Call me sentimental, but I really wanted my son to experience senior prom. It was such a memory for me and seemed like a rite of passage not to be missed. One final hurrah with friends before you head off into young adulthood. So I was disappointed when he initially said, “No, I’m not going to that!” About two weeks later he casually asked my husband and me what the rules were for prom night. Trying not to act too excited that he had actually decided to go, I laid out our expectations.
- As long as we know where you are, you don’t have a curfew. (There were plans to have a big bonfire at someone’s house after leaving prom.)
- Call us if you have been drinking and we will pick you up, no questions asked.
These certainly weren’t the rules when I was growing up and I wonder if that is partly because of my generation, but maybe it was more because I was a young woman. I know that as a young man, my grandfather gave my father the same guidelines about drinking that I gave my son. The expectations for me were much more strict. 11:00 p.m. curfew–no drinking, definitely no after-party.
I suspect that there was a desire to protect me, like I was incapable for standing up for myself or somehow would be taken advantage of by my date. Funny, but the last thing I said to my son before he left for prom was that he was responsible for making sure his date was comfortable and felt safe. I told him that it didn’t matter if the rest of the group was having fun, staying out late or partying, if her rules were different than his, he had to follow those rules.
Upon reflection, I realize I didn’t say these things because I felt like his date couldn’t take care of herself. I can’t imagine my son going out with anyone who wasn’t strong and intelligent. I said these things because it is important to me that my son knows that when we are in relationship with another person, we have a responsibility to ensure they are taken care of, that they feel safe and heard. That is marriage, that is family, that is dating, that is friendship, that is our church.
The connections we make with other human beings are sacred. Connections should be nurtured and respected. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every connection we made with another person was rooted in the sacred act of tending to the needs of the other person? If we could approach each new encounter with curiosity and openness, rather than fear? If we set about the task of building connections in order to really understand and honor the other person, not view their experience through our own lens?
Our world has enough people pushing their ideas on others, expecting them to fall in line and shaming them when they don’t. It isn’t always an easy task to let go of our own agendas in our relationships, old or new. (A point I made above as I secretly wished for my son to attend prom.) As I create connections in my new home, I hope I remember to listen more than I talk, to be curious and open, and to remember the sacred responsibility of being in relationship with another human being. Maybe it can be my new ministry!