A couple of days ago I encountered the following link on a friend’s Facebook Wall. Christi has a knack for getting good conversations started on her Wall (or now I guess I have to sadly say Timeline) and this was no exception.
Go read it or what I’m going to write won’t make any sense.
Some people were all like, “Yay! What a super mom! How understanding! I hope I’m like that when my kid’s a teenager!” Others were like, “Not in my house! Over my dead body!”
As you might predictably assume, I’m in the over-my-dead-body camp. And sure, we could easily say premarital sex is BAD. Sinful. End of story.
But there’s more to be said about this, it seems to me. And there are many reasons why even parents who theoretically don’t object to premarital sex might have a problem with this arrangement.
The mom in the story trots out that tired old argument: They are going to be doing it anyway. Why should we make it more dangerous by having them sneak around? Let’s give them a safe place to have sex and that way I can make sure my daughter is taking her birth control pills regularly!
Besides the squick factor of KNOWING your daughter is in your basement having sex with her boyfriend RIGHT THIS MINUTE, this argument leads to the logical conclusion that we should all be letting our teenagers do anything they want at home in order to keep them safe, life drinking and using drugs, for example. Aside from the fact that doing this puts parents at risk for criminal prosecution, AND the additional fact that studies have shown that kids whose parents let them drink at home have MORE alcohol problems down the line than those whose do not, there is the small matter of setting standards.
As parents we are supposed to set standards that we want our kids to follow. Yes, we know they probably won’t always follow them, because teenagers think they are immortal and have undeveloped brains and boys will be boys and all that. But we are still supposed to have them. What’s more, even if they act like they don’t, our kids WANT and EXPECT this. Just like toddlers exploring their limits, teenagers are pushing all the time. But if your rules are reasonable, they may argue, they may break them, but they won’t hate you for them or expect you not to have them. My 18-year-old limit-pusher declared this article “sick,” and said “no kind of parent” should allow such a thing.
It’s in the nature of kids to rebel. The author of one of my favorite parenting books suggests that if you don’t allow your teenagers to rebel in small ways, they will look for bigger ones. “Not letting them rebel” doesn’t just mean having uber-strict rules, it also means not having ANY so there is no way for your teenager to explore issues of freedom and individuality. If your teenager dies her hair pink and you say, “Oh, cool!” she will have to find some more radical way to be her own person and irritate you. If you say, as the author suggests, “Yuck! But it’s your hair,” you’ve given her autonomy to explore and to rebel against your tastes. I have to wonder what on earth the girl in the article will do when she leaves for college to assert her independence.
I’m also concerned about the unnatural affect this premature level of togetherness is having on the young couple’s relationship. Teenage romances are supposed to be fraught with uncertainty. You are supposed to be mooning around waiting for phone calls and looking forward eagerly to the next meeting. You are supposed to be doing your homework and hanging out with friends and wondering where your boyfriend is and what he is up to. You often have to deal with long separations brought on by family vacations, summer camps, and even college. Under these pressures relationships often end, and there aren’t many teenagers who look back longingly at these relationships five years later. They’ve moved on.
On the other hand, especially strong relationships MAY last as the couple learn together to navigate issues of trust and separation. There are the “high school sweethearts” who stay together and eventually marry. But that’s rare.
Allowing these kids to live together is short-circuiting the process above. These kids aren’t even 20 and they are already like an old married couple. They don’t need to worry about learning to trust because the other is always in view. They don’t have the opportunity to explore attraction to other people. What is more, they are like an old married couple with none of the normal pressures that come with marriage. Mommy pays their bills. She provides their housing. They are living a fairytale. They are playing house.
The mother implies that the only consequence of sex is pregnancy, and her daughter’s faithful use of birth control pills prevents that. She doesn’t take into account the bonding effects of sexual intimacy. Teenagers who sneak around don’t get to sleep in the same bed and have sex every day. This young couple are bathing themselves in powerful binding hormones. By allowing this arrangement she is essentially insuring that either they are going to get married, even if under normal circumstances they each might have found different partners down the line, OR that they are going to have a very painful breakup while at their separate colleges, akin to a divorce, at a time when they are both young and immature and vulnerable and supposed to be learning and having fun and preparing for the future.
Would you care to weigh in? Would you allow this in your home?