We sat in the parking lot with our mouths open wide, every parental fiber wanting to march in there and drag our son back to the car.
Van loads of middle-school girls wearing booty shorts and skin-tight t-shirts giggled into the mixer.
“Is there a volleyball game tonight?” I asked, hopefully.
“No,” my husband answered through clenched teeth.
I went through all of the “benefit of the doubt” scenarios in my head:
- perhaps they’re part of a dance team – nope- no pointy-toe walk or matching bows
- maybe their parents don’t know how they’re dressed – no, unless those are blind-but-still-driving moms and dads kissing them goodbye in the drop-off spot
- they are poor and can’t afford proper clothes – the iPhones, new cars, and manicures say no
I couldn’t pretend it wasn’t happening. These girls are going to shake their groove thang – to music with a heavy bass, in a dark, hot, crowded gym – in front of our son. Our son.
We simmered in that thought for a few minutes.
What could we do?
Jerk our son off the dance floor that very minute? Shake our finger at those girls’ parents? Start a #DressYourDaughtersToProtectOurSons campaign?
I seriously considered all of those options.
But instead, we drove home in silence, each praying our own prayers and worrying our own worries. Then, we drove back for pick-up promptly at 10:00.
Parenting is like that sometimes, I guess.
We do our best to train our kids, teaching them moral values and spiritual truths, hoping they know a carload of sleaze when they see it… and hoping even more that they don’t get in for a ride.
But we’ll never know if we don’t drop them off, and they’ll never know either.
Now, don’t panic. I’m not talking about pre-school or elementary school, or even about every situation in middle school. But this is adolescence – otherwise known as the stage when parents are often left in the parking lot, paralyzed and praying, in between drop-offs and pick-ups.
And don’t get all huffy. I’m not talking about disengaging from your kid’s life or becoming a hands-off parent. Not at all. Again, this is middle school – when you get to know your kid’s friends and their families very well, you check their phone often, and hold the debit card close to your chest.
And then you drop them off.
I wish I could control everything for my kids. And man, do I ever wish I could sit down the parents of every booty-bearing, cleavage-creating girl and give them a piece of my mind. But I can’t.
I can determine which gyms, what time, how often, what resources my kids have, and my response to it all.
My son got in the car that night sweaty and talking way too loudly, “Wow. It was so crowded. And loud.”
“Was it fun?” My husband asked, still unable to clench his jaw.
“Some of it, yes. But mostly it was just too hot.”
My husband and I squeezed hands as we pulled out of the parking lot: our signal for quiet. We’d talk about it later. Or not. Either way, quiet for now.
We drove home, in complete control of the route, speed, radio station, and whether or not we would stop for ice cream.
I felt myself relax as I watched my son eat his two-scoop cone, and thought about the night.
We do our jobs and pour into our kids. Then, we drop them off and pray like crazy.
And we squeeze hands and eat ice cream together.
Parenting is like that, I guess.