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Monday, 24 August 2015

Why would a parent hosting a teen party lie to other parents?

You would expect that when you contact a parent hosting a party and ask specific questions about what will and won't be happening at that event that you would get an honest answer. As I am often told, this just simply isn't always the case!

I recently received an email from a distressed mother (let's call her Jane) who felt as though she had nowhere else to turn and simply wanted someone to tell her that what she was feeling was valid and absolutely warranted. I have edited the message down and made a few changes to the content to ensure anonymity (I also sent this blog entry through to her before posting it to ensure she was okay with it) but the gist of the story is as she sent it through ...

"I really feel like I have nowhere else to go and even though I know you can't do anything about my situation, I hope you don't mind being used as a sounding board (actually more like a punching bag) so I can air my frustrations.

I have a 15 year-old daughter who is wonderful. She is at that age where she is now being regularly asked to attend parties and gatherings and having heard you speak a number of times at parent nights I let her go as long as I contact the host parents and make sure that I feel she is going to be safe. I always ask the same questions, and as you suggested, I have them written down and I go through them with the parent when I call. Up to a month ago I have never had any problems - my daughter certainly doesn't like me calling but she knows that is the only way she is going to go so she is willing to put up with it. She was recently invited to a 16th birthday party at a friend's house (a friend I had never really heard her mention before - that should have set alarm bells ringing!) and I did my regular 'Mum thing' and asked for a phone number to call. When I finally got a number (the day before the party) I made the call and asked the questions. Will you be at the party? Will there be alcohol available? What time does it start and finish? All the usual stuff to which I got all the right answers, although thinking back on it, the mother did sound very stand-offish and didn't thank me for calling, which I nearly always get when I make contact.

I dropped my daughter off outside the house and watched her go inside and then drove off feeling pretty confident that I had done all the right things. Two hours later I had a phone call from her. She was in quite a state and wanted to be picked up (with a number of her friends) because the party had gotten completely out of control. I raced over and collected them, a number of them in tears, and found out that although I had asked specifically if the parents were going to be at the house and monitoring the party, they weren't. Instead they had left the party in the hands of their 19 year-old son who had invited a whole pile of his friends over. Alcohol was flowing (even though, once again, I had asked if alcohol was going to be available) and the police had been called. My daughter and her friends were terrified.

A couple of days later, after I had calmed down, I called the mother who I had spoken to before the party to let her know how upset I was that she had lied to me. I was told by her to "loosen up" and that there was no harm done and that she was the one who should be angry as it was her house that was trashed! She then hung up on me. Although the school was supportive when I called them they said there was nothing they could do - what happens on a Saturday night is not their issue. And even though my daughter's friends' parents were as angry as I was when I dropped them off on the night, they have told me just to let it go. I even contacted the local police and asked if there was anything they could do and although they didn't say it in so many words, once again, I was made to feel as though I was over-reacting and that this type of thing was 'normal'.

Is this normal and am I over-reacting? Is it truly okay for a parent to lie to me when I call to find out what a party will be like? I want my daughter to have fun and party with her friends but at 15 I need to know she is safe and my trust in people has now been well and truly destroyed. What do you think?"

I don't know about anyone else but if this had happened to me I would have been furious! As I said to Jane in my response, thank god she had a daughter who felt confident enough to make the phone call to ask to be picked up. Who would ever think it was appropriate to leave a 19 year-old young man to look after a girl's 16th birthday party? So many things could have gone wrong - there's issues around an ability to supervise appropriately, alcohol supply and all the risks associated with that and then of course the possibility of sexual assault.

It's sad but I continue to hear stories like this one from around the country where parents do all the right things and make the call and then get lied to ... Why would a parent lie to another about a party they are hosting? Is it that they simply want to appease the person on the other end of the phone and truly believe that nothing bad is going to happen and the parent calling will never find out about the lie? If they thought that what they were doing was right, why wouldn't they just tell the truth, justify their decisions and then allow a parent to choose whether to allow their child to attend or not? Or do they so desperately want to be their child's friend that they're willing to lie to others to ensure that as many people turn up as possible and damn the consequences? I'd love to know the psychology behind such behaviour because once you know the reason why they do it, maybe we could address it more effectively.

I totally get Jane's frustration - she is angry because even though she did everything she could, her daughter was put into a situation that was potentially dangerous and she can't find anyone to take responsibility for that. She trusted another mother to tell her the truth and then she was lied to - that's going to be hard to deal with. Sadly for her daughter, it's most probably going to be a very long time before she trusts another parent again. The most important thing a parent can do in this type of situation is be thankful that nothing terrible happened - as I said to Jane, no-one was hurt. Grab that fact and hold it very close - so many things could have gone wrong but didn't. Unfortunately, parents such as the one that Jane encountered are often 'serial offenders' they do this kind of thing again and again - not only putting their own children at risk but other peoples' as well. That is shameful and should not be tolerated!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Paul. I know you are aware that this simple story is being played out many times each weekend across Australia. Alcohol 'indoctrination' is so entrenched in Australian society that it is not questioned. And as this story reveals, if it IS questioned the person (responsible) often becomes defensive and/or offended. Do they not understand that alcohol is a drug? That we lose a young life each week to alcohol intoxication? That countless other young people suffer from irreparable (and accumulating) brain damage due to alcohol consumption? The tide is turning - but how many young people will be drowned before the 'responsible' community (parents) gain insight into what is really happening with alcohol? Thanks for your articles - they keep hope alive that this blindness to alcohol-related harms will slowly dissipate.