Mom doesn't want son playing at friend's house

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  April 25, 2011 06:00 AM

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Dear Barbara,

I have found myself in a very awkward situation with the mother of my son's friend. First, I read in the local police log that she had been arrested for trying to fraudulently obtain prescription drugs. That truly surprised me, as I would never have guessed she might have a drug problem. She had a job, a husband and seemingly middle class life.

However, I have noticed missing bottles of medication from my bathroom (my prescription medication) after she visits. I also noticed that the times she has been to my house, she asks to use the bathroom, even if she is just picking up her son.

So, I have already relocated my medicines to another place in the house to avoid any more theft. However, I do not feel I can trust her with my son. At this point, my husband and I agree that her son can come over for playdates but no playdates at the friend's house. Do you have any further thoughts or advice about this odd situation? I'm really not certain about talking to her about this, since I think she will just deny everything.

Thanks.

From: Kathode, Boston

Dear Kathode,

Good for you for not dismissing the boys' friendship out of hand!

It's not like you're dealing with rumor; the woman's name was in the police log -- and I assume you mean printed in the local paper, not that you were examining the log at the local cop shop. So this is about as public as it gets; it's the elephant in the room and she's surely waiting for someone to bring it up.

In fact, I think you owe it to her to say that you read about her in the paper; that you're sorry for her troubles/ problems; that you hope she will understand that you don't feel comfortable having your son under her supervision; that her son is welcome in your home. Your conversation doesn't need to be confrontational. If she denies it, just repeat what you've said: "I'm sorry; I'm just not comfortable with my boy at your house."

Frankly, I think the tougher issue is what to say to your son. (I wish you had mentioned how old the boys are, but I'm going to assume they are school age or younger.)

He only needs an explanation if he's old, or curious, enough to ask why he never goes to his friend's house. Your answer needs to be truthful because he may well repeat it to his friend. For instance, you can say his mom sometimes doesn't feel well but only if you know there's some truth to that. Alternatively, you could say you talked to his mom (which will now be true), and it's easier for the moms if the boys play at your house.

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5 comments so far...
  1. The neighbor was arrested NOT convicted. You don't know if the problem is addiction to drugs or to stealing. Medical records are NOT public property.

    There is no need to say anything about keeping your son out of her house, unless she brings up the subject. You parents make the decisions for your son's safety.

    You are still helping her by picking up both boys from school? Don't stop, it gives her son contact with adults who can get him help if he asks for it.

    Maybe you could put a note inside your medicine cabinet, that says something simple like "XXX keep your hands to yourself ". It will get the message through, that you are paying attention. My bet is, she will see it and be more careful in future.

    I think it's not a good idea to mention her trouble. The simple traffic control on top of the arrest will keep the kids safe. Try not to shun her in public places--ask her to coffee at the local Dunkin for social contact.

    If you consider smokers (addicts to legal drugs), you will know that talking to them about their addiction is not useful--they have to want to stop smoking themselves.

    Posted by Irene April 25, 11 09:19 AM
  1. Irene - Your advice is extremely passive/aggressive. Not having the LW bring up the subject in a calm, matter-of-fact non-accusatory way should be forgone in place of a nasty, confrontational note left in the medicine cabinet? If THAT wouldn't put the other mom over the top and probably halt all play dates, I don't know what would.

    I also think your comparison of smoking (unhealthy but legal) to potential (notice use of that word) prescription drug abuse is absurd. Prescription drugs can, when used by perfectly normal or healthy adults, cause hallucination, narcolepsy, confused thoughts and delayed reactions. Cigarettes don't alter one's ability to rationalize, make quick or snap judgements or react in an emergency. Most of the smokers I know don't even smoke in their own homes and I have no qualms about letting my child in a smoking parents home because of that. I do, however, take serious issue with allowing a parent with a known or suspected drug issue look after my child and I won't allow it. It's an inherent safety risk that smoking can't even compare to.

