Friday, April 8, 2016

May I have this... dance?

"Is McKenzie going to the dance tonight?"  It was an innocent question posed by my neighbor, a question that was intended to provide just a small bit of information, a simple question that required nothing more than a 'yes' or 'no'.  But my answer froze in my throat as the gravity of that question hit me.

McKenzie had JUST turned twelve less than a week earlier, and the very first YW activity she was invited to happened to be a stake dance.  Usually (in fact, before this event I would have said always), the youth dances are held for all youth 14 years of age or older.  So even though McKenzie had just aged into YW, I hadn't even started to process the idea of her going to the dances quite yet.

"Uh, yes... she is," I finally croaked out.

A week before, McKenzie had come to me as I was working in the kitchen and asked, "Mom, what do I do if a boy asks me to dance?"  My eyebrows shot up in a look of You-Caught-Me-A-Little-Off-Guard surprise before I recovered and answered her question.

"Well," I began, turning to her with a smile.  "You say 'yes'.  You always say yes if a nice boy asks you to dance.  Think about how much courage it would take for you to ask a boy to dance!  So, if a boy has enough courage to come up and ask you to dance, make sure you respect his courage.  And then, you just kind of slowly spin in a little circle, like this, and you try to make him feel very comfortable and happy that he asked you in the first place.  Ask him questions and listen to his answers, and then at the end of the dance make sure to thank him."  I put a calm smile on my face even though my insides were screaming at the injustice of Growing Up and continued, "but... I really don't think you have to worry about that right now. Those twelve year old boys are just as scared of you as you are of them and I doubt any of them will be asking girls to dance.  So, the best part of the dance is just hanging out and being silly with your girlfriends."

"Yeah..." she laughed in response.

She came f.l.o.a.t.i.n.g. in the door at 8:30pm the night after the dance.  She had had a wonderful time.  "So, you were wrong, Mom," she said with a smile on her face.  "I got asked to dance twice."

"Wait, you did?!" I asked, a little too surprised.  "You said, 'no, I'm way too young,' right?!"
"Nope," she replied with a little teasing lilt. "I did what my mother told me... always say yes."

We lay in her bed that night, side by side, and talked about the whole evening. About her girlfriends. About Cute Boy.  About the three slow songs, and about the awkwardness she felt in being the only girl in her circle to be asked to dance.

Anyway, the point of this post is really that I fell asleep that night, and many nights following, not sure that I had made all of the right parenting decisions.  I kind of think I maybe should have said no to the dance altogether? She's so young, and while dances and flirty feelings are fun and appropriate at times, I'd rather her not have been introduced to them quite this early.  Or, instead of saying 'always say yes' to a boy who asks you to dance, I maybe should have added the disclaimer that you should never say yes if you feel truly uncomfortable.  During our debriefing of the night maybe I should have given a little more attention to the topic of Cute Boy. Or maybe less.

They were right, all those people who told me that parenting gets harder.

Valentines day was a few days later, and McKenzie came home from school cradling a paper and plastic rose from the 99 cent store that had been given to her by Cute Boy.  We put it in a vase and stuck it by the window for a couple of days and I wondered, again, about my role in all of this.  

I think my role is to teach her to be wise.  Teach her to be kind.  Teach her to be joyful.  Teach her to listen for, to follow, and to obey the quiet promptings of the spirit.

The Spirit.

That's the answer.  Isn't it. Because he will teach her what I can't.  He will see the dangers more clearly than I ever will.  And he will be there, warning and guiding and confirming and comforting her all along the way.


I think my role is to remember to be wise.  Remember to be kind.  Remember to be joyful. Remember to listen for, to follow and to obey the quiet promptings of the Spirit.  The Spirit is always the answer. Because I know he will teach me what I need to know.  He will see the dangers more clearly than I ever will.  And he will be there, warning and guiding and confirming and comforting me all along the way.

One thing's for sure - I'm so grateful I have McKenzie to teach me about this.  I have a feeling this will not be the last time I lie awake wondering if I made the right parenting choices.  Seeing my own flaws and mistakes affect the life of one of my children has always been a terribly humbling and painful experience - but I have faith that McKenzie will be able to succeed in spite of all of my flaws, and I have faith that I can be helped to overcome those flaws, all through the atonement of Jesus Christ.

The further I get along in this parenting gig, the more I start to wonder whether parenting is more for the children, or for the parents.


  1. Wise, kind, and beautiful words. Bookmarking in my brain for later!

  2. Oh, wow, this is a whole new part of parenting! I am sure you'll do great with it. Good luck!

  3. Definitely for the parents. Haven't you ever heard me say that, that in the beginning I thought my job was to teach and train and impart wisdom and now (towards the end) I feel it's all about me being pushed and shaped and refined and tested? And yes, so hard. It was going to be easier the other way. ;)