bella has been fighting for a coed sleepover.
a coed sleepover between a group of sophomore aged kids!!! i almost guffawed the first time she asked about it, and not to be a jerk but because i thought she was totally joking. thankfully i held it in long enough to see she was not. in the days following the request i asked several of my same-aged friends if they could imagine asking their parents for such a thing. based on feedback i've been getting, those requests may have happened, but they surely didn't happen at the frequency they are these days.
now marty and i are not the sort of parents to dismiss our children's requests using classic retorts like "no, because i said so" or "and that is the last we'll hear of it" or the less traditional but a favorite of mine "have you lost your mind?" (this one is best said with a colorful flourish) even though at times, and never more than this time, they seem like the only proper responses. but we have intentionally and diligently taught our children to methodically and respectfully advocate for themselves and the things they want. now at the same time, we are not the type to just rollover to our children's every wish and whim (i'm sure we're not alone in this and perhaps it is the root of these types of asks).
so even though the notion of a co-ed sleepover was, to marty and i, utterly outlandish we didn't say no outright, because it's never how we've approached things. bella, having had success in the past, kept pushing.
after a good bit of reflection, marty and i presented our reasons we were against it, a few of which being:
- we know, reasonably well, this first group of kids you're talking about and we like and trust every last one of them, but they are not the problem, next month's cohort is. after news of this event and its success and its fun spreads and three new people are invited (because it will be hard and tricky to tightly control the guest list), people that we know less well will start getting included. and even though every thing seems like its unfolding the same, when the people change, the potential changes. what happens when two of the new guests sneak off to the garage in the middle of the night to have sex, and we get a call from the girl's parents that their daughter got pregnant at an event we chaperoned a month prior. we don't want that call and we're not putting ourselves in a position to receive that call.
- or locale. so let's say we host the first session. someone will surely offer to host the next. similar to above, we know what we have here but we don't know what the next situation will hold. what if there are older siblings involved? while we like your friends, now we have to vet siblings and their friends, their parents. what if the older sibling gets to have a sleepover the same weekend because his sister got to and that's how their family conducts things or the older set don't show up until midnight, unexpectedly? now you're introducing a number of unknown older kids into this innocent sleepover. and you're there and we're here, asleep and totally unaware of any issues.
- marty's core argument was more of a girl-thing and/so she addressed this with bella one on one. that conversation went something along these lines:
i know i can't go because i might get raped or molested.
yes, that is a possibility but it is not my main concern here. for me it is more than just sleeping over. it's about maturity and sexuality and power and attention and figuring out how all of those things work together.
i'm not going to have sex.
i know you aren't but it's not about sex. it's about figuring out what it is to be a woman. you now have a woman's body but you don't yet have a woman's mind.
what are you even talking about?
that you're asking that question is what tells me you are not ready for this.
some times parent's have/get to lean on their instincts. these are not always things we are able to properly verbalize namely because we've never had to verbalize such things. there is just an inkling, a hunch, a sense that something isn't right. both marty and i have learned that when these tickles present themselves, it is best not to ignore them.
once bella saw the last embers of her argument going dark, she mourned the loss of her wish. but, and this is one of those big and important buts, bella is a fighter and not quick to give up on the things she's after and this was something she was definitely after. so just before the final ember went cold, she fanned the smoldering remains with a new idea: lie.
she pulled one of the classic plays from the deck: i'm sleeping over at jane's house but jane's house is just a front. bella being a thorough thinker even attended a legitimate girl-sleepover to set the stage that she was someone that does girl sleepovers because up to this time it was not really her thing. so she attended a girl slumber party and did so in a very public and overt manner and the reports back were all promising and she wasn't even a holy terror the next day, after having had next to no sleep. the odds of a follow-up sleepover were high.
but this second sleepover was to be the sham sleepover and would really take place at a neighboring house where her group of guy friends were having a sleepover. as things started taking shape one of these guy friends pulled bella aside and said to her:
bella you can't do this. you have something a lot of people would trade anything for. you have two parents who love you. two parents who are still married. two parents who want nothing but the best for you. two parents who support you in all that you want to do. anyone can tell from across the room that the relationship you and your parents have is unique. and you're about to totally F that whole thing up by lying to them. i know right now you are not feeling respected in this but it is a small thing, a small thing you'll totally make it through. if you go through with this and get caught, which you probably will, you will destroy what you have and it's just not worth it. i promise you.
as an aside, it is because we know bella's friends are these type of kids that we entertained the notion as long as we did. we have an advantage that since marty works at the high school bella attends, we have a very solid inside track on who she is running around with.
after this conversation (and because of this conversation) bella scuttled her plans. then some days later bella shared with marty the whole affair, including the talk she got from her friend. so disaster averted, thankfully, because her friend was right about the fallout, especially from me.
in thinking through this episode, i've found myself wondering which you, as a parent, would rather have:
i've concluded it's a bit of a toss up but it is sure evidence that reliable/responsible friends are definitely one of a person's (and parent's!) greatest assets.
- the kid who HAS great friends like this.
- or the kid who IS a great friend like this.
oh, and marty and i thank the young man behind this conversation. we thank him very much.