Parenting Today’s Teen

I received an email last week from my lovely writer friend, Kim Derting. She asked if I’d be interested in publishing the below article on raising teens on LORE. I emailed her back immediately, “I want it!”

I wanted it for a lot of reasons, but one of them has to do with a woman that lives across the country from Kim. While Kim is thoughtfully answering questions from her teen daughter regarding her relationships with her gay friends, my childhood friend raised a gay teen as an incredibly conscientious and thoughtful parent. Our notions of sexuality and parenting and our own experiences as teens are no longer enough to guide a child who is being raised in a generation where sexuality is much more openly expressed and teens are gender fluid.

While many parents of gay teen girls allow them to spend time together alone since teen pregnancy is out, my childhood friend staunchly refused to allow her daughter alone time or sleepovers with other gay or bi girls, “Straight, gay or still figuring it out, children don’t have the emotional strength needed to deal with sexual relationships.”

Conversely, I asked if her daughter was allowed to be alone with boys and she shared something I never expected, “Unfortunately, a lot of teenage boys view teenage lesbians as girls who just ‘haven’t had the right boyfriend yet.’ She had some scary encounters with high school boys.”

The one thing both moms have in common and in spades?

The trust of their daughters and their mama lion like protective instincts.

I love that I somehow bridged a subject that is on the minds of two moms I adore who are both approaching the subject from a different vantage point, across the country from one another, with open hearts.

I’m so excited to introduce my friend, Kim Derting, and thank her again for sharing her writerly gifts, thoughtful insights and opening up dialogue between moms.

Read on…

kimberly-derting-color-press

The other day my daughter asked if her gay-friend-Rob (so totally not his real name) could stay the night.

My answer: No.

To be fair, no is my kneejerk response to just about everything.

Can I have twenty bucks? No.

Can you drive my friends and me to the city tomorrow? No.

Can I get a pony? No.

Usually, after my initial no, I take a second to think about it. Sometimes I stick to that no and sometimes I don’t…you know, because that whole kneejerk thing. (She got the pony, in case you were wondering.)

So after she asked about her gay friend staying the night and got my kneejerk response, she came back with her standard, “Why not?” To which I (maturely) responded, “Because I said so.”

I could have ended the whole conversation there. “Because I said so” is an answer. I’m the grown up and she’s the kid. End of story.

Except, for some reason that answer didn’t sit right with me. Why had I said so, I mean, really? We’d had a similar conversation a few months back, not about a boy, but when we’d talked about another friend of hers, a girl who’d recently come out. We talked then, about how if she were a lesbian I probably wouldn’t want her girlfriend staying the night, and she looked at me in a puzzled way and asked her typical, “Why not?”

“You know…” I answered.

When she gave me a look that made it clear I was going to have to spell it out for her, I finally admitted, “Be-cause. I wouldn’t want the two of you messing around.”

She made a face at me…because I’m her mom and all. And then she considered what I was saying and said, “Yeah. I guess so. But we can still have sleepovers, right?”

“Of course. Right up until I find out the two of you are dating.”

That’s when I got the eye roll. She was fourteen at the time, and fourteen-year-olds excel at eye rolls.

But, here’s the thing, when I was growing up I didn’t have any gay friends…at least none that I knew of, so these conversations didn’t happen in my house. I’m more than happy to have them now though. I’m Glad my daughter lives in a different world, comfortable with peoples’ sexual identities and able to ask me whether her gay friend can stay the night.

My answer is still no…for the time being.

But, she deserved an explanation beyond just “because I said so.” It has nothing at all to do with Rob’s (still not his real name) sexuality, or even that I think there’s anything wrong with letting him sleepover. It’s simply because he’s a boy and she’s a girl and I’m just not ready for that.

I’m not ready for my daughter to be in the world of coed locker rooms or restrooms either. In light of the North Carolina debacle, I should elaborate: I’m not talking about gender neutral accommodations, or that I don’t want trans or gender fluid individuals permitted to share facilities with my kid. What I mean is, is I’m not comfortable with her showering with the football team or having to pee with the rest of the boys at her high school. Not yet, and probably not ever. It’s as simple as that.

In a year or two, my whole sleepover answer might be different, but now she has me thinking. If her friend were trans, would my answer have been different?

Probably. I think so.

Then, at least, the matter would have gone to a vote, because as much as I’d like to think I’m running a dictatorship here, my husband still has some say. I hope he would be as thoughtful as I’ve tried to be, and not give a knee-jerk, back-in-my-day kind of response.

I’m pretty sure he would.

Regardless of the answer I gave my daughter, I’m glad she brought this up. I’m crazy proud of her for her open-mindedness and her huge heart. This world we’re living in is evolving. It’s better because our kids are better. And whether you agree with my decision or not, I hope it at least has you thinking about your answer, your thoughtfulness, your heart.

I hope you’re talking. I hope your kids are talking.

I hope we can all evolve together.

Kimberly Derting is the author of the award-winning THE BODY FINDER series, THE PLEDGE trilogy, and THE TAKING and THE REPLACED (the first two books in THE TAKING trilogy).

Her books have been translated into 15 languages, and both THE BODY FINDER and THE PLEDGE were YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults selections.

She lives in the Pacific Northwest, where the gloomy weather is ideal for writing anything dark and creepy. You can find her online at www.kimberlyderting.com.

