It's a odd occurrence indeed when the quintessential homebody, yours truly, is bored on a relaxed evening at home, but such is the case tonight. Nothing on TV, can't eat anymore, and it's not time for bed yet, meaning the family's all still up so I don't feel right secreting myself away to read a good book. And actually, I have nothing to say, so I shouldn't be blogging, but like I said, I'm bored.
So I will entertain you with the strange emotional upheavals in our home over the past week. It all began last Monday when we went out to dinner, just the four of us, T, R (son), L (daughter) and me. L, an 8th-grader, announces that her friend, Mary, asked a guy she liked, Teddy, out on a date to a movie this weekend. Her mom said she could as long as another friend went with them.
That was as far as she got, and T said, "NO." Whew! Go T! Up with dads!
Much to my surprise, however, L's face immediately clouded over and her eyes welled up with tears. Now I, being the parent who can usually "track" with the kids emotionally, was lost. Bewildered. Confused, perplexed and stupefied. Rattled, snowed, stumped and befuddled. (Nah, I'm just having fun with dictionary.com. =) ) Why would this be so important to her? She sees her small group of friends almost everyday. What could possibly be the big deal about not being allowed to go to this movie? I knew she was showing a rather new interest in guys, but I couldn't believe she actually liked this guy. Besides, it wasn't her date -- she was just to be the chaperone. I hoped that maybe it was nothing more than being tired or hormonal and the whole issue would evaporate with a good night's sleep.
No such luck. The issue was not only alive and kicking the next day, it was morphing before our eyes, changing shape hoping to take on a more acceptable form. I had told L that I had nothing against guys coming to be a part of her social landscape, but I preferred it all happen in a more natural way, slowly ingratiating themselves with her "homies" until they were all just a big gang of friends, guys and girls together. I told her this just seemed forced. Mary wanted a date, so she was trying to pull her friends onto the scene, rather than going out with friends and inviting a friendly guy along to get to know everyone too.
After a bit of haggling I agreed that if there were more girls than guys in the party, she could go. So her friend went to work, calling all the girls they knew, trying to massage the numbers in their favor (because now there were two guys involved -- Teddy wanted to bring his friend, Tony). As it turned out, T and I were so distracted by the social dynamics of the situation, we hadn't worried a bit about what movie they had chosen. The other moms, having no idea of the origin of the gathering, were all saying 'no' because they were proposing to see the PG-13 movie, Chronicle. Thankfully, those moms looked up the review and saw that the movie included multiple references to teen sex, including a scene where a teen boy leads a teen girl up to his room, and then there's a shot of his pants down around his ankles. Another teenage boy complains he hasn't had sex since the previous summer. Wonderful. And this is PG-13.
But the strange thing was L's emotional attachment to this outing. She cried every time I brought it up, and there seemed to be no talking reason with her. I just couldn't figure out what was going on. I mean, I get it. She's a full-blown teenager now, and I've felt the full force of the crabbiness for more than a year now. But this was different. Never before had we come to loggerheads over value judgments. She has always agreed with our ideas of right versus wrong, wise versus foolish, smart versus stupid, careful versus reckless, judicious versus foolhardy, sagacious versus naive, perspicacious versus ignorant... =) (just bein' silly)
Finally this morning, at the eleventh hour, she revealed her perspective, and all the missing pieces fell into place. After more tears even before 9:00 a.m., we were on our way to her once-a-week homeschool classes, Palaestra, where she would have to either finalize plans or bail completely on Mary, and she reached over to turn off the radio. (I had turned it on just to diffuse the obvious tension between us.) She said she had been praying that God would provide a way for her to get to know more homeschooled kids from Palaestra, and she really believed that this was God's answer to her prayer. She had no interest in either of these guys, and she didn't approve of her friend trying to work the back door to have a date, but she was really just wanting her social world to be able to expand a bit. And having prayed, she had been so happy to have this opportunity. That was all.
Ahhh. Now this made sense. For several weeks she had been talking about wishing she knew more people at Palaestra, feeling a little confined with her small group of four or five girls. Maybe a little caged, constrained and hemmed in. Hog-tied, repressed, restricted, held back and trapped. Cramped, enclosed, hindered, stifled. (More dictionary.com =P ) What a wonderful balm to my soul that she had brought her trouble to the Lord! All the pieces came together happily.
We are so blessed with this daughter, our most social little peanut, that her friends' parents have such great relationships with their daughters and are so intimately involved in their daughters' lives. I dropped her off at Palaestra, did a couple errands and returned an hour or so later. When I walked into the mom waiting area, Mary's mom, Lisa, and another friend who had not been willing to let her daughter see Chronicle, were sitting together reading the movie's review online. And, don't tell L, but I filled them in on all the upheaval this "date" had caused in our family. Lisa had no idea all these social contortions had been going on, and was very glad to read to full scoop about the movie.
We talked openly about our ideas about how to handle the whole "dating" scene with our kids, various challenges, wanting to guide the kids in wisdom yet without being so restrictive that we actually incite rebellion. Lisa searched out the girls and talked to them about changing the movie selection, and to her daughter about the wisdom of all these awkward machinations just to get a "date" with Teddy. (Do you think Teddy has any idea what's going on here?)
T and I always told our kids that the purpose of dating is marriage. If they're not ready to get married, or if marriage is not at least somewhere in the foreseeable future, then they're not ready to date. Our older two children definitely saw the sense in that line of thinking. So far, I believe the younger two do also. Thank you, Lord!
So the social engagement is on. A better movie selection has drawn a few more girls, and I'm sure the whole thing will be fine. Mary is still sweet on Teddy and will enjoy a little time with him, but I'm sure, whatever chemistry exists between them, prudence will prevail. L has a great group of friends and her friends have great parents. I am so thankful to go through these tumultuous years with them.
Date turned out to be quite anticlimactic. The boys arrived at the theater, bought their tickets and sat down a good 10-15 minutes before the girls, who arrived just in time to buy a ticket and find a seat. After the movie, the boys mumbled something about having to use the bathroom, and were off. That was that. So much vexation for so little return. Ouy!