My father was the undisputed head of our family, followed by my mother. My sister, his beloved saddle horses, and I moved up and down the totem pole depending on his mood. With this chain of command came certain implied formalities, fixed assumptions of behavior and respect that were non-negotiable. In other words, there were things one never imagined, considered, or certainly asked or did for fear of coming under his ridicule at best and his wrath at worse.
My sister spoke the language of love fluently. It would be my sophomore year of college before I had a bona fide girlfriend. She, however, seemed to have a stable of teenage boys at her disposal right from puberty. Which is somewhat a surprise when I consider the waves of terror my father could trigger in a boy contemplating the exploit of his little girl. On their first date our father gave my now brother-in-law a mild heart attack by meeting him at the front door holding a twelve-gauge Winchester.
My sister would regularly have him over to our house, and as teenage love is inclined to do they wanted to spend every waking moment together – and if given the option the non-waking as well. But here we find that established etiquette take hold; not in this or any other dimension would there have been the slightest chance he could have gotten his ticket punched for a ‘romantic’ sleepover. It was understood when the movie was over he had to go home. To even ask would have lent credence to the whole notion.
For the majority of families this was and remains modus operandi. The sexual revolution may well have liberated the nation’s bedrooms, but not the teenager’s bedroom. Yet it seems that in our morally muddled world this view is now seen as outdated and intolerant.
A recent New York Times article, oddly enough in the Fashion and Style section, discusses this latest parenting trend for managing teenage amour. It was ignited by Angelina Jolie’s 2011 admission that at the age of fourteen her mother allowed her to live with her boyfriend in her mom’s home “like a married couple.” The author, admittedly childless, responds to Ms. Jolie’s story:
“I winced slightly. If I had, say, a 16-year-old who was having protected sex in a committed relationship, I would happily allow him to sleep with his partner in my house. But at 14?”
I’m not agile enough for the mental gymnastics necessary to grasp how one distinguishes between 14 and 16. I can only assume the author is applying state driving restrictions; if the kid can execute a proper U-turn that must imply he has the maturity to navigate the emotional intricacies of sex. I should also note this author’s lack of parental experience with his use of the male pronoun, ‘…would allow HIM to sleep’. Obviously he doesn’t have daughters. What father willingly chooses to invigorate his little girl’s sexual education by letting her and Bobby shack up?
One mother featured in the article justified her choice this way; “I didn’t want to think, Where are they tonight?’” This is employing the worn out alcohol argument, ‘if they’re going to drink anyway, they might as well do it where I know they’re safe’, which by the way turns dad into a felon. This is waiving the white flag; an ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ mentality. These are the same parents who, refusing or failing to properly discipline their children, embraced bribery to get them to behave.
Another mom, convinced that her 17-year-old daughter was in a loving and committed relationship with her 19-year-old boyfriend allowed the couple to live together in her home. It’s here we must stop and look at the logic. When has there ever been a 17 year old, and especially any of today’s 17 year olds, with the mental or emotional capacity to understand what a loving and committed relationship means?
It says plenty about this mother when asked about any ‘rules’ to the questionable living arrangement. Her conditions were the daughter must “attend to her schoolwork as rigorously as ever.” Not to imply the boyfriend was getting his milk for free, he was required to “take out the trash; walk the dog and look for work.“ – her final condition should be particularly noted.
The mom went further to say she believed the cohabitation went ‘swimmingly’; the boyfriend “learned to carry out tasks efficiently” She never mentioned whether he found a job.
For any rational mind, the behavior of these parents is insanity. The family home should be a bastion of virtue and a counter to the culture not a lab for teenage sexual experimentation. Just because that same teen has proven to engage in a questionable behavior doesn’t give parents license to facilitate that behavior – under the guise of control and supervision. Taking this logic to it’s ultimate conclusion makes mom and dad irresponsible at best and criminal at worst. I had somewhat of a lead foot during my teenage years, would my parents have done me a service by encouraging I speed up and down the highway just so long as they were in the car? As parents we have a responsibility to set a higher standard for our children than that of culture – not encourage them to live at its lowest common denominator.