My daughter is involved in a controlling relationship with her boyfriend’s family.
And sometimes it really bothers me.
Like when they secretly met with her during our family vacation.
Honestly, though, it’s not quite as surreptitious as that makes it sound, but it’s bad enough.
In the winter we told our daughter she could bring a friend on vacation with us, our last family holiday before she heads off to college.
She chose one of her best friends, the sister of the boyfriend.
Such relationships aren’t uncommon among teens who find themselves fond of the sibling of the BFFthey spend so much time with.
My daughter and the girlfriend have been besties for years.
A year ago, the budding brother became interested in her.
I found a text.
Shortly after the kids spent the weekend at the cottage with the BFF’s grandparents, as they’ve done numerous times over the years.
Regarding the electronic message, I have access to my children’s phones and Facebook pages.
That was the ground rule from the beginning.
If I feel I have concerns about anything, I will look to those resources.
I don’t care how great or mature our children are or how open our relationships are, once they begin the phases of puberty and breaking away, there will be the occasion where they are afraid to come to us for help, don’t want to come to us for help, and Gasp!, even times when they will stretch the truth or outright lie about something.
I am blessed to have three children who are as honest and open as offspring can be, but they aren’t exempt from this common adolescent behavior.
The day I saw the message that went like this, “I want to spend the rest of my nights like last night, in your arms,” I was looking for something else that had triggered a rare concern for me.
I was almost as blindsided as the night I saw the unknown, repeating phone number on my husband’s cell bill.
“I was going through your phone, because I was concerned about (whatever it was.) Is there anything you want to tell me?”
“We’re just friends,” she replied.
“Where were the grandparents? Do they know you two slept together?” I asked, my voice rising.
“And when do just friends sleep together and profess they want to be there every night the rest of their lives,” I asked my sixteen-year old.
And then my daughter did something she’d never done before.
She walked out of the house and slammed the door.
Let her cool off. She has a right to be upset. We’ll talk later.
About an hour later I called out to her because I had some trivial question.
Oh, yeah, she went outside.
No answer outside, either.
Oh, she’s really pissed.
When my husband came in, I told him about the discussion and asked him to go look for her.
“She’ll answer you.”
“I think I know where she’d go.”
He hopped on the four-wheeler and headed to the woods.
For more than fifteen minutes he rode around our mountains, down the street to the grandparents, up to her godparents house a mile down one of the trails, and returned empty handed.
Dusk was settling in and both of us were beginning to worry.
We phoned nearby family, her other BFFs, and then I phoned the boyfriend’s house.
Her girlfriend knew nothing, so I asked to speak to the mom.
I told her about the text, asked her if she knew they were dating (to which she replied, “I know they’re talking”), told her about her son’s text that dumbfounded me, “I wish your mother would just butt out.”
I had no clue where that had come from, none, which led me to believe that my daughter had been exaggerating something, or using me as an escape goat.
I told her I was beginning to wonder if the kids had had sex, and this was why my daughter was acting in such an unpredictable manner.
“I don’t think so. He’d have told me if they did.”
Honestly, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
Right, your fifteen-year-old son is going to tell you that he had sex with his sister’s best friend, while staying the weekend at your parent’s cottage.
“Will you please just talk to him and ask him what is going on? It’s going to be dark soon and we are growing concerned.
“Sure,” was all she said.
Thirty-plus minutes later, my husband drove downtown to their house, where he found the entire family sitting on the front porch. They didn’t budge from their chairs when they told him they hadn’t heard from nor seen her.
In the meantime, the Godmother had shown up at our house, frantic and ready to help look for her.
In the distance we could hear the sirens of emergency vehicles who were responding to the alarm that had been echoing across the hills from a neighboring town.
As we turned to go in the house, there came my daughter, half running, and half hobbling across the pasture.
My throat welled up and I ran to her, wincing as the driveway stones dug into my bare feet.
When I threw my arms around her she was trembling.
“I heard the sirens.”
She’d headed out to the place where she and her Daddy hunt, had missed the trail and wound up at the top of the mountain, and then lost track of time.
She assured us that they hadn’t had sex (not that it would have changed much), and shortly after the two officially began dating.
I’ve since regretted my counsel, “Call a spade a spade. If you’re close enough to have chosen to sleep together in the same bed, then don’t pussy foot around the issue. If you’re dating, say you’re dating.”
When his grandparents invited them back to the cottage for another long weekend, I phoned them and discussed at length past and future sleeping arrangements, to which they insisted they had no prior knowledge of.
