The other day a friend and I were chatting on the phone when she told me about her daughter going to the prom.
Exciting, right? But then she mentioned how her daughter asked if she could have a “coed sleepover” at the home of one of the boys. Together. All the boys and all the girls. In one house.
“Back up the bus,” I think I said. Now kids are doing Prom sleepovers?
She explained that the parents said the girls would sleep on one floor and the boys another. It was most likely innocent, but as the parents of this extremely trustworthy, responsible 16 year-old girl, they were not quite ready to say yes. It did not fit the values they were trying to teach her, it did not match up to the rules they had in place, and it just seemed unnecessary. There were better options.
And apparently, they were the only parents saying no.
A similar situation happened at Homecoming earlier in the year, but when they put the kibosh on the sleepover, the other parents buckled and also said no. Unfortunately, this time it looks like her daughter will be the only one not attending the Prom Pajama Party. Ouch.
So, of course now my friend has a little guilt. It’s hard to be the only one to say no when all the other parents say yes. Especially when you have a good kid.
I feel this way a lot too. Not with co-ed sleepovers yet, thankfully. But with a lot of other small things that I find important, such as not drinking soda, limiting what movies I let my daughters watch, no unsupervised YouTube, etc. When I hear other parents — or their kids — talk, sometimes I wonder if I am being too strict, am I too Pollyanna, am I just a stick in the mud parent? Will my kids be mocked because they are the last kids in their grade to watch Pitch Perfect or because I will probably not buy them an iPhone on their 10th birthday?
Now, I’m not here to debate whether coed sleepovers are okay (because I’m guessing they are in certain situations) or what age is right for a cell phone. These are personal parenting decisions. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t some guilt when you are the parent that always says no or has more rules than others.
When my kids were younger, it was much easier to say no, and I had zero guilt about it. ZERO. “No you can’t have another cookie,” or “no, you can’t ride your scooter down that gravel hill” is a no-brainer. But before, all I was risking was a potential temper tantrum that could easily be combatted with a big glass of chardonnay.
Now, as my children get older, saying no can have social consequences. It can make them feel alienated. It can alienate me from other parents. It can make me feel guilty.
When I was growing up, I was one of the few in my social circle who had an early curfew (or sometimes a curfew at all.) My mom stayed up until I was in the house and she would check with other parents to see if I was where I said I was. I got grounded if I wasn’t (not that this EVER happened.) She said no. A lot. At her heaviest fighting weight, 101 pounds, she scared the crap out of me. And I don’t think she felt an ounce of guilt.
And I’m the better for it. Having a curfew probably saved me a few times from getting in big trouble or doing something stupid. Saying no when I asked to do something ridiculous like go to a sleepover where she knew the parents were out of town probably was the right decision. Not indulging in my every request — and more importantly — making me pay my own way on such things as car insurance, gas and some social activities, made my transition to college smoother and ensured I understood the value of a dollar.
She had rules, and she wavered when she thought it was appropriate. Although sometimes, like any teenage girl, I thought she just plain sucked, as a mom myself now, I admire the steadfast approach she took. And I think she’s pretty okay with the way I turned out.
In today’s world, we have to let the guilt go when we say no for a good reason. It might be for a safety, moral, spiritual, financial or just-because-our-gut-says-so reason, but as parents, we have to stick to our guns — to what we feel is important and what will shape our kids into being the people we believe they can be. There’s no reason to feel guilt when you’re acting in the best interest of your children.
A bonus: sometimes all you need is one parent to say no to get every other mom and dad on board with you. And there’s certainly no guilt in doing that.
Free Yourself Friday. Go forth and enjoy.