In Which I Have a Dilemma
God I’m in a terrible mood because once again, I find myself in the middle of a moral and ethical dilemma. Part of me wonders why this keeps happening to me but truly, I know why. It keeps happening because I can’t just stand there on the sidelines and watch a train wreck, especially if I know that it’s happening in slow motion and that maybe, just maybe, I could have affected the outcome.
In some ways that’s incredibly egotistic as I have yet to be successful in this type of intervention but I don’t want to be that person, with blood on their hands, saying I wish I could have done something. It’s one thing to be ignorant and not act; it’s another to be fearful of repercussions and not act.
I’m sure everyone has heard of that famous story in New York City where a person was brutally beaten on the street and tons of people saw it and yet, no one intervened. I’m not that person. I haven’t been in that particular situation where I’ve actually had to risk my life…yet; but I have truly had bad experiences for letting parents know things that they really didn’t want to know.
So, at what point are the truth and your personal integrity worth the shitstorm that gets created? Let me give you an example of situation number one. When my oldest child was 16, I was picking her, her date and some friends up from a dance. It was about 12:00 and I noticed a boy, a 16 year old boy like my child, staggering to the car with his date. It was obvious to me he had been drinking but I really didn’t know this boy well, nor did I know his parents. He hopped in his car, backed out almost ramming my car, and drove off.
I didn’t know what to do. Should I have gotten out of the car and taken his keys? Remember, I really didn’t know this boy; he was very popular and my daughter would have taken a raft of shit about it and it wouldn’t have been a great thing socially for her. I debated calling his parents but didn’t know them, didn’t know their friends, didn’t know what to do. He seemed quite drunk but I hadn’t addressed him and I didn’t know for sure. When the kids got in the car, I asked about him and sure enough, they confirmed he was quite drunk.
When I got home, I talked to my husband about what I should have done. Should I have called the police? Gotten out of the car and confronted him? Taken his keys and caused a commotion? In retrospect, I wish I had called the police and NO, he didn’t wreck or anything but what happened next was a clusterfuck of the finest variety. Shortly thereafter, they had an alcohol education session at the high school and I told this story, no names involved, and polled the parents involved: What would you have done? Some said call the parents but many said they wouldn’t get involved. I’m still not sure what the proper answer is.
A short time later, I ran into an acquaintance and she told me that they were starting an alcohol awareness group for my second daughter’s grade. This grade was a year behind my first daughter so she was in 9th grade at the time. Her co-leader was none other than the mother of the “date” involved in the incident. I started laughing and said “is that other mom aware that her daughter’s boyfriend is a huge partier and drives drunk?” I then said that “I would never let my daughter date him, not because he’s a bad kid, but because he’s way too mature for my daughter and she would end up doing things that weren’t in her best interest.” “Like what?” said the mom I was talking to. Jokingly I said, “well, I’m sure she’d end up having sex…that kid’s probably been getting laid since he was in 6th grade!”
End of story … or so I thought. That night I get an angry phone call from the “girlfriend’s mom” saying that she knew that I was accusing her kid of drinking and that I said that her “boyfriend” had been driving drunk. I said, “Yeah, they were drunk. I saw them and what you let your kid do is certainly your prerogative but I know what I saw and all I had said was I wouldn’t let my daughter date him. NOT BECAUSE HE’S A BAD KID! Just because my daughter isn’t at that level of maturity.” I mean, my daughter was just turning 15! The rest of the conversation isn’t repeatable.
Ok, so now I’m pissed. I called the first mom and “what the hell did you tell her (the girl’s mom)?” Basically, the answer was that every “joking” statement I made had been presented as fact to this other parent who of course, called the boy’s parents and told them of my “allegations.”
Now, I’m pretty much a live and let live person as long as your actions don’t clearly present a danger to my personal environment. But at some point, watch out. The next day I got an extremely nasty phone call from the boy’s father. This was the gist of it: “My boy is a good boy! How dare you tell people he’s been having sex! You are slamming his reputation! I’ve heard about you, you talk to lots of kids…are you sure that you don’t have some sort of issues hanging out with all those kids?
Excuse me? Hanging with all those kids? You mean, those kids who were in my house? Eating my food? Drinking my sodas? And inappropriately TALKING while doing so…within earshot. Seriously, this guy as much as alluded to inappropriate behavior because my house was a comfortable environment for kids to hang out in. Literally, this was one of the lowest points in my life.
I said to my kids, “I’m done. I’m no longer getting on AIM. I’m no longer talking to your friends… this is bullshit. This guy is smearing my reputation all over town like I’VE DONE SOMETHING.” So yeah, I felt at that point that if I ever saw a kid in trouble, even if there was a heroin needle sticking out of their arm, I was DONE. I wasn’t calling anybody because if a parent wants to see, they’ll see and if they’re in denial, they’re in denial.
By the way, a year later the kid smashed his car from drunk driving. No one was hurt thank god, but his license was taken away by the state for the year. Was that satisfying to me? No, not really…I was still pissed.
So, I made a decision that anything barring LIFE THREATENING situations, I would just keep my mouth shut. Now, this is no small task for me because I have a fair bit of knowledge, a big mouth and what actually construes a life threatening situation? I’ve been tested a few times and once, I actually did get involved. Was it worth it? I’m not sure. The situation ended up fine in the long run but did my involvement provide any impetus. I have no idea. I do know that the kid has to want to be helped and both parents’ need to be on board to have any type of successful intervention. I also know that the parent has to be AWARE of the problem and that they’re one HELL of a lot of parents out there with their heads up their asses.
And yet, here I am again, two years later with dangerous knowledge about another person’s kid. The child is using drugs; dangerous drugs that are well beyond just getting high. I know the parents and have for a long time. Best friends? Nope, but certainly I would be upset if I didn’t say anything and something happened. If that was the case, how could I live with myself? And furthermore, if that was my child I would certainly want to know and would hope that somebody would respect me enough to tell me what was going on.
So, for better or worse, I have to say something. I’ve been warned it’ll hit me in the face but I’m not the type to stand on the sidelines. I’ve truly never risked my life to be that person. It’s not like I’m standing up to the Nazi’s, although I’d like to think I would have done so, but honestly…at the end of the day…you have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror and say “I did what’s right.”
So tell me, what would you do?