I don't even know where to begin with this. Here's the cast of characters:
Susan (the mother)
Lolita (Susan's daughter, 14 years old)
Jim (single guy, in his 40's, but a magnet for kids. They just love him. He has known Susan and her daughter for years, since Lolita was 5 years old. For what it's worth, he has never dated Susan; in fact, Susan and Jim aren't even overly fond of each other).
BG: Susan and Jim are part of a larger group of my friends who sometimes do things together. She has always brought Lolita along, ever since she was little. Lolita lost her dad tragically at age 4; Susan has been shattered since her husband's death, and doesn't cope well with the stresses of life. I've often felt sorry for Lolita as she has been dragged through a lot of dysfunction. Lolita has always adored Jim, although she didn't see him often (I'd say maybe once or twice a year!) and when she did, it was always in group outings. I always got the feeling Lolita longed for that missing father figure.[end BG].
When Lolita was 12, Jim told me after an outing (I wasn't there) that she had seemed to always be flirting with him, trying to sit in his lap, and if he was talking to the adults she'd jump in and try to put herself at the centre of his attention (not with the other adults). Jim felt that it was some kind of little girl crush and she'd grow out of it and start getting interested in boys her age.
Nope. It got more overt the older she got; when she was 13 I witnessed her giving him back rubs, leaning close, putting her arm around him, etc. He told me when nobody else was looking, she'd lean over and "accidentally" give him a view down her top, and she'd glance quickly to make sure he saw. Jim told me she was confiding in him things that a 13-year-old would normally tell her girlfriends: monthly girl issues, for example. And she'd text him constantly wanting to hang out with us. Jim felt uncomfortable and told me he had no idea what to do as he didn't want to embarrass her or hurt her feelings. I told him the onus was on him to put a stop to all this, because he is the adult. Still, he acts like a big kid around her and IMO, encourages the behaviour, albeit unwittingly. To his credit, he did avoid ever being alone with her, if for no other reason than to protect himself from accusations of impropriety.
Susan (the mother)? She thought it was ridiculous and creepy when Jim told her he thought Lolita had a crush on him, said she already had a boy she was talking to at school, and got angry with Jim for thinking such a thing. They didn't speak for the next year, and Jim was glad to distance himself from the situation.
Fast forward one year. Lolita is now 14, nearly 15, a very attractive teenager. I was present at a social gathering; Susan, Lolita, and Jim were also present, among other guests. Lolita flirted with Jim relentlessly; Jim was playful back, as he is with all kids. Everyone else noticed the way Lolita leaned on him, put her arm around him, rubbed his back, and so forth. She wanted to go off for a walk with him to talk. He didn't want to be alone with her so he stayed put. She then wrote him a note that to his horror, said, "I'm suicidal."
He worried about this one after that, wondering if she'd said that merely to get his attention or if she was serious. Given her home life and emotional problems at the moment it doesn't seem such a huge stretch that she might be serious. Jim talked to Susan about it and found out that Lolita has been having a lot of problems and has already mentioned suicide. and was having trouble reaching her daughter at all. Jim felt that since he was about the only person Lolita was willing to open up to, he should not turn his back on her, although he was still at a loss for how to deal with her increasingly intense flirtations and physical touching.
He was still pondering this dilemma when word got out that Lolita had run away after an argument with her mother. Three days later she was found downtown hanging out at an "occupy" protest and brought home. Crisis time. I had Lolita and Susan stay with me for a few days to sort things out and have fun in a different setting. I currently live in what many would consider a nice vacation home. I thought it would be good for them. Lolita seemed to enjoy it a lot, was pleasant to have around, and I promised her that although they couldn't stay past the weekend this time, I'd invite them back and she could have the big room with the view for a few days so she could relax and enjoy the getaway. She seemed very pleased and excited at the prospect as she had really taken a liking to that room.
On the last day of their visit, Jim came and spent the night too (mistake). He was in a separate room. Lolita actually got out of her bed in the morning and went into Jim's room uninvited, and lay down next to him where he was sleeping. He was in his underwear. Jim woke up and immediately left the room although he had wanted to sleep, though he STILL didn't tell her off.
I think this is reaching crisis levels and Jim really, REALLY needs to stay away from her or at the very least, tell her her behaviour is not appropriate and stop acting like her peer.....except, as he pointed out, he is the only adult she is opening up to about the problems that are causing her to have suicidal thoughts, run away, etc.
My etiquette question (finally!). Since that weekend Lolita has been texting me asking when she can come and stay in that room. Then she adds that "Jim had better be there!" because "it's boring without him" (yeah I know, rude, makes me want to withdraw my offer) and she hopes it's without her mom there. (I would definitely have her mom there). I know that she is now texting Jim a ton and that he is acting like some kind of best buddy to her.
I'm getting totally creeped out by the whole thing and now that I know she just has her hopes on spending a weekend away with Jim present, I want no part of it. I totally regret making the promise now, that she could stay here; I was only doing it to give her a little break from her troubled world and it's something I myself would have appreciated at that age.
How do I politely resolve this dilemma, ie not let down a girl in crisis, while still setting limits on this whole creepy thing she has going with Jim? Can I withdraw my offer and just stay out of it altogether? I want to help, but I don't want to enable.
(Disclaimer: I realize the girl needs professional help, waaay beyond what any friend can provide and Susan has been trying to get this without success).