Saturday, October 14, 2006

Code of Honor

Is there a code of honor among parents? In my mind there is. Here's where it started. And after asking Em a few casual questions, i determined that this event of underage drinking and dialing occured at my brother's house, in front of my 16 year old niece.

So, after thinking about it for a couple of days i called my brother. "I have a theoretical question for you" i said. "If your son was drinking at your house, would you want to know about it or would you already know about it?"

Heavy sigh from my brother. "No, i didn't know that, and yes i would want to know."

So i told him. Not about the loathsome phone message, but about the drinking. I am not naive enough to think that 19 year old kids don't or won't drink. (I did.) If my brother had said, "yes, i know, we figure it's better that he does this at home and not while out driving." I would have told him "that's cool, and makes sense." I just didn't want him NOT to know.

Why did i do that? Ultimately i came down to the question "If it was my kid would i want to be told? " And the answer is "yes". But of course, as is often the case in these things, i may have violated Em's trust.

Of course it circled back to me, through Em. I heard this shout from across the house last night, while Em was IMing with the world, including her cousins. "Mommy!! MOMMY. How could you!" So i went over to her side of the house and told why i felt that i had to it. She actually seemed to understand. Shocking. And today she isn't angry with me, which was what i was most worried about.

So to defend myself against the charges that i am leveling against myself: I would not have done this if he hadn't been in my brother's house. (The kid really needs to move out.) I would not have done it if i knew that his parent's already knew that he did this. Blah, blah, blah. I just feel badly, but i still wouldn't want to keep information from my brother and SIL. That's the fact that i keep circling back to.

They were so cute when they were little. Things are more complex now.

Do you have any stories about telling other parents? Or not? And what was your logic.


Mignon said...

No to your question, but in your situation I don't think you should second-guess your decision to tell your brother AT ALL. Not so much because of the 19 yo drinking, but because of his 16 yo sister being there. Considering Mr.19 was probably drinking with friends, that put Ms.16 in a very precarious and potentially dangerous position. Very VERY. Good for you! And I think you should actually give yourself and Em (who most likely told you because she thought it was bad news too) and pat on the back Fer Sher.

Have you seen the movie 13? Not that it relates to this situation, but Yikes!

jenB said...

the drinking age here is 18. my cousin just turned 18 in july and i was in his room a couple of weeks ago and saw a shelf with about 6-7 bottles of hard liquor on it. my uncle (my aunt passed away) obviously knows, it is out in the open, but i feel like 18, while the legal age to drink, it too young to have a bar in his bedroom. i said nothing, and i am not opposed to drinking, but it seemed like a bit much. i dunno. Mark agreed, as did my mom, but. i did nothing.

LazyLazyMe said...

I'm having to readjust all of my legal ages for this North American thing...err, drinking 21 not 18...

Ok :)

What can you conclude? I think it's impossible to expect kids to tell you everything. If you act on that information to their detriment they will tell you less. Of course you have to act on such information because that's your role.

So you'll have to live with crap going on that you have no idea about, and reassure yourself that your remarkable parenting thus far means that the child makes a reasonable choice.

I told my mother very little. She thinks my sister tells her everything but she's smoked for 10 years and passed out more times than I can count. She doesn't know about those.

Just cross your fingers and make sure you're there for when she wants to talk. Let most of it go, in reality it was probably much worse.

Maya's Granny said...

I work in underage drinking prevention and my take on this is that you did the right thing.

The adolescent brain is still developing, and as a consequence it can be permanently harmed by drinking at an early age, and it is more vulnerable to develop alcoholism when the drinking starts early. In addition, drinking in the house can lead to all sorts of other things, from deciding to drive to early pregnancy and STDs and crime. The likelihood of the three major causes of death in teens (automobile accidents, suicide, and homicide) are all increased by drinking.

If my brother had known that my children were drinking and hadn't told me, I might not speak to my brother for a long, long time.

Anonymous said...

In my experience it was always an individual call. Like with it being your brother. But one great thing at my son's high school was that the PTA got together and sent around flyers each year that you could choose to sign and return, stating that you promise that if you know of a party in a house occurring when the parents are absent, you will call around and let people know.

This happened a few times over the four years, parties in houses when parents were on vacation and inevitably someone came home a little tipsy, or spilled the beans in one way or another and the police were called. It's very hard on the kids, but it kept everyone safe and out of their cars. Although to their credit, the vast majority of kids came to these parties on foot or bicycle, leaving the cars at home.

In general I'm not an alarmist about this kind of thing. The drinking age in France is 16. In Canada it's 18. I just want to keep kids out of their cars when they're drinking! And of course, I'd prefer they were out doing something healthy. But such is life.

meno said...

mignon, he was with friends. The bullshit part is that Ms. 16 is pissed at Em for telling on her bro. But i wonder if it was her they had gone after what she would have to say. Em and i watched Thirteen together when she WAS 13. It scared the bejesus out of both of us.

jenb, you Canadians! I don't think there was anything for you TO do. He's legal and his dad knows. But i feel the same way that you do.

lazy, yeah, that's my role all right! Killjoy mom. I know that there are many things going on that i don't know about. (I didn't tell my mother anything either.) And for the most part, i let it be and don't pry. Em will need to learn some things on her own.

maya's granny, i would have been angry at my brother too if he had withheld information from me. That was really the bottom line in my decision.

marian, Em's school does that too. I'm not a big alarmist either. I KNOW it's going to happen. God knows i did all that crap myself.

Mother of Invention said...

