Daughter's 'Out for pizza' was but a slice of the truth

September 16, 2001|By Susan Reimer

When it comes to telling the whole truth and nothing but, teen-agers rank right up there with tobacco companies.

As a matter of fact, I believe cigarette manufacturers are not secretly marketing to our children. They, and all the other scoundrels of the world, are secretly learning from them the black art of information control.

Let me provide the facts as they revealed themselves, and you can decide for yourself if I am correct.

My 15-year-old daughter, who has been given the green light for something resembling a social life now that she has passed through the vulnerable naivete of freshman year, asks if she can spend the night with her friend, Kate.

Sure, I tell her. We like Kate. We like her parents. We share their values. Go, I say, with my blessing.

Do you want some supper first?

No, she says -- and I am quoting here: "Kate's dad is going to take us to Piezano's."

Ok. No problem. Kate's mom must be out of town. Kate's dad doesn't want to cook. Kate's dad is offering pizza.

Next morning: our 17-year-old returns from soccer practice to report that his buddies saw his baby sister at Piezano's the night before. Not tucked in a booth eating pizza and sharing quality time with Kate and her dad, but dancing the night away to a high school garage band with about a million other high school kids.

Kate's dad took them to Piezano's, all right, where he hesitantly left the girls among a swirling crowd of teens psyched for the local equivalent of Battle of the Bands.

Why would he do this, this man whose values I share, whose judgment I trust, whose daughter I love as my own?

"Jessie's mom and dad said she could go," was what he got.

Technically correct.

Jessie's dad said she could go after Jessie told him that her mother said she could go. ("Go where?" was never really clarified for Jessie's dad.)

So Kate's dad, swayed by the judgment of two parents whom he respects, whose values he shares and whose daughter he loves as his own, reluctantly chauffeured the girls to their illicit gathering.

Turns out, absolutely everybody was there because absolutely everybody told their parents that it was OK with somebody else's parents. (At this point, they toss out the name of a couple, any couple, whose name is familiar and whose reputation in the community is above reproach.)

And, it turns out, it was a perfectly innocent evening. High school kids, pizza and music played by their classmates. A youth minister and his wife were on hand, and Kate and Jessie were home in bed at 11 p.m. The most protective parents could not have written a more careful script.

"This is what happens when I try to have a life," Jessie howled indignantly when confronted with the rest the story.

"No," I said patiently. "This is what happens when you try to fool me."

You didn't lie, but you didn't tell the whole truth, I explained. And here's the bad news: I would have let you go. Now you are in trouble for no good reason.

There is another lesson here, I told Kate and Jessie. Whatever you do, we, your parents, will find out. Maybe not the next morning. Maybe not for days, weeks or months. But we will know. Count on it. And when we do, you will catch Hell. If not for the doing, then for the lying.

There was a lesson here for us parents, too. Never settle for your children's sanitized, capsule description of their plans. Never believe them when they tell you it is OK with somebody else's parents. Make the phone call. Get the details. Find out for sure what the other parents know, where they stand.

It could save everybody a lot of trouble.

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