When I was fifteen I started going out with a boy that my parents didn’t want me to see. Actually, they had forbidden it altogether. Looking back from this perspective I can more than understand their reasons, but then it looked like they were just being prejudiced and hypocritical. I was a young high school sophomore. He was two years older, a dropout, with a history of mental illness. He drove his own car, held a full-time job, and for all intents and purposes was an adult. I, obviously, was not even close. Anyway, I saw him on the sly for a few months, and then one night I walked into the house after he dropped me off and discovered my dad sitting there in the dark. He had seen us in the car. Much yelling ensued. Anyway, after I told my boyfriend I couldn’t see him anymore, he wrote a letter to my parents, telling them that he respected their right to make that decision, but that it would break his heart.
They sat down with me and showed me the letter. I was totally at a loss as to how I should react. I had no idea what they were going to do. I mean, these were very conservative, pretty strict parents who didn’t approve of this guy in the first place. And who really didn’t believe that anybody our age could be in love.
So what did they do? They told me I could see him, but only at our house, when they were home. I was amazed. It looked to me as if they were willing to accept us and our feelings, and they really followed through.
The thing is, he came over a couple of times, and then the whole thing started going downhill. I think what happened was that, without the adventure of the “secret love” we realized we didn’t have anything in common. Not to mention he found somebody who would put out for him, which wasn’t in my game plan.
Looking back, I think they really did rethink the idea of forbidding us to see each other, realizing it meant more to me than they had thought. But I also think they were doing a sneaky parent thing of getting this relationship out in the open, taking the “romance and adventure” out of it, knowing that it would fizzle out on its own. Or at least hoping so, and giving me the graceful option of being able to admit it if it did, instead of having to cling to it, just to prove I was right.
As I grew up, I looked at a lot of their decisions in the light of that whole incident, and realized they were a lot wiser than I was sometimes willing to give them credit for. And I’ll admit, I have used that example in parenting my own kids, especially my older daughter. And it worked there, too. My parents had some quite silly ideas, but sometimes they were pretty darn smart.