I have no first hand experience but I think you did the right thing. It's instinctive to be a little protective towards siblings and their kids,and there's the whole code of allegiance thing too.

amusing said...

a) Other parents terrify me.

b) I did nothing as a teen; stayed home mostly and read books. Mostly, I said.

c) Single female, raising two males? Quaking in my boots, though everyone says boys are easier. But we are already bumping into the nasty, awful definition of [male] coolness at the tender age of nine. My son was crying about it yesterday. He is the one they pick on because he's different. Hell.

His "best friend" "threw" him up against the wall a few times, he says. Something just tells me telling the mother this is not ultimately going to work in our favor. I'm pondering. Am talking to the teacher first.

ephelba said...

My son is 11. We just moved to a new town, an in finding his niche Boy ran into quite a few nests of ugliness- children playing with guns without the grownup's knowledge and children huffing. We agreed that if kids are doing something life threatening then the other kid's grownup needs to be told. I promised Boy that I wouldn't do the telling unless we agreed about what would be said. The fact that he has vital input and that I won't "tattle" over every little thing has made Boy more comfortable telling me stuff. This process has cost Boy one "friend", but it really wasn't a friend worth having, and Boy knows it. It works for us.

Anonymous said...

I've always contended (and it's always proved true) that if you have a child who does things like this cousin have a problem SO much bigger than the problem at hand. This young man drinks, treats people like trash. To your BIL I say -- too late. You have successfully raised a person who lacks good judgement and kindness. And unless it's brought out in the open and delt with -- he'll end up being of absolutely no good to anyone including himself. You did the right thing EXCEPT you neglected to tell him about his comments to your daughter. What message is that sending to the nephew and especially to your daughter. Just my opinion...for what it's worth. Which I've noticed lately isn't much because just about everything is so O.K. to do!

karmic said...

Not having kids and never having had a drink till I was 21 I can't really comment on some of the things you said.
But I think you did the right thing. If it was my kid I would surely like to know and then be able to deal with it.

Lynnea said...

I think you are right to tell also, but I respect that you are holding to Em's wishes that the comments are left out of the equation. That is a problem she is choosing deal with herself. I also don't believe that, as anonymous says, its too late. Sure he acted like a creep, but I did my share of stupid, thoughtless and rude things in my late teens/early twenties and I doubt there is anyone who can say they haven't made an ass of themselves like that at some point. The thing is, we have the opportunity to change and often as we grow and mature we do make those changes. So telling will help and is important for the protection of said nephew's younger sister. But I don't think nephew is a total write-off in society just yet.

meno said...

MOI, thanks :)

amusing, a) me too. There is such a tendency to protect the little darlings who would never do anything wrong. I would have thought much harder about this were it not my brother or a friend. b) boys easier? Hmmm. Dunno about that one. I am sorry about your son. That just sucks. Sterting with the teacher sounds like a good idea. But there is always the off chance that the parent would really want to know. Ack!

ephelba, huffing? good god, that shit is dangerous. I think you have a good system. The mistake i made in all this was in not giving Em a heads up. I had hoped, against reason, that my brother might be able to protect the source.

anon, wow that's harsh. I would guess that many of us have done some jerk like thing that hurt other people and showed terrible judgment. There are also some factors at work here which i have not included that affect the maturity level of my nephew. He did apologize to Em later, but he's still angry that she told me.

sanjay, thank you! I too would want to know if it was my kid.

maggie, what you said. Too soon to write this young man off yet. Also to remember is the IQ lowering that occurs when people get together in groups. Like the bumper sticker says: "Instant Asshole, just add alcohol".

Josephine said...

I don't have children, so my opinion is not really meritous, but I think you did the right thing.

Boozing it up is fun, but it's stupid. They should have you guys telling them that at least :)

Mother of Invention said...

Glad to know your nephew apologized to Em at least. Hope it was heartfelt and that he came to that of his own volition. Hopefully, 20 years from now they can talk of this and just shake their heads as close friends often do.

Shannon Des Roches Rosa said...

New reader here. Realizing that I need to kneel in your temple more frequently so I can hear about my future as the parent of a teenage girl, straight from The Oracle herself.

meno said...

josephine. i don't believe that having no children disqualifies you from having a valid opinion. So, thank you!

MOI, Thanksgiving should be interesting this year!

hi squid, oracle? temple? kneel? I am not worthy. Well, you don't necessarily need to kneel. :) Thanks for stopping by.

Girlplustwo said...

god..not yet. and i don't think i look forward to it..but i agree w/'s a code of honor. i would want to know, so i would tell.

Bobealia... said...

If it makes you feel any better I told my friend's friend that my neighbor was cheating on her. I was tired of hearing his bed springs through the wall.

meno said...

jen, Actually i hope this never is an issue for you. It's always touchy, especially with parents you don't know that well. I have heard tales of parents that went ballistic, and then never spoke to the "telling" parent again.

bo, that's not fair to say that and then not tell the rest of the story. Post please.

keda said...

as someone who did an awful lot of youthful boozing, and now has kids of my own.. i think you did the right thing.

i'd want to know. kids do stupid things. that's how we learn to do better things.

we shouldn't obviously just write people off, but giving them the chance to talk with a parent is the best. he'll still do stupid stuff but at least his parents can now have an idea of what and keep a look out.
among other benefits.

Teri M. said...

I would have done the same (and of course would want to know). One of my daughter's best friends lives across the street and one day we drove past her when she had apparently decided to run away for a few days. I agreed to take her to her aunt's house as long as she promised me she would let her parents know where she had gone. Turns out she didn't. Surprise, surprise. So when her mom came over to see if she was at our house, I immediately told her what was up. I can only hope another parent would do the same for me if, God forbid, it was my kid.