Parenthood and sticky situations go hand in hand and by sticky, I’m talking literally sticky, as in uncapped glue sticks somehow finding their way to the couch or the rug, and figuratively sticky, as in situations that call for an instruction manual but there really isn’t one that hasn’t been written.##M:[more]##

I remember when they put that first squalling infant in my arms at the hospital and feeling seized by sudden panic. My new Cuisinart had come with a full book of instructions but there was none for the new life they had entrusted with me to take home.

I’ve had two sticky situations come up this week and I’ll share the easier one first. I came downstairs this morning and the floor underneath the kitchen table had a spreading pool of red liquid. As an avid fan of such crime shows as “Without a Trace” and “Cold Case,” I could have felt the stirrings of a mild sense of alarm but I quickly discovered the source: a grocery bag sitting on the chair. Inside the new box of popsicles that had been begged for, then forgotten, as the rest of the groceries had been put away. Four dollars worth of frozen treats, quite literally, down the drain.

I also resisted the instinctive temptation to clean it up right away while it was still quite liquid and more easily cleaned. I let it wait another six hours when they were home from school and they could clean it themselves. It was less liquid and definitely a lot more sticky but oh well, the lesson learned was worth the hard scrubbing. At least this kind of mess is easier to clean up.

The other sticky situation I encountered this week happened Friday night and is less easier to mop. The teenager had some friends over to watch movies in the basement. Just six kids including herself, two boys, and three girls from school. At the end of the evening I discovered some empty beer bottles, seven in all, along with a couple of empty water bottles smelling of a liqueur I couldn’t identify. She swore she hadn’t had any herself and wasn’t even aware of the drinking until late in the evening because it had been going on quietly behind her as she watched the movie.

But at that point, when you knew, why didn’t you come up and tell us, I asked.

Because at first I didn’t know and then I was feeling confused and awkward and didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how you and daddy would react.

I told her that the reason we had a rule that we had to be home when her friends came over was precisely so we could prevent this kind of thing from happening. I told her I wasn’t so much angry with her because I could understand that she could feel awkward about calling her friends on their trespass, but it was up to her to make it clear to them that we had rules in our house and they had to obey them.

I explained to her that I know kids will be kids, but underage drinking is against the law. There was also the element of deception and betrayal of our goodwill by their act of sneaking the stuff into our home, then consuming it when they knew we would disapprove. None of them are old enough to drive, not yet anyway, but God forbid someday one of them does drink too much, then gets behind the wheel.

I know this kind of stuff goes on, but frankly, I was surprised that it was happening so soon. By the time I discovered what had happened, the kids had gone home and we were left holding the bag, quite literally, the bag holding the empty bottles. They were sneaky enough to smuggle it in, but not sneaky enough to smuggle the evidence out.

Buckle up your seat belt and hold on, I told my husband, we’re in for a roller coaster of a ride.

This was our first true indoctrination into the world of teenage hijinks. The thing is, the episode still isn’t completely behind us. Our teenager says she read the riot act to her friends and she thinks that should be enough. I told her that as a parent, I would want to know if my child had sneaked liquor into somebody’s house and consumed it there.

But at this point, we’re not quite sure who brought it in, and who actually drank it. We don’t want to point fingers at the wrong people, especially if they are innocent, because it’s never right to paint guilt with a broad brush. And yet, it did happen under our roof. Our teenager doesn’t want to get her friends into trouble. But we tell her that’s not the point. It’s up to their parents how they want to deal with the situation, but under our roof, under our child’s company, we have to act according to our own moral code.

So I’ve got some hard phone calls to make, calls I’m not looking forward to making. I told our teenager she has to trust us to make the right judgments and to know that we would not have overreacted, screamed at her friends, and kicked them out of the house that night. I’ve told her I may be just as confused and awkward as she is about certain situations, but at least as long as she tells me we can figure things out together, we will work things out.

Right about now I’m thinking that just as babies don’t come with instruction manuals, teenagers don’t come with one either. This isn’t the first sticky situation we’ll have to put our heads together to fix. But two heads will always be better than one.

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