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Navigating the Minefield

February 3, 2008

by IdahoSpud

I like to think that when discussing the birds and the bees with my kids, that I strike a good balance between being straightforwardly informative and not-too-embarassing–I answer questions as they come up, but refrain from mom-and-dad details to limit the ick factor.  I honor the kids’ physical privacy as they develop it (“don’t look, Mom!), and remind them periodically that no-one, including friends and family,  gets to touch them in a way that they don’t like, and ask if anyone has done so.  As my children mature, particular subjects have emerged, such as when my celibate teen daughters’ monthly pregnancy tests for Accutane prescriptions sparked a discussion about rape and abortion. 

My very intelligent, beautiful, talented, sweet, obedient, typical-eldest-child daughter, at 15, has a serious crush.  I’ve known and loved this boy since the day he was born — he is also 15, LDS,  a good kid, and returns my daughter’s feelings.  While I’m not overly anxious about the situation, the boy’s parents are, understandably, worried about his mission.  He has always been a very affectionate child who thrives on physical contact, and his folks’ concern is that what was endearing as a youngster could be disastrous as a teen. 

The situation came to a head last summer when the two shared a kiss after a stake dance, which led to many weeks of lectures and restrictions for the boy.  As his parents point out, with the raised bar, “anything more than a kiss, and he doesn’t go.”  While I reacted to the kiss with nothing more than a raised eyebrow, I have instructed my daughter (who is not a touchy-feely person by nature) that I don’t intend to try to change her feelings for her guy, but that I do expect her to control her actions, and to not engage in any “pairing-off behavior” before 16.  By mutual agreement with the other parents, we do allow the two to see each other in group settings, and provide frequent situations (chaperoned parties, 4-H meetings, caravaning a crowd to the movies, etc.) where the environment is somewhat controlled but they can still interact outside of school. The situation has brought me into new territory.  On the practical side, I have had to be careful to define precisely what constitutes “pairing-off behavior,” such as kissing and even hand-holding, even though everyone who knows them knows they are an item.  I’ve had to be careful to respect and uphold the boy’s parents’ wishes because they know him best, even if I think some of their restrictions (no email privacy, for instance), go overboard.   I also have to be careful about what I say at home, so as not to create “cool mom vs. mean mom” dichotomy between the two families. 

On the emotional and spiritual level, however, I have to wonder if there is something wrong with me — why am I more trusting, or perhaps even ambivalent, than the young man’s mother?  The question is more compounded by the fact that (*sigh*) my daughter’s parents didn’t get married in the temple right away (despite us being RS Pres and an RM Ward Mission Leader at the time), while her beau’s parents did.  You’d think that I, having experienced the pitfalls of “serious dating too long,” would be the more suspicious parent. Perhaps what is really going on is that the boy’s parents (who knew us at the time of our wedding) worry that the genes of two, um, less-restrained people might produce a girl of dubious values, thereby endangering their son?

And how much should my own experience figure into The Ongoing Chastity Conversation?  It’s hard to know what to tell my kids; one of the inescapable consequences of my long-ago actions is that I will be asked why, by six little people at various times, I did not get married in the temple.  My very evasive, but technically true answer thus far is, “Mommy and Daddy didn’t take the temple as seriously as we should have, but we did get sealed a year later, so you’ve all been born in the covenant.  I hope you will choose to take getting married in the temple seriously.”  

In other words, do what I say, not what I did.  

I felt that my eldest, in light of the circumstances, should know more about that time in my life.  I hope[d] that telling her would 1) provide a cautionary tale, 2) serve as evidence that I do know of what I speak 3) encourage her to trust me with her truths as I trusted her with mine, and 4) give a living example of the power of the Atonement.  She took it well, and while I know that giving her that information could backfire, I believe it was the right decision.  

Time will tell.

7 comments

  1. Nicely said.

    I think parents just worry, it is part of being parents.


  2. Minefield is right, sister Spud, and I don’t envy you at all. In my experience, the only thing worse than being a teenager is having teenage children, and life for my wife and me got a lot less complicated when the kids outgrew that stage.

