Wednesday, June 06, 2007


I was at my volunteer gig today, talking with a woman on the phone. (I volunteer at at place that does counseling for kids. I don't do the counseling because i don't know beans about it, but i do some of the initial interviews.)

This woman was telling me that her 14 year-old daughter had been caught shoplifting from Nordstom's. (For those of you not knowing what a Nordstoms is, its a higher end department store.) "It's the first time she's ever done anything like this," she told me.

We talk a little more, or more accurately she talks and i listen and ask questions. Next she tells me that she and her husband have been noticing money missing from their wallets the past year or so. A little more information revealed.

A little later in the conversation she reveals that her daughter has been showing up with new clothes and that the parents don't know where she got them. More information contradicting what she told me at the beginning.

"What does she say when you ask her about the clothes," i ask. "Oh, she says her grandmother or her aunt bought them for her."

"Have you asked them about that?" i say.

"Not really, i don't want them to know about the shoplifting incident."

I then had to stop her and say, "So what you told me at the beginning, that she has never done anything like this before isn't really correct."

"Well," she hemmed, " i just don't have any proof."

I told her that all the things she had been telling me were proof that something isn't right.

The proof is staring her right in the face, but she doesn't want to see it.

Denial is a powerful force.


thailandchani said...

Oh, yes... it most definitely does! She doesn't have proof because she doesn't want the proof! Hope she starts doing a little covert intel-gathering before her daughter gets into serious trouble! :)

Can't believe I am the first commenter on your blog. Does that mean I'm hip now? LOL




meno said...

chani, You were already hip in my opinion. i hope she wakes up and deals with it soon too.

Girlplustwo said...

denial serves so many functions. it protects us until we are ready. it cripples us and can destroy us.

a funnybugger, that one.

Cagey (Kelli Oliver George) said...

Very sad. Shoplifting is usually just a symptom of Deeper Currents. God knows what else is going on that has warranted such denial.

Denial is an amazing, tricky, powerful thing - like Jen said. My mother has subsisted on it for years by proclaiming it as "keeping the peace". I called bullshit on it earlier this year and decided the buck stops with me (having children will do that to you, I suppose). Let's just say, I'm not gaining any followers and folks are going to be pissed this holiday season when they realize I am dead serious about not playing the Denial Game any longer. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

Oh, denial is HUGE. She hasn't seen her daughter's misdeeds not only because she doesn't want to deal with it, but she doesn't want to face the reality that SHE may have some part in the behavior. "If I acknowledge that my daughter is behaving badly, then I have to acknowledge that I've done/not done something to teach her that this behavior is somehow permissable" or "there's something in our relationship that is inspiring this behavior" or something to that effect. I can't think of many people who are willing to confront THEIR participation in icky things (whether that participation is implicit or not...)

AC said...

I'd say you do know beans about counseling. You got straight to the point. This famiy has a real problem and the shoplifting is the tip of the iceberg.

GEWELS said...

Denial is a powerful force. I fear I live in a constant state of it.

When it comes to our kids, I know we all want to think the best and explain away much.

Anonymous said...

it's so hard to accept that your children, the ones you carried, have sacrificed for, could do the things that they're suspected of. I think there's a certain amount of 'if I don't acknowledge it, it can't be so' in most familial situations.

I, on the other hand, live in a state of anti-denial with our middle child. when something happens, I automatically assume he's in the center of it; unfortunately, he usually is.

I wish cagey much luck in her quest to rid her family of the denial disease.

Lynnea said...

I knew a mom like that when I was a kid. Her kids were rotten terrors. But when there was trouble it was NEVER her kids. And the kids knew it too. They used it. I hated going to their house.

Sad. I agree with Cagey, I bet there are deeper currents there.

meno said...

jen, the Mister calls denial the most powerful force in the universe. I'm not sure he isn't right.

cagey, you are right about the deeper currents, there were also some indications of prescription drug theft. And good for you for refusing to perpetuate the denial in your family. Stay strong!

mrs.chili, a few other tidbits. This older daughter is from her first marriage, and she has two very young children with her new husband who take up much of her energy.

ac, you are right about that. I hope she follows through with getting the counseling.

gewels, sometimes wanting the best for our kids means facing some unpleasant facts.

holly, denial is one way of taking the easy way out. If we acknowledge a problem, then we'd have to deal with it.

maggie, i knew some kids like that too. It was a wonder to watch them manupulate the parents. I envied them at the time, but now, not so much.

ms chica said...

