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Boys will be boys?

It is such a great situation and such a great question, you’ve got to hear this.

So, a good mom invites a group of middle school boys, classmates of her son’s, over for a summer swim party. The family offers their pool, a ping pong table, the basketball court, water toys for the boys to enjoy. Mom has a special lunch and plenty of soft drinks and snacks. The guys are having a great time, including her son, the host.

Anyone whose been a boy or had a boy can imagine the guys deciding to have a water gun fight. Anyone whose been a boy or had a boy can imagine that the water fight devolves to shooting each other in the seat of the pants. Not too much longer and the boys are providing their own sounds effects. . . use your imagination. The next thing is that one of the guys takes his cell phone from his pocket and begins to film the fun. The rowdy group doesn’t take much notice of the filming.

That’s when the mom/hostess begins to feel uncomfortable. The guys’ fun isn’t terrible or indecent but it isn’t exactly angelic either. If their moms see the video, will they think she’d been inattentive? Might there be some of the guys who would not want their actions broadcast? Yet how can she intrude without spoiling the fun, without embarrassing either her son or the boy who was filming, much less the other guys? Should she, or when should she, cross the line and become the Enforcer?

In specific, three things catch my attention about this.

  • The first is a parent’s responsibility for monitoring behavior of visiting kids.
  • The second is correcting a visiting kid’s behavior in a gracious way.
  • The third issue, a growing and new-fangled one, has to do with etiquette for filming and posting images of others.

Each of these is worthy of some consideration and more than one blog. Stay with me!

When we agree to host and/or chaperone, there is a two-way unspoken agreement: I’ll pay attention to your kid and the goings-on of this event using my best judgment AND you’ll encourage your child to cooperate with the house rules. Chaperoning is a gift to other parents; it’s work which can become uncomfortable or even embarrassing. It requires that we be “on duty,” which in my world also means that adults don’t drink; we’ve got to set the example we expect of teens. We make our presence known (and felt) by walking into rooms, turning on lights, greeting kids at the door or saying good bye.We do our best to keep the group’s ages in mind and may allow some things at an older age that we would not accept from younger kids.

Still, the truth is that different adults might allow different things and still be decent, caring, intelligent folks. A parent is certainly entitled to say on the drive home, “Mrs. Doo-dah allows that at her house. But you know, Dad and I think that isn’t really a good idea.” NOTE: some great discussions and opportunities to teach our values can emerge from such occasions. Be sure to keep in mind that as they move into Life, our kids encounter all kinds of values different from our own. It’s helpful for them to realize that even if others I like do something I don’t like, I can maintain my own ideals.

Back to the mom’s question about whether other parents will wonder if she’s been inattentive. If you have been kind enough to open your home, provide the goodies and the fun, spend your time to be “on duty,” you deserve the benefit of the doubt from other parents. If a parent has a question about what went on, a polite phone call to the hostess might be in order. Sometimes the hostess is as stumped about how to handle a delicate situation as the questioning parent might be.

It’s good to remember that, while raising our kids, adults in a community work as a team. Bill Moyers calls it a “system of redundancy,” that all the adults work together to convey a similar message of decency to kids.

Next blog, we’ll consider correcting a visiting kid.

Meanwhile, happy sunshine!