Parents need to remember that kids have their own version of a timetable, too.
Sarah Bowman: Teens take a long time getting to the girlfriend and boyfriend stage -- there is a long run up of IMing, texting, Facebooking, and (eventually) hanging at the movies in groups, which seems to occupy most of 7th and 8th grade. Even then, the negotiation for a couple to go on a first date can take weeks, involving dozens of mini-conferences between the couple and various third-party agents who arrange the setup. If two teens actually start dating, everyone is thrilled -- the kids have achieved a new public status, and parents are generally happy that their kids are developing "real" relationships and not engaging in the dreaded "hooking-up" that the media keeps warning us is rampant.
And even so, sleepovers rule as the social activity of choice in high school. My experience is that both girls and boys leapfrog from one home to another between their weekend activities. No matter how much the girls are thinking and talking about the boys (and vice versa), they love the comfort of lounging in their PJs and staying up until ungodly hours watching "One Tree Hill" for the 90th time. As for boys, it's all about gaming, poker, and reruns of "The Office."
Which is why I was so shocked to hear that my friend's 16-year-old son had been invited to a co-ed sleepover at his girlfriend's house. The girl's mother thought it would be a really cool Sweet Sixteen party concept, and this blithe promotion of a fragile, new relationship jangled my friend's nerves. After several frantic conferences, she and her husband told their son that he would have his normal 11:00 PM curfew. Turns out, their son was relieved to be told he had to sleep in his own bed.
Parenting is still, and always will be, about setting limits. Yes, you can see him tonight; no, you can't go to that party if the parents aren't home. Yes, she can come for dinner; no, you can't spend the night at her Sweet Sixteenth! With each year that my kids grow older, my anxiety about their sexuality decreases (probably in direct relation to their right to privacy)! But maybe that's because the kids have their own version of a timetable, too.
Sometimes, their notion of what's cool and our idea about what's right dovetail nicely because we all need boundaries that make us comfortable.
|Sarah Bowman is the Co-Founder of Kids Off the Couch.com. She has a BA in Semiotics from Brown University, worked in the film business as a studio executive before becoming a writer. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, and two teenagers.|