Nine years ago I addressed this subject in an article that essentially gave a very conditional okay with so many checks and balances that the Australian Mint 'security' would blush. Since then a whole lot of youth social mores have changed and not least in the Christian scene.
Let me refresh the question: Would you let teenage girls sleep over in your home with your teenage son and his mates tonight?
It was a question originally raised in a Sydney Morning Herald article written by Leslie Cannold.
Cannold wrote: Mixed-sex sleepovers? Help! Since reaching adolescence my boys have been keen to have girls who are "just friends" sleep at our house, and I have been just as keen to avoid it.
Cannold explained that boys sleeping over have never been a problem. Over the years I have happily purchased bunk and trundle beds, as well as air mattresses, to facilitate it. But female friends? Sorry, I kept telling my sons. I'm just not comfortable.
When it came to girls sleeping over, Leslie Cannold was worried the girl's family was in the dark? Maybe, so when my son last asked I agreed to speak to the parent. The exchange was comforting – the mother certainly knew where her daughter would be and was realistic about my minimal capacity for control – “but my unease persisted” she wrote.
Cannold was certain that her boys would NEVER touch a girl in a way they thought she did not want. But here, perhaps, was a clue to the discomfort. “What if the girl didn't know what she wanted?” Cannold enquired.
The article illustrates that Cannold was not trying to produce a scientific, psychological or a medical analysis on teenage brain development, rather is writing simply as a concerned parent.
Join the club!
Cannold's primary concern is the 'hanky panky' that 'might' occur, that by simply saying yes to a sleepover - that it might subtly feel coercive to a teenage girl, as though adolescent sex was normal or even expected.
My wife Delma who has been in Christian ministry with me for 43 years says that for parents of teenagers, this is always an issue to consider, regardless of how much “protest” a teenage son or daughter might express.
Clearly, every sensible parent does not want any unsavoury situation or any complaint coming from events that occurred “in their house” when those young people were in effect, under their roof with 'some kind of supervision'.
Delma Tronson says you cannot take back what is given “as it’s been given”, or take back what is taken “as it has been taken”. Many a young person has wept the tears of “past tense”.
Leslie Cannold has a point when she says: “Who knows what an adolescent girl really wants?”
Again Delma Tronson says that the “here and now” is an issue for all young people by not “recognising or thinking about consequences.” Every caring parents goes through such dilemmas. Is staying up all night “watching and waiting” an option at all? Trusting your teenager might be okay. What of the other teenagers in your house for the sleep over?
The Bible is pretty sensible about such issues as it sets an initial standard. Your children will reflect what you have taught them and illustrated in your own life and marriage (Deuteronomy 6).
The Bible is also earthy, as passion and adultery is not something lost on its writers (example, David and Bathsheba). Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 acknowledges the electric passion of sexual desire.
Delma Tronson said that she and Mark (now grand-parents) offered a latitude of trust to their four children (all now adults) as they grew up (including many sleep overs). One important thing was that they knew the young people involved and they had some contact with their parents (school, social or church functions).
It is never an easy road for parents, but one that must inevitably be travelled.
What's changed in nine years
Three things have changed in my view.
People such as Susan Patton which I have written on several occasions, are articulate on such matters. My latest article on Susan Patton is very clear about girls making sensible decisions. Think long term. Patton is getting a lot of air time and even the feminists are taking a little more notice.
Second, those teenage girls who have a proclivity to roll the dice and make themselves as an offering to the desires of young men are becoming more robust and this is seen in the massive pornography industry. Sadly, this is now main stream. Even 'good girls' find it a financial means to get through university. Moreover if someone is that desperate for sex, they can go on timbler or watch it on their PC, their mobile phone, anywhere really.
The other end of the spectrum I'm noticing and expressed in various ways by our Christian young writers, is that a women's sacred gift to her husband is herself and her body. It is more than purity or morality or honour, and it doesn't matter what one done in the past, there is a new thing that has happened. It is a fresh start in Christ.
By committing oneself to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, it has become a sacred act, and that affects every area of one's life. One of those areas, and only one, is that of offering to your partner the most precious part of your being, the sacred. It is an expression of one's deepest most parts of one's heart. This has become the new “me” and a new “offering”.
It is no longer the Australian Mint “security”, rather this has nothing to do with the physical, it has everything to do with a commitment to the Lord. In some weird sense it is not unlike how a Roman Catholic woman falls at the foot of the cross and becomes a 'sacred bride'. Nothing deters that kind of bond. It is “out and beyond”.
This millennial generation of young committed Christians don't have a problem with sleepovers, rather sleepovers have a problem with this “sacred” - it transcends.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand. Dr Mark Tronson’s Press Service International in 2019 was awarded the Australasian Religious Press Association’s premier award, The Gutenberg. In September 2020 Summer Moore presented her commission portrait of Dr Mark Tronson holding the Gutenberg plaque. The above photo is the upper part from this portrait.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at: http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html