This place is a two-story residence with enough bedrooms and beds to sleep twenty, so we gave everyone the benefit of the doubt.
They had even agreed to have the boys sleep downstairs on sofas, while everyone else stayed upstairs, and they vowed co-ed sleeping wouldn’t happen again.
Well, it did.
When the two started dating, Hubby and I decided our girl wouldn’t have sleepovers at the friend’s house anymore; the temptation was too great, and we couldn’t trust the parents.
If they’d held no regard for our missing daughter, then we certainly couldn’t trust them to honor our wishes, or communicate anything with us.
We’d noticed that the girl tended to be controlling: Not paying our daughter for fuel as they’d agreed upon (she drove her to and from school), and then telling her she’d just buy lunch on occasion, and then, after our girl told her that she needed to pay on a weekly basis, her friend one day changed the payment plan to monthly, despite receiving a weekly paycheck.
We told our girl that it was her money, but we felt that she deserved to have agreements honored, and that we were beginning to believe some of the actions were being done in an effort to control situations.
Over the course of the past year, we’ve noticed a few controlling tendencies by these family members. After living it for twenty years with controlling in-laws, we are all too familiar with the signs.
· Frequent, last minute changes in plans.
· They spend an exorbitant amount of time with the children (attending adult friend’s gatherings, eating lunches or dinners out three or more times a week.)
· Their high school-aged children aren’t allowed a key to the house, and aren’t allowed home when the parents aren’t home.
· Though my daughter’s friend has her driving permit, they don’t encourage her to drive, and rarely allow her to.
· The kids weren’t allowed to hang out at our house if they want to stay past nine, because the parents want to be in bed by ten. We were expected to do all of the evening driving, while our daughter seems to be the one who picks them up, as well as often takes her friend to work. Interestingly enough, the parents began to change their tune the one night Hubby and I said we wouldn’t drive in the evening because we were having friends over, were going to have a few drinks, and wouldn’t be driving anywhere.
Fast-forward to the vacation…
There was a two-week window we had to choose from and were just waiting for a few other details to be ironed out before deciding on the exact timeframe.
We gave those dates to the parents, who proceeded to schedule their daughter’s graduation party for one of those weekends, giving our daughter one explanation and us another.
When they agreed to drive their daughter to our destination, they offered to our daughter that she could stay in town and they would bring her down, too.
We were the bad guys for a short time, but as Warren said, “We aren’t going to change our family vacation plans to accommodate them. Period.”
So, what did they do?
Took a few days off from work, and told the kids that if they had to drive all that way, they were going to enjoy it.
We invited them to join us for dinner the day they arrived, and then we spent hours together, walking the boardwalk.
The next night, while the girls were at the boardwalk, the family “surprised them,” and spent the evening with them.
The next morning, when the girls went fishing with Warren and then for a run, the parents texted and asked them to meet at a restaurant for breakfast.
Warren finally decided to come home an hour after the time the girls said they wanted to be home, figuring they were still just walking the beach.
When I asked them where they’d been, she said they stopped for breakfast.
“So, you ditched your dad to eat with them,” I said, after I asked about the rat I smelled.
She later told her father that her friend insisted they go meet the parents, said they’d hurry along, but the meal took forever.
I haven’t had opportunity to speak to our daughter alone, and I’ve waited a day to let my emotions cool down, but what she did was irresponsible and inconsiderate.
At a minimum, she should have insisted that she return to let her father know what they were doing, since he was expecting their return.
Warren’s comment is that he’s sure she was in an awkward position, that it’s her life and if being with them makes her happy, then let her have fun.
“Do you agree that what the parents did was inconsiderate, sneaky, and controlling?”
When he concurred, I asked him, “Do you want her to go through what we went through for twenty years?”
“Well, then, you should be having a conversation with her about it.”
Her boyfriend is a nice boy, a bit immature due to the three-year age difference, but he seems to treat her well.
I don’t have a problem with him, necessarily, but I do have a problem with controlling.
I plan to share my cautionary tale with her, and informing her that she needs to feel empowered to speak up, and to least be able to recognize the behavior for what it is.
If she’s aware, then she’ll be able to make educated decisions.
One concern, however, is the old adage “The more you say, the closer you’ll drive her to him.”
My greatest urge is to have the discussion with her, and yet, I wonder if I’ll do more harm than good…
What would you do, friends, speak up or keep your mouth shut?