I have two daughters. And in the last month each of them asked me the same question. “Dad, can I go to the homecoming dance?”
To one of them I answered, “Yes,” and to the other one I answered, “No.”
(WARNING: The following blog might offend some of you. The subject matter I’m talking about is pretty vile, and I’ve chosen to go ahead and just say it like it is. If you’re offended… GOOD. You should be. Because this is the crude reality most of our kids are facing right now, and parents need to open their eyes to it.)
This is always a difficult situation for Christian parents today. Sure, most parents don’t even think twice about giving permission to a homecoming dance. It’s an automatic, “Yes.” I mean… let’s be honest. The world would probably label me a religious wacko for even considering not letting my daughter participate in this American right of passage—the homecoming dance.
I’ve observed it first hand, and I’ve asked kids around the country. The report is always the same. Parents have no idea what’s going on in the darkened gymnasiums of school dances.
This past weekend when I was in New York doing my Parenting the Texting Generation seminar, it was homecoming weekend for the high school students at the church I spoke at. Parents kept asking me, “Should I have let my kids go to the homecoming dance?” I asked them, “Have you ever offered to chaperone one of those dances?” Apparently in this particular Buffalo district they don’t allow parents. Only faculty. Hmmmmm.
A New York PTA mom drew glances from everyone at the last meeting when she spoke out against the homecoming dance. Someone had mentioned some concerns, and this particular mom, whose husband was a teacher and had chaperoned multiple dances, voiced, “Well you should be concerned. If parents of this school saw what was happening at the school dances, they wouldn’t let their kids attend!”
“Is this true?” Everyone bellowed?
I talked with a high school senior who went to a Grand Island, NY Homecoming dance last Saturday night. I told him, “I have just one question. How many of the guys were actually facing their dates, instead of grinding them from behind?”
He laughed and quickly replied, “I see you’ve been to one of these dances.” Then he thought for a second. “I think about 10 percent of the room was dancing actually facing each other.”
I clarified. “So you’re saying that 90 percent of the guys were crotch-to-butt with their dates?”
“Yeah.” He chuckled. “If you were facing your date, you were in the small minority.”
I won’t rehash the entire article, “In the Dark,” the Youth Culture Window article I wrote last year after chaperoning a local high school dance (many of you read about that experience in my parenting book), but here are a few of the sobering discoveries I observed first hand that my readers across the country have assured me is true in their community:
- The majority of girls don’t even stand face-to-face with their dates; they just “back it up” to the guy groping them from behind. I’ve been continuing to ask people across the country what percentage of the room is face to face. The answers have been anywhere from 10% to 50%. Always the minority.
- The music is anything but clean. Yes, the DJ played the “clean versions,” but you’ll discover these songs to be anything but clean. This year (from my conversations with kids so far) those “clean songs” being played are songs like Sexy and I Know It, and Last Friday Night, songs void of curse words, but packing a message that will make you wish the song just said “shit.” (Wow… I can’t believe I just typed that.)
- Girls’ dresses are getting shorter and becoming more revealing overall. At the dance I chaperoned, my wife and I literally had to keep asking girls to pull the bottoms of the dresses down, because as soon as their dress would hike up an inch or two, you could see their underwear. Often, the guys’ hands were on the girls’ thighs helping hike up the dresses.
So when17-year-old Trevor asked me permission to take my daughter Alyssa to Homecoming this year, I had to stop and think. Part of me thought, “What dad would pimp out his daughter to a place where this kind of activity was happening?” But the other part of me remembers Alyssa’s experience last year when I allowed her to go for the first time. She observed all that I detailed above, but she and five other church friends hung out together all evening for dinner and dancing on the outskirts of the dance floor in their own group. For her the evening was a fun Cinderella moment of dressing up and having fun with good friends.
So what are we as parents to do when our kids ask us the question, “Dad, can I go to Homecoming?”
Four Variables to Consider
1. Who’s your kid going to be hanging out with for the evening?
This is by far the most important question to ask. Not just their date, but who else will be in their group? For me, I see this dance as a pretty racy atmosphere. I hate it, to be quite honest. It’s a rite of passage that has evolved into “Mardi Gras” in school gymnasiums across the country. But if my daughter can go there surrounded by a circle of good Christian friends, then I’d consider letting her have her Cinderella moment in the safety of good company.
