To Prom or Not to Prom, That is the question

Hello Dolly!
July 1, 2010
The Great Outdoors
April 4, 2011

To Prom or Not to Prom, That is the question

Last week I made an inquiry on my Facebook Status, “To Prom or not to Prom, that is the question”. I figured I might get a few responses, but after 36 comments over the course of 3 days from 21 different people, it seems there is no lack of opinions and interest in this subject. So I am writing a blog post about how we came to a decision.

The question I asked was not really fair to my friends, since I didn’t provide all the information required to really answer the question.

Based on the responses I received, it seems that there were two areas that people came from to make their recommendation, the event itself and the moral effect this event may have on my daughter and whether or not my daughter should go to a dance with a young man. In reality, both of these areas of concern were used to make our decision about whether our oldest daughter, Rachel, would attend the McNeil high school prom with our neighbor’s oldest son.

A Young Woman of Grace

I would like to begin by saying that our decision was made in partnership with my daughter Rachel, she is at the age where she has quite a bit of say in the activities in which she chooses to participate, as her parents we provide guidance. Boundaries still exist and most are set by God and a few are set by us since she is still living in our home.

First of all I want to say that I am very proud of the young woman Rachel has become and have the utmost faith in her and her decisions. The question was never about whether or not Rachel would attend the Prom and decide in one night to abandon her current way of life and rebel against us because she saw a different way of life and decided to embrace it. I certainly hope we have done a better job of presenting Christianity and forming our children to be good Catholics. God is not some overbearing authority that says live this way or I will punish you, on the contrary, He presents us with a choice between life and death, between choosing God or choosing the world. We have hopefully taught our children that the good news proclaimed by Christ is freedom from sin and that this will lead to true happiness. We have confidence that the faith that we pledged to impart on our daughter at her baptism has been accepted by her as a young adult and that she not only embraces that faith, but also desires to bring light to those around her and share the good news of the gospel.

The Prom Event

The dance itself, while it may not cause my daughter to abandon her moral convictions, does need to be evaluated to determine if it is a good event to attend. For example, I would not attend a dance if the music being played was going to be offensive to my moral convictions. I would also not attend a dance if I could reasonably expect that the dancing would be lewd and sexually suggestive. I would also not attend a dance if those who were attending would be drinking excessively and thus acting as drunk people normally act. So there are certain events, through personal experience, that I would not attend because I would have concern for my own personal safety or my sense of decency would be insulted. I am sure each of you also can think of places or events that you would not partake in due to issues such as the ones listed above. Yes, it is a judgement call, and God made us this way, to judge whether or not something is good for us or not.

Based on personal accounts from friends who have been chaperones at McNeil proms in the past and based on the Prom Agreement Form, there have been some pretty bad things happen at the McNeil Prom in the past including, use of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs by participants, immodest dress, and inappropriate dancing (lap dances, bumping and grinding and any other movement that appears to simulate sexual acts), and indecent exposure and/or removal of under garments. (reference McNeil Prom Agreement).

Dating

Our children do not and will not date, ever. I know this is a very foreign idea to most people I know. It is not how I nor my wife was raised, we both dated and dated each other and got married. Today, dating is the normal way to meet your future spouse today. There are some common questions/criticisms I hear when I tell people that our children will not date.

  • How will your children meet their future spouse?
  • Everyone dates, and so did you, why would you deny your child this part of normal life?
  • What, really? Why not? Thats weird.
  • When will your kids start dating?
  • Thats what you think now, you will change you mind later.
  • Dating is the only way you get to know people of the other gender.
  • Your kids will never get married.

We assure people that we do desire our children to meet members of the opposite gender, to get married (probably sooner than those who date) and have fulfilled lives despite their lack of participating in the dating game (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dating_Game).
So why do we not wish for our children to date? The answer is that we believe that dating is not an activity that will produce the desired results while helping our children to avoid the near occasion of sin. While societal norms have strayed greatly from the moral teachings of Christ, we do hope that we have equipped our children to rise above the peer pressure that exists to the contrary.