    We had all boys, and I think I can see myself in your description of the parents of the young man in question. At the time, I suspected that the young woman’s parents actively contrived situations at which the two would “acccidentally” bump into each other. His girlfriend had her own phone, and he campaigned shamelessly and relentlessly for his own line to be installed downstairs. I refused his demand, then discovered he was coming upstairs at 2 in the morning and taking the cordless back to his room, there to engage in what I assumed was pillow talk with GF. I was furious, but I’m not sure I ever did figure out how tightly to hold the reins and how much to let go. It was hell.

    Although you didn’t ask for advice, I hope you don’t mind if I offer some. The kind of love that people that age feel for each other is genuine and true, but they are not yet fully formed adults. Surprisingly often, they lose interest in one another after a year or so. A young man of my acquaintance dated a girl steadily, hot and heavy, through all three years of high school. He went on a mission, and they wrote each other leters each week that were truly gross. SWAK, perfumed paper, etc. He got home, was released by the SP, and went on a date with her that evening. It turned out that over the course of two years, they had both changed, and while they retained friendly feelings for one another, the spark was gone. It was their last date, and after a few years, they both wond up marrying somebody else. It might be hard for adolescent people to understand that, but it happens all the time.

    I do think that you are wrong about one thing, however. There is absolutely now question that you are a cool mom.


  3. To My Friends of Faith,

    Recently a friend at our church brought this “film” to my attention.
    Her son apparently was sent this web link from someone.

    It’s a movie clip (that has been recently released, or is about to,,, I’m not sure),,
    anyway, it depicts Mormons as flesh eating ghouls, and it is just awful. http://www.thebookofzombie.com

    On behalf of myself and my husband, and our Mormon friends,
    I would like to make sure that young people are NOT subjected to this terrible conception of our faith.

    please let me know if you are able to help.

    regards, Betty Toms


  4. Stephen, thanks for your comment.

    Mark, I am all about advice. And I appreciate your perspective from the boy’s folks point of view. I love these people; I have known them for over 20 years, and the dad actually dated my SIL while they were in high school. I know you didn’t imply this, but I don’t in any way nudge the relationship along. I do try to be open and nonjudgmental in an attempt to encourage my daughter to be honest with me; I have also made it a point to say things like, “If there is anything happening with you and B that would violate the agreement we have, it would be far better if I hear it from you than from somebody else.” She knows that I trust her as long as I don’t have a reason not to trust her.

    About adolescent love: I agree with Mark that it is often transitory; I think most of us probably have had that experience. I’m trying to figure out how to offer that perspective to my daughter while still dealing with the right-here-right-now reality that they believe this is True Love Forever. I hope to respect those feelings while distinguishing the ACTIONS from the emotions–I want her to understand that she can control her behavior, whatever her emotions are leading her to. I hope that my experience can help her see that even a lifetime of teachings on chastity, positions of church authority, returned-missionary status, and an “I-would-never” conviction isn’t a guarantee of sexual purity.


  5. Hm. If I were in your shoes (which I’m obviously not, and I am still a ways from, so FWIW), I wouldn’t be encouraging pairing off at all during the teenage years. I don’t read the counsel to just hold off on pairing off until 16; I have already started talking to my kids about not pairing off until they are old enough to court.

    All of that principled-approach won’t change crushes that will happen, of course. But to me, avoiding the expression and action with those crushes aren’t just about chastity. To me, it’s about not wasting your teenage years pining and stressing over a relationship that more than likely is transitory. For all my dating many boys, I had one boy I spent waaaaay too much time and energy on. I wish so much better for my kids. Have fun! Hang out! Group date! Be more wise than I have been! Pairing off in the teenage years is pretty much just dumb 99% of the time, dangerous part of the time, and really problematic a small percentage of the time. The law of averages says don’t do it. So that is my approach in teaching. I know it’s all easy for me to say now, though. I know it’s not that easy when the crush and the kiss have already happened. That’s heady teenage stuff.

    I LOVE the whole separating actions from behavior approach that you are taking, BTW. I would just take it beyond age 16.


  6. I have killed threads before, but never have I brought down an entire blog.

    I have great power.


  7. lol!



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