I have to admit, I am a little nervous to write about this topic because I KNOW there will be those who strongly disagree, but I want to share with you my thoughts.
My 9 yr old daughter, Summer, is in 4th grade. Last Friday the teachers, administration, PTA, or someone in charge hosted a 4th grade dance. The money raised will go into a fund to help pay for costs of field trips that the 4th grade class will be taking later this year. I did not allow Summer to go. Thankfully, she and JD were scheduled to visit their dad in Tennessee anyway, but even if she had been home for the weekend, I would not have allowed her to participate.
I sat on Summer's bed and explained to her my reasons why she would not be allowed to attend the dance, or any other dance during the school year. While we were talking Summer was dressing and fixing the hair of her American Girl doll that my mom bought for her. The doll was a gift that she worked hard to earn by getting all A's on every report card during her 3rd grade year.
She talked about her American Girl for months, she looked at magazines and online for the exact one that she wanted. When she could not find a "dark complected" doll with freckles, she went as far as to add the freckles herself with a permanent marker. She did this within hours of receiving her doll, it just didn't feel right to her unless the doll had freckles like she does. With every report card that she received, Summer would say, "Mom, I'm one report card closer to my American Girl doll."
I would have no problem sending Summer to an ice cream social fundraiser, or maybe a craft project after school to raise money for the cause. How about a jump rope-a-thon where each jump is worth a nickle and supported by each students family, or a chili supper and auction hosted by the 4th grade students. They could serve the food and be responsible for the clean up afterwards-WOW, that's earning money and learning responsibility in one lump sum. How about putting on a play for another elementary school in our community and charging an admission fee of $.50 or $1.00. I would be willing to organize one of these fundraisers or volunteer my time to be present during the event, but I have to say I strongly object to boy/girl dances for 4th grade children. They are still children at this age, by the way. They are not teenagers or even preteens. Although those years are very close, they are not here yet. We need to be encouraging age appropriate activities for our children. I know that Summer would be more interested in attending an American Girl party than a school dance!
I know for a fact that the kids attending felt great pressure to "have a date to the dance" and wanted to look and smell their best for the event. Why are we encouraging this in these little children? They have their whole lives to worry about impressing the opposite sex. There will be years to come, decades even, when they will deal with the stresses and pressures of finding a mate and all of the little games that entails. All we, as adults, are doing is encouraging mini-marriages and mini-divorces at such young ages. These little ones are feeling defeat in relationships at the 4th grade level...because of a school sponsored dance! Think for just a moment of what a 9-10 yr old child must be thinking about in a situation like this, think about the psychology behind what is being encouraged by the adults that they trust the most...parents and teachers.
People, there is a season for courting and learning about the dynamics of relationships with the opposite sex and 4th grade is not the time for it. If I may, I would like to share with you some of the things that I encourage...
1. Church is a must-do...no matter what else is going on, you will attend. (This will be the rule whether she is 9 or 19-as long as she lives in my house.)
2. Nurture family relationships above any friendship. Friends will come and go, family are people who will care for you and protect you all your life...take care of family first.
3. Education is top priority. You must not only go to school and get good grades, but you MUST go to college. You need to be able to support yourself, your family, and your lifestyle without struggle or debt. (I don't want my children to make the same mistakes I have made.)
4. Care about yourself. Wear clean, matching, modest clothes that fit correctly and are ironed. They may not be name brand, but that doesn't mean that you have to look like a rag-a-muffin! Most importantly, care about the way that you are treated by others and the way that you treat others also.
5. Always give your best effort. In sports, at school, at home...no matter what it is. You don't have to BE the best, just DO your best.
6. Boyfriends will have to wait for now. You have to get your education first. Boys have a way of being a distraction from the ultimate goal. But let me know if their is ever someone that you are interested in and why and we will talk about it together.
7. You have responsibilities at home-do them without being asked. That is as important to me as your television privilege is to you.
Listen, I don't have it all together, and even when I know better I don't always do the right thing. But when it comes to my children I just want to protect them as long as I can. There will come a time when Summer will want to go to a school dance, and if she is old enough and mature enough then I will let her go...I just think 9 years old is not the time.
Now if you'll excuse me, there is an American Girl doll in the other room that needs her hair put in curlers and I am going to help while it's still "cool" to play with dolls.