The Terrors of the 7th Grade Dance

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the terror of the 7th grade dance

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.

But.

“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

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8 Comments

  1. You can tell her no she can not go. An alternative is for Dad to take her on a date, maybe dinner at a nice restaurant. My husband always cherished those times with my daughter and she also felt cherished. It helps to develop that father daughter relationship since the boys and dad do lots of sporting events together and automatically get that father son time. At the school my children attend we no longer do jr high dances, there is a dinner and dance after 8th gr graduation and the parents attend with the kids. It is a good time for all.

  2. Stacey Phillips on

    I believe I would be chaperoning the dance with flags like that coming from admin especially for the first dance. If they wouldn’t allow me to chaperone, I wouldn’t allow my daughter to go. You probably don’t have too much to worry about with the dances until they’re a little bit older. I wholeheartedly disagree with not saying no to a boy for a dance. Good luck!

  3. I don’t think it’s appropriate or professional for a teacher or administrator to act as a confidante of a student. I also don’t agree with them telling the girls they can’t say no. That is completely the wrong message. This is an anti-bullying message to the extreme! I have two boys – I get that rejection is hard. I always felt so bad for them when they got dumped by a girl. I also have two daughters. They were rarely asked to dance – but I do recall my daughter running away from a boy who asked her. These are things that evolve as kids grow and mature. I think it’s appropriate that they talk about how they might interact at a dance. But I don’t think it’s appropriate that they tell a girl to always say yes. As a mom to four teens, it doesn’t get easier. I remember dropping my oldest, my son, off at his first dance and my jaw hitting the ground when I saw how the girls were dressed. They looked waaaay older than the boys. My friend said, “he’ll go in a boy and come out a man….” My heart sank. My sons always enjoyed the dances and I’m sure they danced with girls. We talked a lot about respect and not letting other kids force you into something you didn’t want to do. These years are tough on so many levels.

    • The principal tried to justify herself by saying she wouldn’t let the boys say no to the girls either — just as bad IMO! As you point out, at a certain age girls get aggressive, too. Thanks for your encouragement!

  4. As a young teenage girl, I would like to reply to this post with a different perspective. I personally agree that what the principal did was UNACCEPTABLE. It promotes rape culture and honestly is just WRONG! But what you did (Sorry, I can’t see this as a mother as I’m not one, so feel free to reply) is just as unacceptable in my opinion. Let the girl have some fun, make some memories. Everyone thinks that young relationships don’t last, but in 6th grade, there were a few couplesthat have been going on for about 3 years now, which is longer than some older teenage and college relationships

    • Katharine Santos on

      Thanks so much for sharing your perspective. I do want my daughters to be independent and have fun. But in my opinion, the purpose of a romantic relationship is to see whether the two people want to get married and 6th grade is way too young for that. Just betting friends is a lot better, and will probably play longer too. You can have lots of friends but only one boyfriend.

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