In our faith, as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints, we are counseled by our church leaders to wait upon dating until we are sixteen years of age. In the church pamphlet "For the Strength of the Youth the leaders admonish the following:
A date is a planned activity that allows a young man and a young woman to get to know each other better. In cultures where dating is acceptable, it can help you learn and practice social skills, develop friendships, have wholesome fun, and eventually find an eternal companion.
You should not date until you are at least 16 years old. When you begin dating, go with one or more additional couples. Avoid going on frequent dates with the same person. Developing serious relationships too early in life can limit the number of other people you meet and can perhaps lead to immorality. Invite your parents to become acquainted with those you date.
Choose to date only those who have high moral standards and in whose company you can maintain your standards. Remember that a young man and a young woman on a date are responsible to protect each other’s honor and virtue.
Fast approaching is the homecoming dance for the high school. My son has anticipated this day since the start of classes. As his mother, I enjoyed watching him think of ways to ask his date to the dance. He truly was excited for this event. As his mother I was excited for him.
Somewhere along the way I forgot the young woman he wanted to take to the dance was not sixteen. We all did. Maybe we didn't want to think about it. I admit the excitement and thrill of this dance and seeing my son so happy almost made me forget...that is until a few days ago.
A friend of mine posted on FB that he was a little torn about allowing his own daughter attend her high school dance. Not quite sixteen, her birthday would be five days after her high school dance. Comments came in saying to just let her go. She was a good kid. Five days wouldn't make a difference. And on the other side came, not sixteen means not sixteen. If you bend on this one, you will have to bend on other boundaries. My comment read to follow the teaching of our leaders and host a part for all the non 16 year olds and all those not attending the dance for whatever reason. The night doesn't have to be sent feeling sorry for herself.
Then I thought of my own son. While he is sixteen, his date will not be until late November. UGH. In addition, she is not a member of our faith.
Feeling like I had really dropped the ball, I wrestled with where to go from here. Plans were already made. The request had already gone out and a yes had been received. My son was going to
hate, detest, not like me very much. I went to him with my concern. I made suggestions. Discussed with him setting an example. Discussed the counsel from our prophet. Discussed alternatives to the dance. I didn't get very far. I somehow wanted him to make this VERY BIG decision on his own. You know, the same decision I couldn't make, I wanted him, a sixteen year old boy full of dreams and hormones, to make the right decision.
I made a call to his dad (we are divorced). He agreed this was a sticky situation but we as his parents needed to set the boundary and stick with it. He stated he would talk with his wife and call me back.
As I left work, headed for home he called and stated that he had spoke with our son. He said that in the conversation he went over the expectation of our leaders but ultimately left if up to him to make the right decision. Although I was relieved he told our son what the standard was, I was also disappointed he did not show there was no decision to be made and that as his parents we were advising him not to attend this dance.
It was now up to me.
I arrived at home and immediately asked to speak with Taron. Long story short, as his parent I made the decision for him. He was hurt, angry, disappointed and sad. Everything he felt was validated and justified. I hurt. I hurt for disappointing him. I hurt for not having done it sooner. I hurt for being left out there alone to make the decision. After the direction was given, I discussed what happed with his dad. Without getting into that conversation, I will say, he left me out on a limb. As a parent, doing what is right doesn't always lead to being liked... at the time.
Shortly after, as I stood at the kitchen sink straightening up, tears flowed. Wow!! This parenting thing stinks at times. I thought it was hard standing up for what was right when I was a teen. It may just be even harder when you are a parent and do not want to disappoint your children. I don't want to be the one to take away all the fun. I don't want to take away his agency. I don't want to be the one that doesn't teach that we need to follow the counsel of our prophet. It's hard knowing I have made my own mistakes and that can be highlighted at times when trying to do what is right.
And then the miracle came. Both of my teenage boys saw the goodness in following all the counsel we have been given and not just the ones that feel good at the time. My tender son, trying to understand all of this for himself, tells me that he understands why I have made this decision and it is okay.
It will be okay. Moving forward I pray these choices will get easier. I imagine they won't. I can hope that as we strive to STAND Up for what we believe, as we have already made the decision to follow the counsel of our church leaders, each choice, though difficult, will already be made. Makes following their counsel much easier when the decision to follow all of the precepts has already been made.