“For the past two years, my daughter had the same roommate at summer camp. They’re now romantically involved and want to room together again next year. Her girlfriend’s parents and I approve of the relationship, we’re just reluctant to let romantically-involved 15-year-olds share a double room largely unsupervised. My daughter feels this is unreasonable and says their relationship has changed in name only, not in what they do together (i.e., it isn’t sexual). Are we being unreasonable?”
Question Submitted Anonymously
Answered by Kirsten
Feels like you’re caught between a rock and a hard place, doesn’t it? On the one hand, you want to demonstrate that you are comfortable with your daughter’s sexual orientation and that you approve of her relationship, but on the other, a double room containing two unsupervised 15-year-olds just seems like a bad idea.
I feel your anxiety, I really do. Our child, Lucy,* came out to us at the age of thirteen, with an unceremonious announcement of “I think I like girls,” and by eighth grade, had acquired a girlfriend. I’ll never forget the time said girlfriend got accidentally (was it really an accident?) stranded at our house overnight. When I insisted she sleep in the guestroom across the hall from Lucy’s room, her giant tears started to flow, and I could see the look of panic set in on Lucy’s face. I felt trapped. If I let them sleep in the same room, was I making a mistake and setting a dangerous precedent? On the other hand, the girlfriend was sad and my child was having a panic attack and letting them sleep in the same room was a quick way to manage all of those uncomfortable feelings. In the end, I let them sleep in the same room with the door open—a feeble compromise at best. I regret not standing my ground—they were only 14 after all. But I didn’t want to seem unsupportive of my child’s sexual orientation in any way and I wanted a quick solution to everyone’s presenting suffering.
When Lucy was a sophomore in high school, they started dating someone new. The relationship moved quickly and soon became quite serious. Again, I was plagued by how to handle sleeping arrangements. Now they were older (about the same age as your daughter) and a bit more mature—so maybe it would be ok to let them share a room when the girlfriend spent the night. Again, my husband and I wanted to demonstrate that we supported our child, their sexual orientation, and their choice of partner, so we let the co-ed sleepovers begin. And at first, it was fine. The relationship appeared healthy and everyone seemed happy. But then, when things started to get rocky and limits might have been helpful for everyone, it felt like the genie was out of the bottle and we didn’t know how to put it back in. We muddled through a difficult year or so where I regretted my decision but couldn’t see my way out of it.
Here’s where I land in my advice to you: it’s ok to say no. My worry for your daughter has little to do with what will happen if things go right in the relationship, and everything to do with what will happen if they don’t. Even the most mature 15-year-old is still a kid, with limited life experience. If things get complicated (which they often do, especially at camp where emotions run HIGH), I worry about your daughter’s ability to navigate her way through on her own in an unsupervised room. Will your daughter and/or her girlfriend be able to figure out how to disentangle themselves from one another? Will they have an adult they can trust to help them manage through a difficult situation? Will they be able to switch rooms with privacy and grace? If I were on your path (and were able to heed my own advice) I’d say no to the sleeping arrangement with a firm and loving hand. Explain to your daughter that you love her, support her sexual orientation, and believe in her relationship with her girlfriend, but that you believe that it’s in her best interest to room with someone else. Trust me—it’s way too hard to say no once you’ve already said yes.
*Lucy, now 18, identifies as queer and non-binary.
I’m Kirsten. I’ve been married to Richard for 20 years (!) and in addition to Lucy, we have 2 dogs and 4 ¾ cats (one of them only has 3 legs!). I work full-time at a non-profit social services agency. I’m basically addicted to Instagram and I love to read, bake, and make art. I’m dying to get a new tattoo. Suggestions? Find me on Instagram or Twitter @kjerstieb.