We believe that dating is practice for divorce. Think about it, you go out with someone for a period of time, if you are following God’s laws, you don’t get physically intimate with the other person, but most dating relationships today do involve quite a bit of physical intimacy, if not intercourse. So the couple gets emotionally involved, sometimes very involved and then at some point (since most young people date more than one person in their quest for a spouse) breakup and stop seeing each other. Feelings are hurt, friends are lost and the young people grieve or rejoice (depending on if they were dumped or were the dumper – note the common terminology used) and move on to the next person who they find attractive.

The common response to this criticism is that you need to play the field to get to know lots of different people so you can figure out what you like in someone you would like to marry. If you don’t shop around, you may not know what you are missing. This is a flawed understanding of courtship. Courtship is not living in a vacuum and not interacting with potential spouses, you do it on a regular basis. But you shop around with friends. You guard your heart and your physical intimacy so that your feelings don’t cloud your judgement. The Courtship model actually helps you to shop around more effectively. This mode of interacting with members of the opposite gender requires not only physical chastity, but also emotional chastity. Emotional chastity may be more difficult as it requires guarding your thoughts as well as your actions. But we can take solace in the words of Christ found in the Gospel that call us to observe the sixth commandment concerning adultery, but also to avoid lust in our hearts. If Jesus called us to live in this way, then the Holy Spirit will enable us to be successful.

The Decision

So we met with the young man and got to know him a little better. Even though we have been neighbors for a few years, we have not interacted with him or his family much. I spoke with him and shared our views on dating and emphasized that our children do not date and thus if Rachel were to accompany him to Prom, that it would be as a friend. We also discussed the parameters in which he would need to agree to abide if he were to take my daughter to Prom (no after parties, no drinking, etc). I shared with him the obligation and duty I have to protect my daughters and sons from both physical and spiritual harm and my duty to protect their honor. I told him that if Rachel would go with him to Prom that he would be agreeing to take on this role for the evening. He listened attentively and agreed to do his best, and I have no reason to doubt his sincerity, so we gave our permission for Rachel to attend.

Closing Thoughts

While I feel comfortable that Rachel’s friend will keep his word, I also know what it was like to be 18 and that sometimes it may be hard to discern when a situation is making someone else uncomfortable. So I signed up to be an official chaperone at the McNeil Prom for the first two hours. I must emphasize that my being a chaperone is in no way a statement of mistrust of either Rachel or her friend. I do not plan on spying on them while they are at the Prom, I will be observing the environment and doing what I can to make sure that it is “family friendly” and free of the activity cited in the McNeil Prom Permission form. We sincerely hope that Rachel has a good time, and that it is a positive experience for both of them (since neither has been to a McNeil Prom before). Rachel has been to a homeschool formal before and had a great time, the coordinators of the Homeschool formal do a great job, they require dance lessons prior to the formal by all attendees, they have dance cards to ensure that no one feels left out and that everyone gets to meet people other than the person who escorted them to the formal, and most of the attendees are strong in their Christian morals. We look forward to their report and Rachel’s opinion on which formal event was better.

 

For a great book on Christian Courtship, check out Christian Courtship in an Oversexed World

10 Comments

  1. Joyce says:

    Dear Allen,

    Thank you so much for being a true witness of Christ. I am a mum of 3 daugthers and always struggel with issues when it comes to our children practising thier faith when they are not in our presences.
    My oldest daughter just choose not to go for her high school Prom because of the vulgar things that take place. I was encouraging her to go and was actually disssapointed that she did not want to attend her prom as I felt that she would miss out. She simply was determined that she did not want to go because when she is in their company she may be pulled away from God and may feel pressurize to do things that she may not otherwise to do. She felt not going to be a witness of drugs, drinking, immodest dressing/language and behaviour would keep her at more peace, instead she requested me to have a family dinner in a nice fancy restaurant. I pray that all girls will be blessed to make a holy decision of attending their proms.

