Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Parenting in the Gray Areas

Confession: Most of the time I feel like I am totally winging it.

This week what has me particularly confused is what is acceptable and what is unacceptable when it comes to middle school boys and girls interacting together. It's no surprise, given that I have 3 almost 14-year-olds in the house that this issue would come up. Although it's always come up. I have boys and girl that are the same age. ALL of their parties have had boys and girls. ALL of their outings have had boys and girls. And, mostly, I have to say that I view taking an interest in the opposite sex as a good thing. It is, if you look on developmental charts, an actual developmental milestone. Like walking, or saying two letter sentences, or learning to go potty on the potty (by the way, watch for my next post on potty regression...grrrr!) I wouldn't stop my kids from learning how to read when they were ready, so why on earth would I [try to] stop them from taking an interest in the opposite sex when they were ready. To be sure it is alot like giving a toddler a loaded gun, which is where the gray areas come in. How do I allow my kids the space to grow up but still keep a tight enough rein so they aren't put in situations where they won't be able to make good choices?

Take this weekend as a for instance:

On Friday, Jonathan and Trisha went to the movies with a mixed group of friends. On Sunday, Jonathan and Trisha went bowling with a mixed group that included their "boyfriend" and "girlfriend". To be honest, there was very little difference between the two outings. Both included rowdy boys and rowdy girls. Both included lots of hugging and flirting. Both included me creeping in the background (or the foreground...whatever...) If I put up video of the two nights and asked you to pick which one included the "boyfriend" or "girlfriend", I think you wouldn't be able to. So, how can I say it's OK to go out with friends but not OK to go out with a "boyfriend"? Either way I am creeping in the background (or the foreground...whatver...) And, to be frank, I feel much better about this sort of situation than I will about some loser who can't wait to get his hands on my daughter, picking her up in his car and driving away without me coming along! At least this gives me SOME opportunity to see how they handle themselves and some opportunity to provide feedback.

Here's what I have figured out on the topic:

1) It doesn't matter what my pastor, best friend, or mom does. No one has raised my kids and Rob and I have to make the decisions regarding what works best for them.

2) Acceptable: boys and girls coming over to my house and playing outside with constant adult supervision. Unacceptable: Boys and girls being up in a bedroom together with the door closed.

Pretty much I'm still trying to figure out everything else in between.

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