Jun 2, 2009

What Would You Do? *Children Mentioned*

Musings of A Beautiful Mess
Saturday we had my BFF here, along with her three kids and her boyfriend. It's usually crazy when her kids are here with them, but normally I'm able to handle it. Although this time, they brought along a friend. A friend whom I've met before, didn't care for so much, but she's a child and who am I to turn away a child from my home.

Here's a bit of a back story on the whole friendship/relationship we have with their family. We met when her daughters were two years and 3 months, Nae was 6 months. We were moving into an apartment and they lived across the way. Our two families became fast friends. That was almost 13 years ago. A lot has happened in that 13 years. She became pregnant, I had a miscarriage, she gave birth, I did not. I had another miscarriage and she and her husband decided they were done having more children. I finally got pregnant and STAYED pregnant and had Zilla. She was a great source of support for me, Husband and Nae while I was pregnant with Zilla. She rescued Nae from the hormonal mess I was, many times.

When Zilla was around 2, little younger, we all decided to move in together. It worked out really well, surprisingly enough. We all shared chores, saved some money and I got to live with my BFF. It wasn't perfect ALL the time, but on the whole it was a really good experience. I don't regret doing it. Things got rocky between the two of them and they ended up getting a separation and then a divorce. This was a very rough time for all of us. Although, I was very happy that I could be there for the children because those kids needed a stable "mom" figure.

Long story, short..well not so long. The girls ended up not liking me so much and started acting out. They stopped listening to me, which made it really difficult to be responsible for them when their parents were at work. I had the responsibility of mom and dad, but got no respect from the children and no back up from their father. It was a very stressful time in all of our lives. Then we moved out and the two families became two ACTUAL separate families. It was a bit sad, because I was really worried about the children. I thought for sure they were going to fail in school or get into a rough crowed, or any number of things that children can do when they aren't being supervised. Even though I was worried about them, I couldn't do anything about it. Yes, I loved these three children like my own, but they are NOT my children and their father needed to raise them. I'm not his wife, he can't always fall back onto me when raising his children. So, we did a lot of separating. Mostly me, I had to disconnect emotionally from them. I needed to be their Aunty D and not their Mommy D.

As time has gone, the girls (11 and 13) now are hanging out with some kids, I'd rather not have Nae hang out with. They talk about things Nae doesn't talk about. I'm not naive and I know that Nae isn't innocent, but she isn't into all the things they are into..yet. Hopefully she won't be for a LONG time. Nae knows about boys and has had a boyfriend *cringes* but she doesn't talk about kissing boys and she sure as shit doesn't talk about drinking and smoking.

When the other kids were here and their friend, there were some conversations going on that I did not approve of. Not with 11,12, and 13 year old girls. The friend was talking about how she asked her mom how she was conceived and apparently her mom didn't want to talk about it so the girl assumed she was a "rape baby". She actually said those words! In a grocery store, no less! I don't know this girl very well, I've met her all of two times, including this time. I felt like I was stuck. There were three of Nae's peers in a grocery store with me and BFF and one of them was talking COMPLETELY inappropriately and the other two were doing things that I thought were inappropriate. Like putting cantaloupes in their shirts asking if we thought they had "nice melons". I didn't want to embarrass Nae, but I had to do something to keep her away from these girls. So, I just ushered her away from them and we went to the checkout stand. The rest of the afternoon, Nae was my little shadow. Both because she wanted to be and because I wanted her to stay away from those girls.

When we got home from the grocery store, I talked to Husband and told him what happened and we agreed that, that child is not welcome in our home anymore. Nae told Husband a few things that had been said at the grocery store and it sounded like she disapproved of the girls, as well. I know that Nae isn't perfect and she has friends and I'm sure there are conversations going on at school that we, as her parents, would disapprove of, but not like what was said on Saturday.

I'm a bit of a over protective parent. When we were pregnant with Nae, my older sister was doing drugs and we had her son a lot. My parents and I basically raised my nephew because my older sis couldn't and wouldn't get her shit together. We decided that we would never do that to Nae *obviously* Our theory was this child didn't ask to be born and we were going to do our best as her parents to make sure she is safe. This was after we got the news she might have a heart problem and/or be mentally retarded and then found out she was healthy. Because of that conversation and the way we chose to parent our children, they've never had a babysitter, only been in daycare if I worked there and one of us is ALWAYS home with them. We've left Nae home along MAYBE three times since we've moved, but on the whole we are always around. Since Nae has turned 12(!) we've let her have more freedom. We've allowed her to go to the park by herself with her friends and she was able to go to the beach with her friend and her friend's mom a few weekends ago.

I'm wondering what would you do in this situation? Or what you remember your parents doing when you were a pre-teen/teenager when you could be influenced by other friends. I know I can't protect Nae from everything, but I can, and will, protect my home from children like the one. Am I being a "Polly Anna" thinking that Nae doesn't know about this type of stuff? Or thinking that she isn't like those other girls? Am I/we being TOO over protective? I just don't want her to feel like she has to grow up too fast because these girls are doing things she wouldn't normally do. I'm welcoming any and all advice, suggestions, and/or anecdotes you've got. If you think I'm a smothering type mom, go ahead and tell me. I guess maybe I'm feeling a bit shaken by this weekend and the future of Nae and her friends. I just would like to know what YOU think. What YOU would do. Lay it on my peeps!