    But then, I live in an area where narcotic prescription drug abuse is rampant and have seen the effects of it on families firsthand. Give me a smoker over a narc-head any day thank you.

    To the LW: Barbara's advice is good advice and I really hope that your son can remain friends with this boy - and that his mom gets the help she truly needs.

    Posted by Phe April 25, 11 12:10 PM
  1. Let's be clear, Irene - there is a world of difference between the police report (as you point out, innocent until proven guilty) and the missing drugs. If she's sunk low enough to steal pills from other parent's cabinet, that's bad, that's desperate behavior of an addict (and no, a little note is NOT going to stop her).

    All sorts of people you wouldn't expect have prescription drug problems. You're talking about highly addictive drugs that are regularly prescribed to people for fairly average things - I was once handed a bottle of vicodin for a stiff neck. And yet, our medical system does a crummy job of making sure people are OK using these drugs for a limited time and then getting back off of them. You have your bottle of pills and they make you feel better. But after a certain period of time, these drugs are physically addictive. So you get to a point where you ask the doctor for a refill, and he/she decides now that you're drug-seeking. If you want help, you have to go to a rehab center, just like the smack addict from the corner. Pain is extremely subjective - and there is little sensitivity to the idea that someone may still be in pain, but now have a pill addiction as well.

    None of that makes it any safer for your son to be in the care of someone who is suffering from an addiction. It's not your responsibility to fix her, but by all means, keep your son away from her.

    Posted by Q April 25, 11 01:17 PM
  1. I agree -- a nasty note in the medicine cabinet makes no sense, and won't solve anything. There is nothing wrong with simply expressing sympathy, saying you would love the boys to be able to get time together, and that it needs to happen at your house. Irene is right that talking to an addicted person *to try to stop them from doing what they are doing* is often futile, but that's not what Barbara is suggesting. Being honest about your own boundaries and rules for your son is what the issue is. It is okay -- and preferable -- to be honest about that. You can do that without being nasty, or confrontational. Just be matter-of-fact, don't make judgment; just explain what you are comfortable with and so what you will allow for your son.

    Posted by jjlen April 25, 11 01:25 PM
  1. I personally kept my kids away from a smoker's house after they lit up indoors just once in the presence of the kids. But I sure didn't feel any obligation to tell them why my kid couldn't play there, and they never asked. My job is to keep my kid from harm--it is NOT to go around reforming other people.

    Many people post "private property" or "beware of dog" signs. It's not passive-aggressive, it's common sense to put a simple "hands off" sign in the place that stuff is disappearing from.

    I do not believe there is any reason to tell a neighbor that you saw their name in a police report unless you have something really positive to offer. If they bring up the subject then you can say "oh really" and see what else they have to say about the matter.

    If you raise the issue of an arrest without a compelling reason, they are likely to feel that your home is not a place to come to. In this case the child of the accused needs a safe place to play where drugs do not figure. You make this possible by keeping silent about the police log.

    Posted by Irene April 25, 11 09:33 PM
 
5 comments so far...
  1. The neighbor was arrested NOT convicted. You don't know if the problem is addiction to drugs or to stealing. Medical records are NOT public property.

    There is no need to say anything about keeping your son out of her house, unless she brings up the subject. You parents make the decisions for your son's safety.

    You are still helping her by picking up both boys from school? Don't stop, it gives her son contact with adults who can get him help if he asks for it.

    Maybe you could put a note inside your medicine cabinet, that says something simple like "XXX keep your hands to yourself ". It will get the message through, that you are paying attention. My bet is, she will see it and be more careful in future.

    I think it's not a good idea to mention her trouble. The simple traffic control on top of the arrest will keep the kids safe. Try not to shun her in public places--ask her to coffee at the local Dunkin for social contact.

    If you consider smokers (addicts to legal drugs), you will know that talking to them about their addiction is not useful--they have to want to stop smoking themselves.