And realize that when I say “Christian” friends, many might think, I’ve heard that before. But I’m not just using the term Christian as that proverbial American label. I realize many who use that term, don’t look like Christ. But I mean, “Christ following friends.” Trevor is a student leader at our church from a family that is some of our best friends. Our families have gone on trips together… we know Trevor! Trevor’s favorite movie is Toy Story. He’s probably going on two mission trips this year. He’s a nice kid with a heart for Christ (he’s way better than I was when I was his age). The other couples they are going with are sharp kids as well. I couldn’t choose better friends for Alyssa. The group will be safe.
Last year at the dance they went to, Alyssa told me that about 75% of the room was doing that “grinding” thing. She said that one guy even came up to Natalie, one of her friends in their group, and grinded up behind her. Natalie turned around giving him a hard look, and the guy backed off with a look like, “What’s your problem!” I told Alyssa that if a guy pressed any body part against her, to be sure and knee him really hard in said body part.
2. Has your kid been demonstrating the wisdom and Biblical discernment that warrants your trust in this kind of atmosphere?
Are they ready to go into this situation that is going to be over-sexualized and, for many of our teenagers, distractingly tempting?
If you have a son that wants to go to one of these dances, ask yourself, “Is Zach ready to be in an atmosphere where cleavage is abundant, legs go all the way up, raunchy music is playing, and where he is in the minority if his body isn’t pressed up against his date with his hands on her thighs all night?”
That’s a lot to consider as a parent.
And I promise you, our girls don’t realize how tempting this situation is for guys. Most girls have no idea how sexually driven males are. Dads need to do a better job talking with their daughters about the way guys think.
Parents need to help kids not set themselves up for failure. Perhaps we need to start providing a night of dinner and ballroom dancing for our kids instead? How about swing dancing? How about anything where our kids aren’t encouraged to dry-hump to rap music all night! (There I go again.)
3. What is your daughter going to be wearing?
I say daughter, because parents of boys don’t have to worry in this area. Parents of boys, instead, have to worry about what their sons’ date will be wearing, something we have little control of, other than making a good choice with variable #1 above.
Parents of girls, I implore you. Please don’t sell out. These are our daughters!
I am constantly amazed at the dresses that parents let their daughters leave the house in. Do they not know? Or are they simply doing the Billy Ray Cyrus, “It’s what people her age do.”
Sadly, parents will have a difficult time finding dresses for our daughters that don’t make them look like streetwalkers. I’m not exaggerating. I shop with my girls all the time. It’s hard to find dresses that actually cover them up. Today, I’m happy to settle for a dress that covers halfway down the thigh, instead of the many dresses that barely cover up undies.
Personally, I want to dress up my daughters like a nun. Trevor can see her face all night; what else does he need to see!
4. Where are they going afterwards?
Funny… I can’t believe I even need to write this point. But parents continue to astonish me. I hear of Christian parents that get their kids and their friends a hotel room so, “They wouldn’t be out on the town with all the drunk drivers?” Yes, they’ll be safe from drunk drivers, but do you know what happens when a bunch of kids get into a hotel room?
I’m also surprised when Christian parents bypass my advice in variable #1 above and allow their kids to hang out with unbelievers all night. I don’t want to rehash this point, but on a night like this where temptations are abundant, don’t surround your kids with predators.
I can hear it now. “But Chris and Jordon are great kids. Sure, they don’t go to church, but they are really nice and come from nice families.”
I’ve seen it a million times. Chris and Jordon might be nice kids. They might not have got drunk, “went streaking in the park, skinny dipping in the dark, then had a ménage a trios…” but I assure you they are going to be listening to a song about all of those things while they’re rounding the bases with your daughter.
It’s this simple: the world has different values. Don’t expect the world to uphold Christian principles. Tell your kids to be home at midnight. If they want to spend the night somewhere (red flag), make sure it’s with a family who not only upholds your same Christian principles, but that it’s a place where the parents aren’t asleep at midnight while their Christian kids are playing strip poker in the spa listening to Lil Wayne. (Do you think I just made that up?)
At the beginning of this blog I told you that I told one of my daughters, “No.” Ashley wasn’t even asked yet; she was just putting out feelers as to if she could go with a bunch of friends from her cross-country team. Good kids, nice parents. It was actually a consideration. But even though Ashley is showing really good wisdom and discernment (variable #2 above), she wasn’t going to have a group of solid Christian friends surrounding her for the evening (variable #1).
Sorry… not my 14-year-old.
It’s not easy saying no, but hey… it’s not easy being a parent. It’s a constant balance of, “Am I too lenient or too strict?” On Homecoming night… float toward the latter.