Posted by: minnow | July 21, 2008

Watching THE SECRET LIFE with My Daughter

Last week my 13 year old and I watched the second episode of The Secret Life of the American Teenager. WOW! I have been out of the system for three years (I used to sub at the high school level) and I was in shock. My first internal reaction was: “No. Absolutely not. You will not watch another segment of this obviously sex promoting TV show.” My next reaction was: “Well, maybe it will open the door for some very important dialogue–like why I am locking you in your room until you’re 30.” (That was a joke, well sort of a joke, in case you couldn’t tell).

By the end of the show I could remember only one character’s name but pretty much figured out who had kissed whom. The big question in my mind (because I missed episode 1 I guess) was: Who is the father of the baby of the main character? That is, if there was a main character, maybe I should label her the pregnant character. The show has about eight main characters. (Please tell me I will survive this). I also knew my daughter and I would be watching The Secret Life of the American Teenager until she gets bored with it and I am faced with something scarier.

The jury is still out on how the show depicts Christians. I am a little concerned already by how it depicts teens. Granted, the title implies that we will see the life most adults do not see. But, do all teens really talk about sex, and who is having sex, and ways to get around their parents, and more sex. I sure didn’t when I was a teen and I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s. Yes, I know that was the sexual revolution in name only. We just got the ball rolling. And now the ball feels like an avalanche. Still…

I am blessed with bright, responsible, active children. Over the weekend I dropped my 20 year old off at a bowling alley so he could be the designated driver for one of his friends. (The friend’s mom called my son). I’m nearly in tears realizing how blessed I truly am. At the same time I am not about to make the mistake of thinking I have it made. Our next oldest just turned 18 and three others are under 18. 2 haven’t even gotten to high school yet. We have a long way to go in navigating the teenage highway. And, believe me the road seems to be getting bumpier. What as parents are we doing?

Some of my more conservative Christian friends will undoubtedly raise an eyebrow or two when/if they find out my daughter and I are watching The Secret Life. I may even have to field the why question. So to save time–I decided I should watch this program with my daughter because the cost of not seems greater to me than the cost of watching. My Daughter has been anticipating this show. She was highly aware of its creation. She goes to public school and I have no doubt other students will be talking about it come fall. Being left out is no fun. For some not knowing about the latest shows on TV can even invite bulling. If I manage to keep my snide mom comments to myself I just might gain some insight into how my daughter thinks and what she values. And, as much as I am blessed by the fact that she has great older girl role models in her life I do not want to be left out of the loop. So far, she likes to talk to me. I want to keep it that way.

One of my greatest frustrations I have with the Christian community is the attitude that we are some how “above” the rest. Our children are smarter, more talented, more moral. We know Jesus so we are better. Well, guess what folks–it just ain’t so! When we blind our eyes to the truth of what our children must navigate we in effect cut them off from their most important life lines–us!

Every parent must obviously judge for himself on where to draw the line. But as we are making those decisions we need to ask ourselves a few important questions. What does it mean to be in the world but not of the world? Why are we drawing the lines we draw? Is it for our own convenience and comfort or their safety? Are we setting arbitrary lines or have we taken their track record into consideration? Are we giving them opportunities as they get closer and closer to adulthood to show their maturity, demonstrate their ability to problem solve, and practice independent thinking? Do we know their friends and the position they hold among their friends? Or do we assume because their friends are “Christians” their friends are safe?

The friend my son was going to meet this week-end is a kid from Church. I like him. He’s always polite and talkative whenever I see him. I would not even suspect he had a “drinking problem” if I hadn’t heard as much from my son. As an outsider I haven’t been allowed to see in. I guess that’s my point–watching The Secret Life of the American Teenager with my daughter may just be a window to see in–not just into her life but into the lives of her friends and her older brother and his friends. For me that is worth feeling a little uncomfortable, answering a few questions I am not certain need to be answered until she’s 30 (joke), and wresting with my own blind spots and prejudices.

What prejudices you ask. Well, one of the issues that was foreshadowed in the last episode is the idea that some parents might not allow their daughters to continue to be friends with the pregnant girl. How would I handle that one? How would you?

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