Long-time reader, first-time writer. I applaud everything about your column and blog and really appreciate your point of view. Now, to the point. I'm a mom of an almost 13 year-old girl. Her birthday is coming up and we have a movie/sleepover night planned with several of her friends. However, today, after her dad noticed an abnormal amount of texting going on, I checked her text log, and discovered a series of messages between her and one of the girls she has invited. Apparently they have come to the realization that they both "like" like each other (to use their words) and want to try dating. We're not opposed to this in theory; she seems like a nice girl, and we have always told our kids from early on that sexual orientation is something they can't control and should never be ashamed of. However, in practice, this presents a problem. Liberal as I am, I have to draw the line at sleepovers with someone my daughter is dating, girl or boy. It's just inappropriate at this age... and will be for a while to come. My problem, though, is that I want to address the issue without causing hurt feelings or sending mixed messages to my daughter. I don't want to un-invite the object of her affections, but I can't in good conscience let the two of them—even with other girls present—share a bed. But it somehow seems like I'm punishing the girls for having feelings for each other—feelings which I in no way have a problem with, feelings that I am more than happy to support my daughter in exploring. I'd be happy to have her girlfriend come over after school and hang out—with a lot of supervision—the same as I've done with boyfriends my daughter has had.
The rest of the letter—and my response—after the jump.
What I'd like to do is sit down with the two girls and the other girl's parents and discuss this situation and come up with a solution that we all feel is both fair and appropriate (coming to the movie, but not the sleepover perhaps)—but I have no idea what this girl's parents are like, if they'll be cool with this revelation about their daughter's burgeoning sexuality, or if I'll be causing a lot of problems for her. I'd ask my daughter about it, but since she doesn't know I've seen the text messages and hasn't confided in me about this girl, I'm unsure how to approach this without her feeling like she's being singled out, and that I didn't mean what I've said about fairness and equality regardless of sexual orientation. The only other idea I have is to sit down with the two girls together and talk to them about it—let them know I'm ok with it, I support it, I'll embrace it, but I can't let them share a bed—even if they later decide they don't want to date each other. I'm just afraid that this tack will cause my daughter to be secretive or dishonest about girls she might date later, in order to be able to have sleepovers that I would otherwise not allow. Any suggestions?
Mulling Over Missives
Please err on the side of not outing your daughter's friend to her parents, MOM, as that would be unwise and unfair and could have severe and lasting consequences for this girl if her parents aren't as open-minded as you are. I also don't think you should risk outing your daughter and her friend to their other friends by barring the "it" girl from your daughter's birthday party sleepover.
Does your daughter even know that you've been reading her text messages? You might want to start the conversation there, MOM. Tell her what you read, emphasize that you're cool with her being either bisexual or lesbian (or straight), and walk her through your feelings about this particular girl sleeping over. The odds that your daughter, at age 12-going-on-13, was planning to get it on with another 13-year-old girl at a group sleepover seem pretty slim, MOM. And it's not like they're going to be alone, right? So I think it would be reasonable for you to make an exception for this sleepover and other group sleepovers—let the girl spend the night—while disallowing any just-the-two-of-them sleepovers.
And if your daughter objects, if she plays the 'phobe card, tell her that you're treating her the same way you would treat a straight kid with an opposite-sex crush. Equal treatment for gay teenagers means equal meddling, hovering, and interference from their parents, not license to do whatever the hell they want just because they're gay. The only aspect of this situation that requires extra consideration from you, MOM, is the privacy issue it raises. You have to handle this in a way that allows your daughter—and her friend—to decide if and when they're going to come out to their other friends and family members.