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 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)
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 do. Supper’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?
 Not her real name.