“What would you say if I asked to have my boyfriend sleep over?”
My daughter and her friend asked for my reaction because the friend had just convinced her parents to allow her boyfriend of several years spend the night. The argument was two fold: first that anything they were doing, they were already doing without spending the night and second, it would be nice to just fall asleep together after hanging out rather than one of them going home at 2:00 in the morning.
The request was actually to sleep rather than a euphemism for sex.
My first reaction was “Well that a perfectly logical request and I see your point.” Not allowing them to sleep together restricts a perfectly benign level of intimacy. My second thought was “Yeah, but do I want to be that parent?”
We are extremely permissive with our daughter and have been since she was about 12 and was clearly capable of making choices against our wishes and without our knowledge. It started because all her friends lied about their ages and got facebook pages before they were legally (or parentally) allowed. We told her (and continue to tell her) our perspective and wishes on her decisions, and said we know that we have zero ability to “make her” do anything.
So we trust.
She has no restrictions on where she goes, who she goes with or when she returns, but we ask her to be safe, make smart choices, and tell us where she is and who she is with. Trust but worry.
We lucked out. She isn’t a party girl, likes to go to bed before midnight and considers waking at 8 am sleeping in. She’s never violated our trust so why did I hesitate when she asked the “sleeping together” question?
As I discussed with her and her friend – she insisted it was a purely hypothetical question and she wasn’t really asking – it came down to my feeling of vague discomfort. What would condoning that level of intimacy say about me and my husband as parents?
I’m not sure either of the girls perceived it as the intimacy that “sleeping together” signals to me. Their interest was in the practical aspect of not having to drive or be driven home late at night after hanging out by the fire pit or watching movies.
Later when I relayed the conversation to my husband he had an immediate “Absolutely not” reaction, followed by his pointing out that it wasn’t just our decision the boyfriend’s parents would have a say as well.
It’s weird because my daughter and her friends are all 18 years old at this point and a legally “adultish.” Meaning they can buy cigarettes, enlist in the army, get a tattoo and a whole slew of previously age-restricted things, but we still feel funny about this mature concept of “sleeping together.”
There is no defined age for maturity that I can see. Some people are able to be on their own at 16 and others can’t be trusted to water the plants at 27. But whether or not my daughter or her friends are mature enough to have boyfriend/girlfriend sleep overs is only partially relevant.
What makes it such a tough question is a combination of societal expectations and our personal comfort level acknowledging our children as sexual beings.
I don’t know what the response would be if this wasn’t hypothetical and our daughter was really asking for our permission. I can’t imagine saying no to this request if/when she visits from college with a boyfriend in tow, so what’s different now?
Still thinking. Comments welcome.