The holiday season is a time for many things. Family. Friends. Worship. And secrets. Everyone in my family has at least one secret during the holidays, mostly involving gifts. My kids are both now in Middle School and they have become quite talented at keeping secrets. Each of them picked out presents for other family members by themselves this year. Each also have neither confirmed nor denied the existence of a certain North Pole resident. I imagine they suspect that Santa is not a real person, but they’re keeping that opinion to themselves. My guess is that if they announce a disbelief in Saint Nick, they believe the presents will cease to appear on Christmas morning. At least that was my thought at the same age. Regardless, they are both keeping this a secret from me.
Another secret was revealed to me over these last two weeks. My ever-developing and maturing 11-year old daughter who has always adored me as a hero now has a boyfriend. It’s just a class-mate crush, but I’m aware that such “relationships” are more complicated in this day of texting and emailing. I don’t have a fear of my daughter having a boyfriend…just of the modern day etiquette and practices of which I’m not aware. She finally asked my wife to share the news with me, so I approached my daughter with a smiling and understanding expression and told her I wouldn’t tease her (much) and that it was okay to have a boyfriend. I also told her a father’s job is not to tease the daughter, but to intimidate the boyfriend, so I’d look forward to that day soon.
It was my son who surprised me the most. He knew of his sister’s boyfriend (who happens to be one of my son’s best friends…another dynamic that should prove to be challenging down the road). What surprised me is that he could keep a secret at all. He’s the one that often blurts out the most untimely comments in public (think “Fire! in a crowded movie house”). He’s always the one that crumbles under the “Daddy stare” into a fit of giggles and cries of “Okay okay…I’ll tell you!” But within Boyfriend-Gate, he showed no signs of having knowledge at all. I would be proud of him if it wasn’t for the worry this has set upon me. These are the first secrets of many to come. Many, many!
Don’t get me wrong, I have fantastic kids. Sure, I have parental bias, but I think I speak fact as well. They both do well in school and each has a good set of friends that also perform well in class as well as in social groups. My kids could be more active, but their lack of involvement is as much my fault as anyone’s. Overall, they are really good kids. Good kids that have learned to keep secrets really well.
I predict (hope) that they will make good decisions in the future. They know that smoking is bad (it killed their grandma) and that tanning is bad (it contributed to their uncle’s death). But I know they’ll do things and try things of which they’ll keep secrets. I know this because I did. I have secrets that I would never tell my parents and that I’ll probably take to my grave. I did things that I knew “was wrong” and yet I did them anyway. I’ve made better and smarter decisions later in life and would most likely not repeat some of those earlier actions. Those actions…which started when I was just slightly older than what my kids are now. So yeah, I have to be realistic and know that my kids will make some poor decisions. Despite being incredibly well behaved kids now, they’ll make the occasional bone-headed decision. And they’ll keep some so secret that they’ll take them to their grave.
I have some solace in knowing that some decisions are made more difficult to carry through. I know that my son won’t be hopping in my car to zoom down the road, at least until he’s 15 or 16, because middle schoolers are too young to drive. I know that my daughter won’t go off to buy cigarettes from the store until she’s around 18 (hopefully never) because that’s the age limit in North Carolina. I know that neither will go off to buy a pint of Crown Royal until they’re 21, the legal drinking age in this state. There are other such age restrictions which help to put my mind at ease. I’m not so naïve to realize that loopholes can’t be found or that a friend or young adult might not sneak a drink or a smoke their way. Still, I do know that such laws make access more difficult.
That’s why I support any efforts toward a ban on tanning beds for minors. I know that my kids are good kids. I know that I have parental control over these kids…now. I also know that good kids (yes, I was a “good kid”) will purposely make a bad choice and then keep it a secret. I’m convinced they will stay away from tanning beds. But then again….
Kudos to our friend Chelsea Dawson for fighting for a tanning bed ban in Virginia. Cheers to all others that have won the fights in their states or plan to continue the fight in others. I wholeheartedly agree that parents should have the responsibility for their children and understand that every parent believes they have good kids. Almost as good as mine. But I also know that kids will make mistakes that can affect their lives in dramatic ways. We might think our kids will make the right choices…but we might never know their secrets.