolve in and out of the door.

    Lynn- A good foundation is all important… but it won’t help the ever present panic about your kids. That’s inevitable. And, I agree about Ev.

  19. UPDATE ON CARLY: Carly’s mother called the next morning… something she’s never done before… and asked for Carly. I said she wasn’t here (pause). “Oh, okay…when did she leave?”

    “Leave?”
    “Yes, is she on her way home?”
    “Umm, I don’t know, she hasn’t been here.”
    DEAD SILENT PAUSE
    “But she was there last night, right?”
    “No.”

    “NO? She didn’t spend the night there last night?”
    “No…. oh dear.. she’s been here plenty of times before, but not last night.”
    Gnashing of teeth could be heard. Mother was VERY upset.
    Meanwhile, my daughter had been talking to Carly to see what happened to her. Seems she went to a party with the boyfriend, got really, really drunk, threw up, was really sick. Spent the night at this party with her boyfriend. Then she was afraid to go home because she reeked of all sorts of stuff. Suddenly, her mother calls her cell and tells her to come home NOW! Carly has the feeling her mom knows “something”.

    That’s pretty much the last we’ve heard of Carly. My daughter has tried to contact her on msn and her cell and even tried the real telephone, but Carly’s mother answered and said Carly wasn’t going to be coming to the phone for a very, very long time.

    I don’t know what Carly ended up telling her, but I reckon for now Carly’s pretty safe.

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