Recently my middle daughter was in a 6 woman production of Steel Magnolias. She played Annelle, and she was decidedly not type-cast in the role. On opening night she was feeling a bit anxious and she texted her sister asking that we sit where she wouldn't be able to see us. We asked another parent who had seen the dress rehearsal how far back we should sit to be safely lost in the darkness beyond the spotlights, as it was a small theater. The stage was floor level and the seats started on level with the stage. Fortunately our seats were in the 4th row, far enough up and back from the stage.
The second performance I went along to the theater, as I was helping with concession sales before the show and during intermission. However, my daughter had asked that I not watch the show. She wanted one performance where there weren't any family members in the audience. That request may seem a bit odd, but she wanted the freedom to play her character without us watching. Since her acting career is about her, and not about me, I was fine with that request. I brought along a sewing project and planned to sit out in the lobby area during the performance.
Several of the other mothers found out I wasn't going to watch the show because of my daughter's request. Each of them encouraged me to go sit up in the small balcony, assuring me that my daughter would never know. Having just met most of them, I simply smiled and said I was fine not watching the show. But I was thinking, "My daughter trusts me, I'm not going to betray that trust."
As I sat sewing during the show I considered my interactions with the other mothers; I thought about the behavior they were suggesting I model for my daughter. And I thought about the relationships most parents have with their teenagers. It's stereotypical teenage behavior for teens to do things and figure that their parents will never find out. It's a stereotypical teen peer pressure tactic to say, "Oh, come on, do it! Your parents will never know." And it's a stereotype for a reason, it happens. And some times it happens with disastrous, life altering, results. Other times it happens and the parents don't ever find out. When that's the case, and when that happens often enough, a chasm starts to build between the parent and the teen. Walls go up so parents won't have the opportunity to find out.
It goes both ways. When parents do things figuring their child will never find out: read a diary, view private on-line accounts, read private texts on a cellphone, and the child does find out, the damage to the parent/child relationship can be extreme.
If I don't want my child doing things that I've asked her not to do then why on earth would I do something she has specifically asked me not to do?
I want my daughter to know that if she asks me to do something, or not do something, because it is important to her, then I will honor that request if at all possible. And if I cannot honor her request for any reason then I will try to be honest with her about why that is, so that we can figure out a compromise or come to an understanding. In doing this I strengthen our relationship. And on those occasions when when I ask her to do or not do something because it is important to me, I hope our relationship is strong enough that she will consider my request and honor it, or be honest with me about why she isn't comfortable honoring it. Mutual trust means that we can communicate honestly, respectfully and without fear of damaging our relationship.
I wish I had had the courage to speak up while interacting with those moms. I wish I had said, "I can't do that. I won't betray my daughter's trust." But at least I know that I didn't give in to the parental peer pressure and I acted with integrity and my daughter's trust was not misplaced.