25 friends have commented:

Liv on June 2, 2009 at 10:10 PM said...

I must ponder this a moment. But, right now I must go to bed, because technically it's tomorrow. :o)

But, for now...No, you are not a smothering type mom. You are just a good mom. I wish I could have had you for a mom! I'm sure you and DH will find the right solution to this.

eden on June 3, 2009 at 3:31 AM said...

Wow. I wish you were my mum! But that's technically impossible, considering you are younger than me.

Nae is NOT like those girls. If she was, she would BE like those girls! I would totally set the boundary of not allowing that girl into your home. Or at least, could you have a quiet word to her?

I love how she was your shadow. So cute. xo

Kristin on June 3, 2009 at 4:48 AM said...

While I am absolutely sure that Nae isn't like those girls, I am also equally sure that she has heard talk like that before at school. I remember what I was like in middle school and what I heard discussed by other people around me. I also know the stories Marty has come home with from middle school (eek, one of the terms he heard I actually had to look up on urbandictionary.com because I didn't know the meaning of it). I Also know that Marty first heard the term rape much younger tan I ever would have guessed...a 5th grader was telling tales when he was in 3rd grade. With all that, I think I would sit Nae down and have a simple yet very frank talk with her. You could start out by saying you though some of the things the girls said were inappropriate and ask her how she felt hearing it and if she had any questions. BE PREPARED that she may ask you questions that you aren't ready to hear. I have been shocked at the things middle schoolers talk about nowadays. Its very possible she has overheard a lot of things that make her wonder.

I think you are doing a wonderful job parenting and can definitely understand why you've made the decisions you have made. But, like you said, Nae is growing up and she definitely is at the age when you can't protect her from everything. Better that she hear it first from you so you can make sure she has the right information.

Kristina on June 3, 2009 at 5:09 AM said...

I think you have a great perspective on this. You can't protect Nae from the outside world, but you can control the world inside your home and the world around Nae when you are there. You're right not to let that girl back to your house, and I think it may set your mind at ease to just have a very open and canded conversation with Nae about what they were talking about, why you disapprove, and what does she think about it? She sounds like a great kid, and doesn't sound like she'll be easily influenced by these kinds of kids. Good luck!!

WiseGuy on June 3, 2009 at 6:39 AM said...

This is the time, when a child's discrimition ability kicks in...I am sure Nae is not totally closed to that kind of conversation, but I understood that she has a strong sense of right and wrong...maybe that is why she did string you constantly when you were there...

I guess this is the time that you take parenting to a different level...

I would (hypothetically) do what my mother did - tell my daughter to ask *me* anything that roused curiosity...sexual awakening is inevitable...but a gradual/ informed/ and sensitive handling is crucial.

Nae needs to be able to trust you guys with her hormones (we really are so innocent and wide-eyed and trusting at that age!) completely and she should be able to communicate. You cannot curb her freedom, but she needs to be able to decide how to not misuse that freedom.

It is a scary point....handle her well! And let her stay away from those girls....

WiseGuy on June 3, 2009 at 6:40 AM said...

*discrimination ability*

A Mom in Jacksonville, FL on June 3, 2009 at 6:54 AM said...

Good for you, Rock Star Mama! YOUR house, YOUR rules...bottom line.

As a middle school teacher, I am SURE she has already heard many of the inapproprite comments you mentioned. However, that does not mean they are any more appropriate.

Usually when I hear my students mentioning inappropriate things, they shut down immediately when I ask them, "Would you use that language with your parents?" OR "Would you talk about 'cameltoes' in front of your Mom?" (Sadly the 'cameltoes' comment REALLY did happen in my classroom this year...)

It is important for teens (and pre-teens, yikes!) to know that part of growing up is testing limits. Sometimes part of testing limits is discussing things that are "inappropriate." To me, the key is teaching them WHEN/WHERE might these discussions be (at least a little) more appropriate. Quietly at the lunch table. Discreetly at a friend's house. NOT loudly at a grocery store. NOT disrespectfully in front of a teacher, or adult, etc.

I think by keeping the lines of communication open with Nae---which you are already doing---the beauty of the situation, is that SHE felt it was inappropriate! Now she knows she can come to you and discuss things that are said when you aren't there to witness/hear them first hand. Yea, you!

Marie on June 3, 2009 at 7:09 AM said...

I don't have much experiance here with only my little boy but I like to think I would react exactly like you are doing. I think that we are the only people that will protect our children. They may not thank us now but they will later. If she knows you have her back she will always come to you.

SS on June 3, 2009 at 7:09 AM said...

