Me to my 7th grade daughter: “You can go to the school dance, but you can’t slow dance with any boys.”
My 7th grade daughter: “The principal said we’re not allowed to say no.”
This conversation, naturally, almost shocked me into a full-blown panic attack. Then it got worse.
Me: “Are you sure that’s what the principal said?”
My 7th grader: “Yep! And she said she wouldn’t tell anybody who we dance with. The teachers can’t tell either.”
I think I actually felt my heart hiccup. Because we all know who “anybody” is, don’t we? Paranoid parents like me. Why would the principal ally herself with the students as the one who knows their secrets and won’t tell? I had to know.
The principal explained that making the girls say yes to the boys was an anti-bullying technique. She didn’t want the boys’ feelings to be hurt, and she especially didn’t want all the girls to say no to the same boy.
I get it.
“Why would you ever teach a girl she can’t say no to a boy?” I asked. “There are girls who say yes when a boy asks them on a date so they won’t hurt the boy’s feelings, even when the girl isn’t interested at all.”
“Oh, that’s wrong,” answered the principal. “They shouldn’t do that.”
But that’s exactly where hypersensitivity to a boy’s feelings can lead to, and of course there are other things that girls feel pressured to say yes to. The principal insisted that she never meant to give that message and that the kids were far too young to infer that meaning from her comments anyway. Hmmm.
In the end, we agreed on “no harm, no foul,” — no one asked my daughter to slow dance so she never did. And apparently none of the kids danced any closer than three feet apart. “You could have fit three teachers in between those dancing kids!” the principal laughed. Plenty of room for the Holy Spirit, as they say.
So what about the principal’s promise not to tell anybody who the kids’ dancing partners were?
“This is a step in their independence, a part of growing up. We believe in the innocence of our children and the protective environment of the school and home,” said the principal. “Besides, the girls need to learn not to be afraid of touching a boy” — wait, what?! Since when were schools teaching girls that?
As I began to peel myself off the ceiling, the principal elaborated, “We don’t want them to stay stuck in the stage of boys are icky.” Okay, true, we don’t want them to act like six-year-olds forever. But that seems to be a natural evolution in perspective, and teachers shouldn’t feel the need to hurry the kids along.
My 7th grader is my oldest child, so we are venturing into the uncharted waters of the pre-teen and teen years for the first time. I don’t want to give her any complexes, but I also don’t want anyone — teacher or otherwise — to push her into doing something that she isn’t or shouldn’t be ready for.
I welcome the thoughts of other parents on this — parents with older kids, paranoid parents like me, progressive parents, and parents who know their kids will face this issue some day. What do you think? Is there any reason to be afraid of the 7th grade dance?
Copyright 2013 Karee Santos