Dear Abby: Dena, my 13-year-old daughter, is in the same grade as her friend "Amanda." Amanda has a sister, "Barb," who turned 15 last month.
Amanda told my Dena that Barb's 16-year-old boyfriend has been sneaking in Barb's bedroom window several nights a week for a while now, after her mother and stepfather have gone to bed. Amanda also confided that Barb told her that she and the boyfriend had had sex a couple of times, including before Barb turned 15.
I'm not close to the mother and stepfather, although I do run into them at school functions. I wouldn't begin to know how to approach the parents and tell them what I know. Should I be concerned with what's happening in other people's homes after they've gone to bed? Or should I keep this to myself and let them find out the hard way down the road? ANOTHER MOTHER IN OKLAHOMA
Dear Mother: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Call that girl's mother and tell her what you know and how you learned it. If what your daughter's friend confided is true, they need bars on the windows and a chastity belt for Barb (and some serious counseling).
Hi Mother: The key word is "confided." Actually there are two confides. Amanda confided with Dena and Dena confided with you. It speaks well of your relationship with your daughter that she felt comfortable enough to talk about such things with you, but it also reveals that you taught her how to get others in trouble so as to look good.
You have several out-integrities at work here. Foremost is Barb's out-integrity. Unbeknownst to even herself Barb set up her sister so as to get caught by her parents. Amanda has an out-integrity with her parents for supporting (silently condoning) such a perpetration. Amanda also has an incomplete with Barb—getting her sister in trouble is the only way she knows how to clean up the incident between her and her sister. Dena has an out-integrity with both girls as evidenced by her unconscious intention to get them both in trouble.
You have been remiss in your education of Dena. She's supposed to have learned about secrets and support.
Lesson #1 You were supposed to have taught her to never ever let a friend dump a secret in her space; she must co-create an agreement with close friends. She must communicate:
- "I can't be trusted to keep secrets. One way or another, verbally or non-verbally, I communicate such things. Withholds and deceits are simply written on my face. And, I have an agreement with my Mom to communicate openly, honestly and spontaneously, zero thoughts withheld. It works for me to share everything with her and, she doesn't hide anything from me. Can we agree to not dump secrets in each other's space?"
Lesson #2 How to support a friend in handling a perpetration. Secrets about perpetrations are the mind's way of covertly setting up life to get caught. The mind dumps a secret in another's space knowing full well it will eventually come to light. It's one's integrity unconsciously at work.
Lesson #3 You were supposed to have told Dena that ratting on another (badmouthing-gossiping) is both abusive and unethical, except that one first gives the perpetrator the option of cleaning up the mess without bringing in parents or an authority.
This is your opportunity to teach Dena how to support Amanda in cleaning up the deceit between herself and her mother. She can't feel good knowing she's presently a supportive silent conspirator in Barb's deception of her parents.
Dena has led her friend Amanda to believe that her relationship with you is such that she doesn't tell you such things. We know this is true because Amanda will be upset with Dena for betraying her confidence. Amanda sure as heck believes that she wouldn't have confided in Dena if she knew with certainty that it would get back to you. Amanda's confiding was at the unconscious level. Dena needs to let Amanda know that she betrayed her (Amanda's) trust, and to communicate, "Never ever tell me stuff you don't want other's to know. I simply can't be trusted to keep secrets."
I say several "out-integrities" because at the root of this problem is Barb who is unconsciously reaching out for help because there is no experience of communication between her and her mother. A parent who him/her self is in-integrity, all perps and withholds acknowledged, can experience the integrity of his/her child. Children are excellent integrity meters. When a child can't sit down and look a parent unwavering in the eye, during a series of conversation topics, are hiding something. They become, as the term aptly describes, "uncomfortable in their skin." Conversely, the more withholds and verbally unacknowledged perpetrations a parent has the more a child is driven to mirror the parent. Misbehavior, poor school performance, or even getting sick is how a child draws attention the fact they are no longer in communication with anyone. Not that Barb's parents don't conceptually love her but that the experience of love is missing, the love that results from being in-communication. In this case, both of Barb's parents are themselves involved in deceits, and as such can't see it in Barb. It could be said that Barb is reaching out into the community for help.
Now we address what this is about for you, that you were not conscious when Dena confided in you. More so, that you wrote ostensibly willing to follow a columnist's advice to snitch on Barb and betray your daughter's trust. My sense is that what was/is sapping your consciousness is that you have an incomplete having to do with snitching/deceit. It could be said that you set up the whole drama so as to recall and complete an earlier and similar drama of your own, one in which you played one of the roles. Perhaps you were snitched on, perhaps you betrayed a confidence (and have not acknowledged to the betrayed that you did so), or perhaps you sneaked out on your parents and have never acknowledged it to them. It's possible that you are the space (cause for) for others to unethically and irresponsibly dump gossip, as was Dena. She learned to be the attractor (supporter) of gossip from you. Notice that Dena didn't naturally know enough to ask Amanda, "What are you going to do?"
Begin cleaning up the mess by telling Dena the truth. That at first you were shocked and didn't know what to say but that after contemplation, and consulting others, you realized that a similar perpetration of your own was clouding your mind, sapping your consciousness. The truth is you experienced shock, uncomfortableness, and disappointment, which revealed your own incompleteness and confusion about a similar (most likely childhood) matter regarding deceit. And, that you now realize that you should have asked her how she (Dena) intended to handle the situation. Communicate to her (not necessarily using these words), "My sense is that why Amanda told you was she was hoping you'd support her in confronting her sister in acknowledging what's happening (her deceits) to her mother." In teen lingo it sounds like, "Either you tell mom or I will." And, "I also suspect that Amanda knew that you'd have no choice but to tell me given that she knows how open we are with each other. In other words, she knew at some level that things would get brought out into the open if she told her best friend." Dena will know without you telling her that it was unethical of her to dump such a problem in your space knowing full well that you'd have no choice but to talk with Amanda so as to effect open and honest communication between everyone. And, have Dena acknowledge her irresponsible dump on you.
The "Either you tell mom or I'll have to" is referred to as the Military Code of Honor. It reminds the observer that they become cause when they remain silent. And it reminds the perpetrator that it's unethical to dump a perpetration in a friend's space expecting them to condone it by silence.
Lastly, that you wrote for advice speaks well of you. Most would have automatically found a way to betray their daughter's trust.
Yours is an excellent parenting-skills letter. Thank you, Gabby