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Sunday, September 1, 2013

Liar, Liar - A Teenager's Life

And the second child has started high school. My children don't lie to me. It''s been a long haul getting to that point but I'm very proud of that. Teenagers lie to their parents - even about things they probably don't have to lie about. Lying is like food to them - it comes naturually.

Why you have to wonder is it like that? I lied to my parents about everything - not that they would have noticed or cared most of the time. They weren't paying attention. We didn't have rules. I have a vague memory of a curfew that may have been midnight but generally they weren't home until after that anyway. Or there was a house full of people who were imbibing in things that everyone in the 1970s embibed in and they didn't remember if or when I walked in anyway.

I remember reading an Anna Quindlan novel about waiting up until really late for her son to come home. And how angry she was when he stumbled in. She had a reason to watch her child like a hawk, she'd lost her husband and two others to a teenage killer who they had taken in because he was a lost child. The only reason one child lived was because he had gone skiing that holiday with friends and her because he left her for dead but she wasn't.

But I digress - I know my children lie to me sometimes. But as my older son went through high school we reached an uneasy truce. He told me where he was, not all of the details but most of them. One night at the end of senior year he wanted to go to a girl's lakehouse overnight. A father of one of his friend's called me and he had just found out where his son was the next morning. I knew where my son was - I'd given permission for him to go. May not have been the best decision I ever made but at least my kid asked and I told him the truth. Many of the others lied to their parents and got in trouble. I was proud of mine.

This decision not to lie took a long time coming. When my son lied he got caught. Not just in a minor way where the neighbor tells your parents they heard a screeching of tires and a bunch of kids go into your house.

He got a summons for drinking at someone's house when the police came and his dad had to go get him. He was doing things he should not have been in the back seat of a parked car and the police knocked on the window. He had a party in ninth grade when I went to NYC on business and another parent called me to check if I knew about it - shut down by his dad in 30 minutes. He was a lousy liar and when he lied I clamped down and he was grounded - not a little but a lot.

My daughter doesn't lie but I think she wants too. She tells me everything - so much that I don't know what I'm supposed to say to other parents. All the other kids lie to their parents. If she tells me she went to a party the night before I cannot say anything because the other parents don't know and she won't trust me. I don't know where to draw the line - I guess if there's danger - real danger that they are all in together.

But it would be so much easier if our teenagers just told us the truth - no matter how good, bad or ugly. There would be trust. There would not be fear. If they are not sure they should go to a party they could ask our opinion. We could tell them they can call us and we can pick them up if there is something going on they don't like. Doesn't that sound so much better?

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