    Be Blessed Allen, Rachel and your family.

    • Allen Hebert says:

      Joyce,

      Your daughter sounds like someone who has a strong sense of who she is. You should be proud. Each one of my kids is unique and God has a specific plan for each one of them, I am not certain that each of one them would have made the same decision that Rachel, my oldest, did in this situation. After a certain age, we must hope that the foundation we have helped them to build is solidly rooted in Christ and that they are ready and equipped for the life that lay before them. And most of all, we will continue to pray for them.

      God Bless,
      Allen

  2. Jim says:

    This may sound a bit off topic, but it’s not: the Prom will have to go, the homosexual activists will make sure of that. Case in point:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marc_Hall_v._Durham_Catholic_School_Board

    So either we will be forced to allow homosexuals to bring their ‘dates’ to the Prom, or we do away with the prom altogether. Simple choice.

    • Allen Hebert says:

      Good point Jim, although I wasn’t really addressing the issue of government intervention into school gatherings, it is something that we should be aware of and vote to defend our right to gather without having to be inclusive. Since this event is a public school event I am assuming that homosexual couples have not been excluded from attending. I am getting ready to leave to go to the Prom to Chaperone, please say a prayer for me and my daughter and her friend.

  3. April Yeager says:

    Allen,
    I found your post through Jennifer Fulwiler’s blog post on NCR. No doubt, her post was met with many conflicting comments on this same subject. I agreee with her that yours is a great piece on your discerment process. I am thankful to read that more and more parents that are taking the spiritual formation of their children seriously. Or culture has swayed to the point of such confusion that to boldly proclaim your process here is no easy task.

    There is no blueprint in history that can correctly guide us with regards to today’s cultural situations. I believe we must take Our Lord’s example and the guidance of the saints in these areas. The saints have much to say on purity and how important it is to discern the near ocassion of sin. Your thoughtfulness in including your daughter in the decision process makes it obvious that you have formed her well. Please continue to write on these important matters.

    • Allen Hebert says:

      April,

      Thanks for the note of encouragement. God willing, my wife and I will have more to write about raising missionaries, martyrs and saints (which is our goal)!

  4. Anna McCauley says:

    We agree with you 100% on the way you handled the prom situation. But like most of the hot buttons in our culture, you need to be more careful with your use of the word “dating”. There remains a difference between “dating” and “going steady (my generation)”, or having a “boyfriend” or “girlfrend”. Dating remains a safe and important part of a young single’s life. However, there is little or no reason for teenagers/high school students to date (and especially for the reasons you state, to have a “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”.

    • Allen Hebert says:

      Anna,
      Good suggestion, I guess one of my future posts will be on Dating! I had a discussion today with someone who said Dating was no big deal, so I asked them to define it, and it turns out that their definition of Dating sounds a whole lot like friendship.

      • Anna McCauley says:

        Technically speaking, allowing your child to attend the prom – she had a “date” – so she is allowed to date. For the prom that is – and as long as her date agreed to the parameters that you set. There you go – yesterday I went to my Sophomore’s end of season tennis party – boys and girls. What joy we had as parents watching our children enjoy each other’s company to play mixed doubles for fun, rather than competition. Providing healthy ways for our children to know each other is part of our responsibility as parents. After all that is the first stage of love – to know. The problem with our culture, is that couples jump to the last stage – conjugal love before they have had a chance to the natural progression of true marital love. 1. To know 2. To trust. 3. To commit and 4. Marital Expression, which leads to new life. How the ills of our culture would be eased if we were able to teach our children to enter this part of their lives with their eyes wide open. Thank you for writing about it.

  5. […] evening, I volunteered to be a chaperone at the McNeil High School Prom.  As I mentioned in my previous post about this particular Prom, I was not going to chaperone my daughter and her friend, I was there to […]

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