Independence, dating and pepper spray
July 8, 2010
My boys were born attached. At the polar opposite, my daughter would have cut her own umbilical cord as she entered this world if she’d had the equipment in hand. She was born on Cinco de Mayo – an independence day – and she was born independent, that’s for sure.
Things have changed recently in my household. Something unimaginable has occurred. Something no parent is ever fully prepared for. My daughter, Ms. Independent, has a boyfriend.-
I realize this is normal for some girls. I realize some girls have boyfriends in the sixth grade. I realize I have boys who have had several girlfriends, which delighted me and didn’t bother me whatsoever. I realize the absolutely unfair double standard. I abhor the double standard. I have engaged in a valiant life-long battle to correct the double standard. I fought the inequitable double standard right up to the day my daughter brought home a boyfriend.
I have never thought of myself as a particularly conservative person; I rather think of myself as quite the modern mom, but I would really like my daughter to consider wearing flannel – everyday. Also one-piece antique bathing suits and knee-length shorts would be nice. An all-enveloping Burqa would not be out of the question, just for date nights.
It’s difficult to expect your own teenagers to make sound decisions, but when the dynamics change and another enters the picture, it’s even tougher. She isn’t making her choices alone when she’s out on a date. The two are pooling their decision-making from entirely different backgrounds. I guess it’s that uncertainty that’s unsettling.
Since this is new territory for me, I appeal to the wisdom of others. When said boyfriend states, “I’ll take good care of your daughter tonight and have her home on time,” is he really saying, “We’ll be party-hopping, drinking like fish, and driving by Braille back to your house by midnight”?
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I’m not sure.
Is it too much to demand he submit to a blood test? Drug test? Winter driving course? Ethics exam? I don’t really think so.-
Going to Starbucks might sound innocent enough but how many kids get themselves into life-threatening situations over Chai tea? I don’t know either, but it’s probably higher than you think.
The thing is, I really want to be fair. I want to be gracious. I want to not act like Satan when he comes to pick her up at the house. Plus, I already know this young man, he’s been to my home many times before to “hang out” with my son and daughter – I liked him, I offered him snacks and acted sane.
Why is it so different to let go of daughters? Perhaps because she is so independent I haven’t felt like I’ve really had her all to myself long enough. Maybe since she hasn’t hung on as tightly as my boys have, I’m afraid she’ll be the one to let go. There’s a small possibility I’m nervous and overprotective, though I’m pretty sure that’s not it.
In fairness, I apologize to him in advance for anything I may inadvertently do – embarrassment, intense questioning, polygraphs – and hope that I can give him the benefit of the doubt that I trust other parents give to my boys who take out their cherished daughters. I believe my sons are respectful to girls, respectful to their parents, so why pre-judge my daughter’s guy? He may be quite gentlemanly, value her for her mind, and only interested in holding hands.
Contrary to what it may seem, my every hope isn’t that she’ll never have the exquisite joy of having a boyfriend, it’s that each of her relationships will be healthy ones and she’ll remember the values she was raised on. That she’ll be kind, honest, and have the courage and pluck to stand up for herself and demand to be treated appropriately by anyone she interacts with. I want the independence she was born with to work well for her as she lets go. If not, there’s always pepper spray.
Jill Marchione Papangelis is a freelance writer and mother of four. She lives in Edwards with her family. Send column suggestions or comments firstname.lastname@example.org.