Too Much Foolin’ Around…

Dear Mamas,

My son has a friend who he adores and we like him, too. They are in fourth grade and have only known each other since last summer. Here’s the problem — this boy’s parents swing. I don’t know this from the mother or father myself but several other friends have talked to me about it and I totally believe it is true. I am not a fan of this “lifestyle” choice.

I am uncomfortable about the whole thing for the obvious reasons and I don’t know whether he should be able to sleep over night there or not. Any suggestions??


Dear Nervous,

Well I’ve got to tell you — this isn’t exactly the usual question we get about sleepovers! We’re not talking about how to deal with your kid’s anxiety about wetting the bed or missing you when it’s time to turn off the lights. We’re talking about the possibility of the host parents hooking up with another couple while your 10-year-old plays video games or tries to get to sleep in the other room.

And although I have to admit right up front that I am no expert on the theory and practice of swinging, I can understand your discomfort. But given the way you wrote your question I am not sure specifically what you are concerned about.

You mentioned that you “…are not a fan of that lifestyle.” So my guess is that the “obvious reasons” you spoke of have to do with one or more of the following: that they may be having a sexual encounter while he is there; that they will talk to him about swapping sexual partners and influence his ideas about marriage or relationships; that he will see or overhear something pertaining to sex or swinging that he shouldn’t; that there might be other sketchy things going on over there; that they may be making other kinds of decisions that you don’t feel great about.

Any and all of those issues are reason for concern. You certainly have the right to put the kabosh on overnights at their place because the whole thing is just too weird for you. That would certainly be understandable. You don’t need to apologize to anyone for that. When another family’s lifestyle choices don’t feel good we can make the decision to opt out altogether from being around them. And if we really question whether it’s a healthy environment for our child, we must. It’s our job.

But before you do anything, you might want to talk to this mom. You didn’t make it clear how well you knew her but you did indicate that you have never talked about “it.”  And since your kids are close friends, you need to if you are considering letting their relationship continue. Maybe the story isn’t true. But assuming that it is, you have every right to bring it up next time an invitation for your son to come over appears.

I have to warn you though that this is probably going to be tense and awkward. And you can’t put the genie back in the bottle once you let him out. In other words, you have to be prepared for the possibility that she will be angry/embarrassed/humiliated etc. and that your son’s friendship may be lost as a result.

So you should give some serious thought to how you will feel if it turns out to be true. Is there really anything she can say that will make you feel less anxious about his staying there?

If you decide to go ahead, simply say that you wanted to get her take on some things that you had heard recently. Say you’re sorry to be bringing it up and that you hope she won’t be offended but since your boys are friends and yours hangs out there regularly, you needed to find out what was what.

Then just spit it out. Tell her you heard that she and her husband were swingers and you want to know if it’s true. If it is, you have to explain that unfortunately, swinging is not something you want your son knowing about or experiencing in any way. Then see what she has to say and take it from there.

After talking, you might decide that you don’t want your son to go to the swinger’s house but are comfortable having their son continue to come to your house. In that case, you can tell your son whatever you feel comfortable with about why he can’t stay there. But be mindful of the fact that whatever you say may well get back to the other parents through their son who will get the info from your son. So tread carefully and, of course, be mindful as well of not saying anything that could hurt or embarrass the other child. Sticky and tricky, I know!

Good luck and I hope this helps.

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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.

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2 responses to “Too Much Foolin’ Around…”

  1. Lucius Scribbens

    Having been in the swinger lifestyle as well as not, I can understand where Nervous’ anxiety comes from. I can also say that you should never believe what you hear from others and never assume anyone is a swinger unless you actually see them having sex with others.

    Even if they are, I can say with quite authority that swinging is a private activity and swingers no more expose their sex life to their children than I’m sure Nervous does to her’s. I don’t know any swingers that will invite others to their home when their children are present. They may like sex with others, but that doesn’t mean they are any different in the privacy of that sex life than anyone else.

  2. Maya

    Thats some pollyana advice there -talk to this lady and tell her you heard rumors about her sex life and then think theres a chance in hell the kids’ friendship wont be affected!!
    How about talk to the mom and figure out ways for the kids to hang out without sleepovers etc. I wouldnt let my son sleepover at anyone’s house who was not my family or super close friend. Best way to prevent child molestation as a blanket policy. Even in homes where the parents are preachers you just never know.

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