I never meant for it to happen. But somehow I blinked and before I knew it I had become my teenager’s worst enemy. I became a narc.
It started off so innocently. I was talking to a fellow parent, a dad to a girl my daughter had been friends with since preschool. We were joking about the dangers of puberty and how difficult it was to watch our precious girls morph into lovely ladies all the boys seemed to want to sniff around.
One conversation led to another and before I knew it, we were talking about Facebook and I was offering to teach him how to set up stricter privacy controls for his daughter’s profile page. And that’s how I ended up narcing on one of my daughter’s oldest friends.
“Oh, that’s very sweet Tanis,” he replied, “but my daughter doesn’t have a Facebook profile. She’s not allowed and she knows how her mother and I feel about it.”
It was in that moment I wished the world would open up and swallow me whole so that I wouldn’t have to make the choice between betraying my daughter’s friend and protecting her father.
I felt my heart race speed up a bit as I thought about the choice I had to make. Do I tell him the truth that in monitoring my own children’s profiles I knew firsthand that his daughter did indeed have a Facebook account? Did I just pretend to not know otherwise?
What would I want if the roles were reversed and I was the parent in the dark? Would I want another parent to burst my bubble and illuminate me on what my children were doing in cyberspace?
I looked at my friend and I felt bad. My friend is by all definitions a great father. He volunteers, he participates, he is engaged in raising his children. He’s the type of father any child would be lucky to have. And on top of all that, he is a straight-up nice guy. One whom his daughter was deceiving.
It only took a millisecond, but I had made up my mind. I’ve always been an “in for a penny, in for a pound” type of gal and since I had blundered my way into this mess, I’d blunder my way out of it.
I apologized to him and explained that he was misinformed, that his daughter did indeed have a profile on the very social media site he had forbid, and then I showed him it on my phone.
As I explained to him Facebook’s privacy policies and controls I was suddenly very thankful my job means I have the tools to navigate the murky waters of the ‘net. The Internet doesn’t scare me or overwhelm me; it compels me. I have the tools and ability to teach my children Internet etiquette and how to safely use it.
My friend was very gracious to me and thanked me for bringing this matter to his attention. But as he walked away it got me wondering, would this be the last time I would be in a position to narc on my children’s friends to their parents?
Is it my job to be the narc?
Would I do it again?
I have gone out of my way to cultivate the trust between my children and for them to feel safe telling me anything they wish. And so far, in their early teenage years, they do. I’d like that to continue as they creep closer to adulthood. But what if next time it’s not about stumbling on a forbidden Facebook page but rather finding out one of their friend’s is doing drugs or drinking and driving?
Is it my duty as the adult in this relationship to break their trust if it means protecting a child that isn’t my own?
Would I want another parent to risk their bond of trust with their child if it meant protecting my kid? Is it any of my business what another person’s child is up to?
I tend to think that yes, yes it is, and that sometimes it really does take a village to raise a child but that doesn’t erase the horrible feeling I walked away with after accidentally narcing on my kid’s friend and watching her father’s face crumple with disappointment and embarrassment.
I don’t yet have the answers to these questions. My role as a teenager’s parent is still too new, too fresh for me to have acquired any real wisdom along the way.
I don’t know if I made the right decision at the time but I do know that I’d better figure it out soon because teenagers will be teenagers and I’m pretty sure my days of deciding whether to narc or not are just beginning.
Read more from Tanis at her personal blog Attack of the Redneck Mommy.