You have this knack for posting topics that really strike a chord. I could write a suite of long winded posts on this topic.

I married into a family that has denial stamped all over their family crest. It makes me crazy spending so much time in fucking wonderland. These people makes me so tired. Cagey is spot on about the correlation between denial and keeping peace.

Peach Pod said...

I have never understood parents like this. It's your job to watch after and check on your kids. Period. Monkey Boy comes home occasionally with a story that just doesn't sound right. First couple of times I fired an email off to his teacher and got the real story. Now all I have to do is say, "Do I need to email your teacher?" and he spills his guts.

When my soon-to-be ex had a law practice a mom came in and wanted to force the school system to use a drug dog to check her kid's locker because she suspected him of using and/or dealing. I asked her if she had gone through his stuff in his room and car to check out her concerns and she said, no, that she didn't want to invade his privacy! OMG!

QT said...

OMG - this reminded me of the time I shoplifted with one of my friends - I think I was about 12 or 13. The minute I walked out of my room with the offending top on my mom was on me like stink on shit and made me take it back to the store and apologize. She also called my friends mom, which lost me a friend, needless to say. NO WAY you got away with that crap in my house. Needless to say, there were no repeats.

This woman needs to "wake up and smell the coffee".

Peach Pod said...

I remember the one and only time I shoplifted. I was 8 and I tool a small piece of candy from a drugstore. My mom made me go in and apologize, too! Scared the crap out of me.

urban-urchin said...

you give birth/adopt a child and you are filled with a sense of how you will do things. you will not be your parents. you will rise to the occassion and shine. you will nuture and raise a child who is healthy mentally phyiscally emotionally. with birth comes the promise of the new, the holy, the whole.

and then, your child grows. you grow. things change. and yet you can't/won't let go of the notion that your child can be anything other than the one you held at your first meeting and to whom you swore a lifetime of allegence.

Is it really all that surprising after all that this woman is in denial about her child?

sari said...

I would have started asking questions when I started missing money, especially when "the child" started showing up in new clothes.

People are so worried about what other people think of the job they're doing that they'll never say a word.

I hope that whole family goes into counselling. It sounds like it would help.

Elliot said...

As Stuart Smalley says: "Denial is not just a river in Egypt!"

I agree with your mister. In fact, I'm willing to bet that denial is so powerful, that we each are right now denying something obvious, and likely huge, and can't even see it.

Liv said...

Denial is comfortable. Denial doesn't rock the boat. Sometimes denial lets us keep living until we can get the courage to face what we need to face. Can't last forever--that's for sure.

Special K ~Toni said...

I can see how it is easy for the parent to be in denial, but you are right- it is a powerful force!

Bob said...

some folks are in denial because they are afraid that their children's (mis)actions are a reflection of their (lack of) parenting skills.

TTQ said...

The proof is in the puddin'. Seriously.

meno said...

ms.chica, and right now you are stuck in the middle of all that family angst, which amplifies the denial. So write some posts about it, maybe we'll learn something.

peach pod, yeah, i have had a few of those back channel communications with the teachers to figure out what the real story is myself. Keeps the kids on their toes. That 'privacy story" is unbelievable!

qt, i shoplifted once or twice myself at that ag, orged on by a cooler friend. I never got caught, but i was just too scared to ever really get into it. The cool friend did get caught a few times. That was messy.

peach pod, easier with an 8 year old than a know-it-all teenager.

u-u, on no, it's not surprising at all. It just isn't in any way helpful to the child. This mom is now focused on her new family and her daughter spends hours alone at the mall with her friends. I don't think this woman is a bad person, she just has her hands full. I hope that her daughter getting caught will help her focus on the daughter a bit more.

sari, what was interesting to me is the way she started out like it was no big deal and then kept adding more "little things" and each one changed the total picture a bit.

jerimiah, right you are. I am in denial about how much life is going to change when Em goes to college and i am not there to keep her safe. Plus i'm sure there are other things that i am not admitting.

liv, yes, sometimes the denial helps us to keep functioning a while longer. I know about that.

toni, how can i deny it? :)

bob, and if they see the problem, then they have to deal with it. Maybe they are just summoning the resources.

ttq, that's sort of what i told her, that she didn't need "proof" because she already knew what was happening. This is her kid, not a court of law.