    Posted by Irene April 25, 11 09:19 AM
  1. Irene - Your advice is extremely passive/aggressive. Not having the LW bring up the subject in a calm, matter-of-fact non-accusatory way should be forgone in place of a nasty, confrontational note left in the medicine cabinet? If THAT wouldn't put the other mom over the top and probably halt all play dates, I don't know what would.

    I also think your comparison of smoking (unhealthy but legal) to potential (notice use of that word) prescription drug abuse is absurd. Prescription drugs can, when used by perfectly normal or healthy adults, cause hallucination, narcolepsy, confused thoughts and delayed reactions. Cigarettes don't alter one's ability to rationalize, make quick or snap judgements or react in an emergency. Most of the smokers I know don't even smoke in their own homes and I have no qualms about letting my child in a smoking parents home because of that. I do, however, take serious issue with allowing a parent with a known or suspected drug issue look after my child and I won't allow it. It's an inherent safety risk that smoking can't even compare to.

    But then, I live in an area where narcotic prescription drug abuse is rampant and have seen the effects of it on families firsthand. Give me a smoker over a narc-head any day thank you.

    To the LW: Barbara's advice is good advice and I really hope that your son can remain friends with this boy - and that his mom gets the help she truly needs.

    Posted by Phe April 25, 11 12:10 PM
  1. Let's be clear, Irene - there is a world of difference between the police report (as you point out, innocent until proven guilty) and the missing drugs. If she's sunk low enough to steal pills from other parent's cabinet, that's bad, that's desperate behavior of an addict (and no, a little note is NOT going to stop her).

    All sorts of people you wouldn't expect have prescription drug problems. You're talking about highly addictive drugs that are regularly prescribed to people for fairly average things - I was once handed a bottle of vicodin for a stiff neck. And yet, our medical system does a crummy job of making sure people are OK using these drugs for a limited time and then getting back off of them. You have your bottle of pills and they make you feel better. But after a certain period of time, these drugs are physically addictive. So you get to a point where you ask the doctor for a refill, and he/she decides now that you're drug-seeking. If you want help, you have to go to a rehab center, just like the smack addict from the corner. Pain is extremely subjective - and there is little sensitivity to the idea that someone may still be in pain, but now have a pill addiction as well.

    None of that makes it any safer for your son to be in the care of someone who is suffering from an addiction. It's not your responsibility to fix her, but by all means, keep your son away from her.

    Posted by Q April 25, 11 01:17 PM
  1. I agree -- a nasty note in the medicine cabinet makes no sense, and won't solve anything. There is nothing wrong with simply expressing sympathy, saying you would love the boys to be able to get time together, and that it needs to happen at your house. Irene is right that talking to an addicted person *to try to stop them from doing what they are doing* is often futile, but that's not what Barbara is suggesting. Being honest about your own boundaries and rules for your son is what the issue is. It is okay -- and preferable -- to be honest about that. You can do that without being nasty, or confrontational. Just be matter-of-fact, don't make judgment; just explain what you are comfortable with and so what you will allow for your son.

    Posted by jjlen April 25, 11 01:25 PM
  1. I personally kept my kids away from a smoker's house after they lit up indoors just once in the presence of the kids. But I sure didn't feel any obligation to tell them why my kid couldn't play there, and they never asked. My job is to keep my kid from harm--it is NOT to go around reforming other people.

    Many people post "private property" or "beware of dog" signs. It's not passive-aggressive, it's common sense to put a simple "hands off" sign in the place that stuff is disappearing from.

    I do not believe there is any reason to tell a neighbor that you saw their name in a police report unless you have something really positive to offer. If they bring up the subject then you can say "oh really" and see what else they have to say about the matter.

    If you raise the issue of an arrest without a compelling reason, they are likely to feel that your home is not a place to come to. In this case the child of the accused needs a safe place to play where drugs do not figure. You make this possible by keeping silent about the police log.

    Posted by Irene April 25, 11 09:33 PM
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About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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