Co-Parenting: Loving The Women Who Love Your Child

J Web Files-0052.jpg

I blogged anonymously as Little Ms. J for several years. Although I had a nice little following and over 250 articles I decided to take down the site a little over two years ago. It just didn’t feel right.

When  I wrote as Little Ms. J I was a married woman who was coming into her career and wanted very badly to have a baby. I wrote about my fun adventures with my hot husband and our parenting aspirations. I needed to get my time in as a dancing tartlet in high heels with a handsome man by my side before burp rags and cellulite made their appearance. I was sassy, snarky and bold. I was also very naive.

Then I had the baby, I came into my career and got divorced.

The storyline as I knew it ended and I had to figure out how to rewrite the me I knew. So, I dug into who that person was, came up for air and as I started LORE I thought, “Oh, I’ll just go back every now and then and grab an old post off Little Ms. J as a “Throwback,” something fun.

Every single time I’ve gone through the posts I’ve come up short.

I don’t know that girl anymore.

I wince a little in the memories. I smile at others. I look at the precious child I waxed and waned over, both the planning and the pregnancy, and the mom I’ve grown into shakes her head, I was such a baby trying to have a baby. I was such a girl-child trying to be a wife.

As I was looking through posts today I smiled at a few. My then-husband pulled me along to every sort of outdoor sporting event he possibly could while I looked adorable in my tennis skirts and twirled around, “Check out my legs. I look hot. Seriously, how do you hold this racket?”

He laughed at me. A lot. He said things like, “Oh, Little,” which was how “Little Ms. J” came about. I was little. He was big. It worked.

I golfed, I played tennis, I joined a volleyball team, I scaled indoor rock walls, I became SCUBA certified.

I kind of hated it.

Not all of it. Just most of it. I had the harnesses, rock climbing shoes, gear, clubs, fins, you name it, but I’m an introverted type of fit girl. I really don’t want to talk to anyone while I play my sports. I’ll go on a yoga retreat, I’ll listen to my “Damn, Girl” playlist while I do circuit training, gym rat style. I’ll play pickup on a golf range and be blissed out. I will absolutely go diving with you (if the water is warm), but the moment we have to keep a tab, score or compete I am thoroughly annoyed, this is not Zen!

But, I did it all because I was in love and I thought this is what you did. You put on the really adorable gear and showed up with your insanely muscular legs as you flexed them in various positions to annoy your mother in law, is this how you address the ball? I love this skirt. Wicking, huh? Flex. Flex.

I dropped Liv off at her dad’s house recently and took note of the His and Hers tennis rackets on the floor. Girlfriend was likely going to play with Ex’s mom, a former State tennis champion, when they visited her in Tucson that weekend. I laughed inside, his mom is thrilled. I remembered her exasperation, “You have no coordination. I can’t help you,” when she tried to lob a few balls at me years before. I honestly think she’d have rather lobbed rackets at me.

That’s when I’d turn and spin, “No, but seriously. Have you seen my legs?”

Ex laughed. Mom rolled her eyes, “She has no sport!”

He argued that I went to the gym a lot. She sighed and shook her head. At the time I thought these interactions were funny. I just wasn’t like them. I can look back now and see how mismatched I was for him and for them.

They liked to compete in wicking fabrics. I did not.

I text the girlfriend the other day to tell her I was going to be late dropping Liv to them. She was playing tennis.

Today she text back that she was at beach volleyball, but she’d let dad know whatever I was updating her about, thanks!

Yesterday we text back and forth about my daughter’s diet and the search for the perfect smoothie to hide vitamins and nutrients in since she’d rather live on gummy bears and macaroni and cheese.

I smiled, knowing inside that he very well may have found his soulmate. I told him as such. I am thrilled for him and for my daughter.

Me too, if I’m being honest.

They make far more sense than we ever did and for 7000 reasons. Not only is she sporty as hell, but they match up for reasons we never could. They have a similar sense of humor, she’s patient and most importantly, she loves my daughter. All those years I thought we were meant for each other? Well, maybe we were meant to have Liv, but past that? I realize that I was just one person in the way of someone better for him. I actually text him after meeting her, “I like her. Don’t eff it up.”

My daughter still lets me know that she’d discuss an arrangement where dad, girlfriend and I could all live together in a compound sort of environment where she’d also have a trampoline, two dogs and four fish. I just have to say the word. I remind her of how much she loves dad’s girlfriend and she agrees with a sing-song sigh, “Alright. Don’t worry mom. I’ll find someone else that loves you.”

I have to laugh at her sweet, manipulative and earnest little heart.

I ran into Girlfriend after a hot yoga class a few weeks ago. She wanted to make sure Liv was ok with her moving in to their house and I shared that she was, “She loves you.” Liv once told me that she wanted a mom at dad’s house and I told her the story explaining that she just loves being around feminine energy so it makes sense that she’s more settled with the living arrangements. Girlfriend very quickly sided with me, “You are always the mom!” I smiled, appreciative for the unnecessary gesture, “The best thing that could happen for Liv is to be surrounded by women who love her. She will be the most well-adjusted woman.”

Girlfriend looked a little surprised and, in response, I couldn’t help but think about Liv’s earlier offer.

I certainly do hope that when she makes good on her promise to find the guy who loves me he will also come with a really cool Ex.

Like me.

Flex flex.

#grownup