Dear Carolyn: My 7th-grade daughter is being frozen out of her friends' parties and sleepovers. Two months ago, she attended a party with close friends, both boys and girls. She told me afterward that although the parents were in and out of the room all night, while they were out one of the kids started an extremely inappropriate game and one of the boys had to kiss one of the girls.
My daughter was very upset by this, and I obviously had to let the other non-host parents know about this inappropriate game permitted by the hosting family.
Now my daughter is not being invited to things. Her friends have explained that they love her, but feel it wouldn't be right to expect her not to talk to me. They want to gather without worrying about their parents being called for "every little thing."
I called the original host mom immediately and she was well aware I had spoken to the other families, as several of them called her as soon as they had hung up with me. The other families have apparently talked behind my back, agreed the game was not harmful, and will not make their children include my daughter. Apparently inappropriate games are more important than kindness. How can I make them see reason? — Mean Girls
Answer: I think you've done enough crusading for one middle school lifetime.
You "obviously" had to call the other parents? No!!! The people to call were the hosts, to get their side of the story.
That would have been not only the respectful move, but also the instructive one — to learn what they did and didn't permit, to hear their reasoning for this, and to figure out whether there's enough overlap between their views on adolescent smooches and yours to ease your concerns. Good parents can disagree on how to handle the hormonal surge — and you thought toddlers were a white-knuckle ride — so for that reason alone it's important for peer-group parents to communicate.
Calling everyone but the hosts was not communicating, it was throwing them under a bus. You harrumph at the other parents' talking "behind my back," but that's exactly what you did to the hosts.
Note the nature of the fallout: Your daughter isn't being shunned, you are, through your daughter. Is that right of them?
No — there were kinder, better ways to handle their issues with you. Plus, your daughter might want to run with a different crowd for her own reasons, one that's more her speed.
But you haven't even glanced at your own choices here. You'd still "make them see reason," i.e., serve as the blameless one hoping to educate everyone else.
If it's kindness and transparency you want, then model it. Apologize to the hosts: "I screwed up. I should have talked to you first. I'm sorry."
To the other parents: "I made a mess of this. I got rattled and started lecturing when I should have had conversations."
And to your daughter: "I'm glad you told me about the party, and hope you keep telling me things; I'll even pick you up anytime, anywhere if you're uncomfortable and want to leave. What I won't do is overreact again."
Parents have developmental stages, too. Please make liberal use of humility — and deep-breathing techniques — for this one.
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