Monday, August 10, 2009

Conversations with our daughters

Oh, it takes nerves of steel to be the parents of teenagers, especially teenage girls. Because why, you wonder? Well, it's for the same old reason that's always been with us: Girls can get pregnant. Boys can't.

In my own personal life, I could clearly see that my brother was raised in a different way than I was. I think that partly this was because he had a lot more common sense and because I was just such an idiot. For instance, my brother got to live in an off-campus apartment and then in a house with a roomie, whereas I lived in the Virgin Vault at Ball State for two years and then moved back home with my parents. I told them it was because they had better food and bathroom facilities, plus no scary roommate who slept with her blankets totally over her head like a zombie. They nodded their heads in agreement, yes, yes, yes.

What they were saying to one another was probably something like, "If we don't want to be saddled with this little Madonna-wanna-be's problems for the rest of our natural lives, we'd better get her back here where we can keep an eye on her."

But my dad, when pressed to explain Pat's apartment and my bedroom at the ol' homestead, would just stubbornly say, "It's different with girls than it is with boys."

At the time, I did not have a CLUE what he meant. But now I do. I certainly do.

As I've made my way through my adult life, I've seen more evidence that girls are raised with a greater degree of parental looming, and frankly -- while I detest and abhor the double standards that take place in our society -- I understand and endorse this "helicoptering," as it's now called. It can be a bad world out there for girls, especially girls who have been taught that they are WOMAN, that they're ten feet tall and bulletproof and have such a vividly developed sense of self-esteem, they don't know the first thing about self-preservation, either with their hearts or their bodies.

Consider that girl, Natalee Holloway, the one who went missing from the senior class trip to Aruba. She was just a regular girl, a normal high school girl. And she went on her class trip with her girlfriends and the rest of the graduates, and somewhere along the line, she got drunk in a bar. And with her inhibitions lowered, she left with a person or persons unknown and she's never been heard of since. Somewhere out on some secluded beach, under the cover of darkness, was a man or a boy who didn't respect her at all, poor soul. Poor girl.

While I'm on that subject, I have a couple of thoughts about adults who think it's a grand idea to arrange a senior trip to Aruba. What? Could this have possibly been a stupider idea? Who needs to go to ARUBA because they've just managed to drag themselves through high school? My gosh, where do you get to go when you graduate from college? Like, JUPITER? Geeeez.

A senior class trip to Aruba, complete with a bunch of seventeen and eighteen year olds, just a recipe for disaster. I mean, even if this hideous thing hadn't happened to Natalee, it would still be utterly ridiculous. I used to be both seventeen and eighteen: I know what kinds of shenanigans kids that age get up to when they're right there in their parents' house. The legal drinking age on Aruba is sixteen. Yes, you read that right: sixteen. The legal age to go into the casinos and gamble is eighteen. Nice choice, adults. You big freaking idiots. What's wrong with your heads?

Aruba is said to have a very low crime rate, but not all the bad things that can happen to teenagers are necessarily criminal. I wouldn't think it would take a genius to figure that out.

At any rate, I am now back from my brief trip to the Lesser Antilles and I'd like to say that my husband and I talk to our girls all the time about their sexuality. The subject comes up at least two or three times a week. We talk as a family; we talk one-on-one. The girls have been very receptive so far, although they were totally grossed out when I showed them some pictures of genital warts I called up on a Google images search. We talk about STDs. We talk about God's plan for sex within marriage. We talk about what it might be like to have sex with your boyfriend and then find out he's told all his friends about what you look like naked.

We're very, very frank.

We have to be.

Here's a list of topics we commonly address:

How Boys Think About Sex vs. How Girls Think About Sex

Breaking Up is Even Worse if You've Had Sex (subtitled: "Seeing Him with His New Girlfriend in the Dining Hall will Just About Kill You")

Hormones Can Trump Your Best Intentions

Some STDs Are Yours For Keeps, Unlike the Guy Who Just Dumped You

Avoiding Near Occasions of Sin (subtitled: "Being Alone with a Member of the Opposite Sex in a Dorm Room, a Parked Car or a Parental Dwelling Place is Just Asking for Trouble")

Pre-Marital Sex is a Mortal Sin* and Do You Really Want Your Guardian Angel to See You Doing That?

Nice Boys Get Nice Girls Pregnant Every Day

We also have a series of talks on 1) the utter stupidity of going to bars and/or fraternity parties; 2) how drinking at age twenty-one or older is fine, but drunkenness is a mortal sin; 3) how girls who stupidly go to bars and/or fraternity parties and drink had better know what a roofie is and other assorted themes.

It can be really rugged. I mean, really. Intense, even. We talk and talk and talk. We don't know yet if what we're saying has taken hold of them, and we hope we're catching their hearts as well as their heads. Because there's an understanding of "Ewwww! I do NOT want to get HERPES!" and there's knowledge of what the Church teaches about God's law concerning human sexuality, but then there's also that part you're hoping is in there where they just don't want to disappoint Jesus and harm their relationship with Him.

Will it all work? Ask me again in a few years, once all the rose petals have been thrown at the last wedding.


*Mortal sin is defined as a sin of grave matter, committed with the full knowledge and deliberate consent of the sinner. In other words, a mortal sin cannot be committed accidentally. Mortal sin destroys the life of grace in a person's soul and cuts a person off from a relationship with God.

Please don't write to me and tell me that God doesn't see a difference between mortal sins and smaller wrongdoing (venial sins). It's right there in your Bible. Have the courage and intellectual integrity to go and
read this excellent article by Mark Shea where he spells it out, complete with verses from Scripture.

And also don't try to tell me that once you're saved, you're always saved. It won't work. I read the same Bible you do and I believe what it says. Just a friendly warning.

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