Anonymous said...

SO do you think she mired herself back into denial before or after she got to the car?

Sorry; I've seen SO much of this I've become cynical.

Anonymous said...

I'm still processing the affectation post and now we're moving on to denial? Is this advanced blogging? Help! I think I missed the prerequisites.

luckyzmom said...

This is how it goes and the whole country is in denial about it. I will take the leap here even though it doesn't happen in every case, but first the neglect, then sticking toes in murky water and on and on, escalating all the way to possibly mass murder; all because negative attention is better than no attention.

luckyzmom said...

PS - denial is stuck in my craw at the moment.

Anonymous said...

Meno said:

"mrs.chili, a few other tidbits. This older daughter is from her first marriage, and she has two very young children with her new husband who take up much of her energy."

Ah-HA! So there's GUILT, too! Denial is SO much easier when there's guilt involved (if I paid more attention to her, maybe she wouldn't be stealing - but I don't want to think about that, so maybe she's not REALLY stealing...)

It's all making sense now...

the moose buyer said...

boy is this mother the expert of the year in ignoring all the signs. If she doesn't do something now, it might be too late.

Anonymous said...

Yes, indeed it is.

Sometimes it's even powerful enough to let a person think they've maintained a bit of sanity for a minute or two whilst all those around them go nuts.

Hard to maintain, but nice while it lasts. ;-)

Mother of Invention said...

Grab a clue! This kid's already in the thick of a huge problem and they've enabled her! Yikes!

Schmoopie said...

That girl is somehow feeling very inadequate and I'll bet there are a lot of things that factor into why. Compulsive shopping/stealing is linked to depression and feelings of self-loathing. I hope the counseling helps her and gets her back on the right track. (Hope Mom can drop the denial long enough to take it all seriously!)

flutter said...

That has to get frustrating for you, doesn't it?

meno said...

nancy, neither, as she was on the phone. :) Chances are good that i'll never know what happens, but i hope i convinced her a little bit that all is not well.

de, i can't deny that! Besides, affectation and denial go hand in hand.

luckyzmom, wow. all the way to mass murder! It is stuck in your craw.

mrs.chili, it's all pieces of a puzzle. In this case a sad guilt and denial puzzle.

moosebuyer, i don't know if she's any better at denial that most, but she sure got a kick in the butt from the shoplifting incident.

jennifer, kind of like an erection, as i understand it. :)

moi, i know. It's depressing. But i think she's starting to see the light.

schmoopie, i hope so too. But i may never know.

flutter, this woman was frustrating. But you know what? Most parents i talk to are actively wanting to help will do whatever it takes.

egan said...

Good lord, what the hell else do they need as proof? Maybe if she spends time behind bars that might get them a bit more involved.

Lynn said...

Maybe it was also a bad case of severe embarassment.

Tink said...

You don't need PROOF as a parent. My Mom taught me that suspicion is enough. I can't count how many times she grounded me because she suspected I was smoking pot or sneaking out at night. Of course I denied it then, tried to play the victim card. But she was absolutely right. I WAS doing those things.

Joan said...

I'm thinking this mom needs a good reality check! Just because you won't acknowledge something doesn't mean it's going to miraculously vanish.

Anonymous said...

I think that poor woman is crying out for someone to tell her to wake up and smell the coffee. She probably knows she's in denial or she would never have made the phone call. She knows she's got to do something, and she probably called precisely so she could get somebody else to do the dirty work. Or convince her that she really is capable of dealing with it, as soon as she admits to the bigger picture. (I also think you would be a great counselor, Meno!)

Anonymous said...

I hate denial. I hate how sometimes there is nothing you can do about it. The person simply refuses to see the truth.

meno said...

egan, good question. Wish i'd thought of it.

lynn, well, if that's the case, she needs to get over it, quickly.

tink, that's what i told her. She already knew, she doesn't need proof.

joan, must be nice to live in the State of Denial.

ortizzle, i think she called because of the shoplifting offense. I wish i could say i think she'll do something, but i'm not sure.

caro, yep, you can lead a horse to water, and all that....

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Does anybody else see a similarity between this girl learning that she can get away with stuff and -- Paris Hilton?

Her mother is doubtless afraid to make waves and incur her anger, but if she doesn't firm up and confront her, the daughter will go on to bigger and better crimes.

And she probably won't get the privilege of languishing under house arrest in a carnival atmosphere either.