As everyone else has said, you're a great mom. You know you're on the protective side and that's great and works best for your family- your children have had such a secure family life and that can only be a good thing. WHat I find the worst about this situation is that these girls are talking like this in front of you and your friend. That just shows disrespect and no setting boundaries in their own homes! Yes Nae has certainly heard talk like this at school but whne it happens with you there and in your home that is different- I think it makes sense to have a discussion with her about it, but I'd keep it somewhat light. Good luck, and I'm sorry you had to go through this-

J and J Acres on June 3, 2009 at 8:20 AM said...

Wow, you have a lot on your plate. I don't have any advice, but the fact that you've been a mother figure in so many kids' lives is very admirable.

And she seriously said 'rape baby'?!

GeekByMarriage on June 3, 2009 at 8:45 AM said...

I'd have locked the little brat in the closet for the rest of the visit.

You're not overprotective you're just involved! So many parents these days aren't and it's freaking sad!

Celia on June 3, 2009 at 9:13 AM said...

You are not smothering her. I agree with everyone that she has likely heard quite a bit by now.

You're a good Mama raising a good child. All the work you have put in for 11 years has given her a good foundation to deal with this.

Deathstar on June 3, 2009 at 9:21 AM said...

If I were a mummy, this is what I would do: Start talking to her about sex and relationships. She needs facts not schoolyard rumours. That way when you're not around, her head doesn't get filled with stupid junk she doesn't really understand. Then she can learn to think on her own. A girl her age needs someone to look up to so they don't get influenced by the idiot Paris Hilton types.

Deb on June 3, 2009 at 9:36 AM said...

I think it was a great sign of your parenting ability that the other girls made Nae feel uncomfortable. I think it's quite appropriate that you don't want her to grow up too fast, innocence is something one never gets back and the carefree times of youth are too short. On the other side, it's out there and she will be exposed to it, no matter what you do. Be there for her as best you can and let her know that you are open to her questions no what they are.
That is my very inexperienced mothering side speaking. I dread those days to come. The way kids grow up these days, I'll probably have to teach my daughter about sex at 5.

MAK-now on June 3, 2009 at 10:16 AM said...

I boycott MySpace to this day because 3 years ago I looked at my then 13 yr. old nephew's page & couldn't believe the things I saw there, displayed for all the world to see and interpret. How could this sweet, innocent little boy have such horrible things in his profile, let alone in the comments between him & his "friends"?

All this to say that, yes, Nae has most likely been exposed to things you'd rather she hadn't. But you're a ROCK STAR MOMMA and I think she knows just how much she can trust her parents to do right by her.

I agree with everyone else that you should continue to stay involved and continue to involve her in her upbringing. I don't have kids yet but I have over 30 nieces & nephews, several of whom view me as a surrogate parent (that's a story for another time), & I truly believe that communication is the key.

c by the sea on June 3, 2009 at 10:38 AM said...

i do not think you are being overprotective at all! i think every parent should be so involved and aware of what their child is exposed to.
i also think all of the behavior and comments by these other children give you a perfect opportunity to talk about that kind of stuff with your daughter, like what type of language and behavior is and isn't acceptable in your family, as well as talking with her about how to respond if she is put in situations where she may feel uncomfortable(or pressured) with her peers and what she can do (not join in, call to get picked up, ask YOU questions about what things mean, etc) it seems like she is a really good kid and knows that this type of stuff isn't okay with you, or with her. when i was younger my parents and i had a code word so if i was uncomfortable i would pretend i had to call and "check in" and i would say whatever the code was and my mom or dad would say "do you want me to come get you?" i would pretend i was mad about having to leave to my friends or course, but it was nice to have an "out" if they were doing something i was uncomfortable with.

Sunny on June 3, 2009 at 1:14 PM said...

Wow, that is a really tough situation!! Sounds like you handled it really well. I don't have any sage advice, just having a 14-month-old son, so I will leave that to your more experienced readers.

But I *will* give you an award on my IF blog. :) You may already have it, but if not, enjoy!

Anonymous said...

I think you did good. The best thing to do (as many have said) is to keep the communication open. Let Nae know that you found what they were saying innappropriate and why.

It's hard to be a parent, isn't it? It sure seems that way from the outside.

Coffeegrl on June 4, 2009 at 5:21 AM said...

Oh goodness. I'm not sure I can even wrap my head around this. I just can't believe that in 11 years I may be dealing with this with my own daughter. I love that you're courageous enough to really think about it and ask for advice so that you can best support your daughter! Striking that balance between supporting her as she moves towards independence and not giving her *too much* freedom (don't they say teens and pre-teens really *want* some boundaries?) doesn't seem all that easy.

JamieD on June 4, 2009 at 6:13 PM said...

No, I don't think your being smothering at all. First off, it sounds like Nae wasn't even comfortable being around them. So it isn't like you're 'forcing' her to not be around them. I think that girl has a good head on her shoulders. :)

It sounds like she is just like her Mom!

tbonegrl on June 10, 2009 at 7:16 AM said...

I think you are totally within your right not to have this girl over again. I also don't think you are overprotective. It makes me SO sad to see the loss of innocence in our youth. I feel like everyone's got to grow up so fast! I always tell my students: you've got PLENTY of time for the grownup stuff, enjoy being a kid right now...

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