Wednesday, August 27, 2008

She's an American Girl

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 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 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.


  1. Gina I am very proud of you! Although I may have thought you were hard on Summer by not letting her participate, you are right! I did not let you go to a dance in the 4th grade, I think in the 6th grade you attended your first after school dance and I stood outside the cafeteria and peered through the doors.The purpose of that dance was to meet the kids from the other elementary schools that you had never met. Yes, I am proud of you. I think you do a wonderful job, wish you had been around to help me raise my girls (laughing). Now, I can't wait to see how you are going to handle the JD situation, I just need to remember that cute things are not suppose to always happen to such young children. Don't ask me what to do in these difficult situations, I am the Meme... I am a bit "relaxed" in decision-making
    at this age. I can't imagine them being told no.

  2. Thinking again about you in the 4th grade. I think that is when your teacher taught you and your friends about how to change out nylons that had runners. You may have been waiting on the big factor to happen in your life. You, Christy Wilson, Teresa Prater, Maggie Guy, Linda King and not sure who else may have been having those slumber parties. Now, do I think Summer is too young? Yes, she hasn't bonded with the girls yet, why push her on the boys? You are correct, good thinking! Love you sweetie.

  3. Kristy Wilson HattonSeptember 2, 2008 at 6:44 PM

    4TH GRADE!!! That sounds CRAZY. I completely agree with you, and I only hope I'll have the courage (because that's what it takes) to say 'no' when my time comes. But my precious little boys won't possibly be interested in girls for at least 20+ years:)

    I remember our slumber parties, we should have one now since we actually have stuff to sit up and talk about!

  4. Gina,

    I a sooo proud of you. Sometimes parenting decisions can seem so unfair to some but we must stand up for our beliefs.
    Fourth grade is awefully young for a dance. I can't believe how fast our children are growing up. I still remember our kids playing together as toddlers. Hold on to these precious years as time goes by so fast.

    ps.Summer and Nate will have plenty of time to dance later. lol

  5. Gina, a fourth grade dance is just stupid you can't get kids to dance in middle school. Who thought of having a dance and then why the heck did the school approve have a book fair or something. I really hoped that toys would a little more friendly to those of us who don't fit a certain mold. I really had a hard time growing up knowing that I didn't look like stars on TV or in movies. You will be your daughter's best role model and always stick to your guns. I am now 30 and I still have a hard time trying to realize that it is okay to look racial/ethnically ambiguous. Your rules are great and it is good that you have established them so early. Also I'm always glad when a responsible parent like you comes along because it seems that I see so many kids out at bars or just in places that my parents would have never taken me. Good luck to you Gina.

  6. Hey.. I found your blog through my cousin Jen's ... check mine out.. they are strikingly similar!! LOL