The following is parenting at its best -- a true tale of parenting courage under fire.
Kate and Will (not their real names) have three children, the middle of whom is an 11-year-old girl with a mind of her own. Not long ago, this middle child, Harriet, was having a friend over to spend the night. The children asked Kate to take them to a video store to rent a movie, which she agreed to do.
When they presented their choice to Kate, she noted that the movie was rated PG-13. At first, she refused to rent it. The kids persisted, the friend claiming she had already seen the movie with her parents' permission and that the rating didn't reflect anything more than a teeny bit of violence and implied sex.
Kate relented, on the condition that she would watch the movie with them. "I'll turn it off immediately," she said, "if I don't like what I see."
The kids agreed. Later, while Kate was fixing dinner, her oldest, 12, came into the kitchen and asked, "Did you give Harriet permission to watch that movie?"
Kate dropped what she was doing and rushed downstairs, where, to her chagrin, she found Harriet and her friend watching the movie. She turned it off, and here's where things get good.
The girls gave all manner of excuses. They were just cueing it up. They were rewinding it and accidentally hit the play button. Kate turned a deaf ear. She called the friend's mother and called off the sleep-over, then she sent Harriet to her room for the evening.
When Harriet appealed to her daddy, Will stood by his wife's decision, which is the hallmark of a father who understands that his first obligation is to his marriage.
That set off the sort of soap opera typical of a child this age. Harriet stormed upstairs, hysterical. She shrieked and she howled. When that didn't work, she wept, blubbered, sobbed and wailed. Kate and Will sat downstairs, each preventing the other from going to Harriet's rescue, or even so much as to give her comfort.
As any caring parents will do, they agonized over whether they had done the right thing. But Will allayed Kate's doubts, and Kate allayed Will's. That's the way a good marriage works.
When hysteria didn't push the right buttons, Harriet screamed that if her parents didn't call her friend back over to spend the night, she wasn't going to sleep in her bed that night. Instead, she was going to sleep in the bathtub!
The next thing Harriet knew, her mother was at the bathroom door, a pillow and blanket in hand. "Here are some things to make your night more comfortable," Kate said. "See you in the morning."
With that, she closed the door, leaving Harriet no option but to get over it. Which she did.
When Kate and Will told me this story, I couldn't help but notice that Harriet looked and acted like a typical pre-adolescent. She wasn't curled up in a corner, babbling incoherently -- she actually seemed to be enjoying herself.
Believe me, when Harriet becomes an adult, she will enjoy telling this story even more than did I. And she will no doubt tell it with pride in her parents.
If you have a story you think qualifies as parenting at its best, you can submit it to this column by sending it to Parenting at Its Best, 1391-A E. Garrison Blvd., Gastonia, N.C. 28054. Or, e-mail it email@example.com. Please include your name and phone number.
John Rosemond is a family psychologist in North Carolina. Questions of general interest may be sent to John Rosemond at P.O. Box 4124, Gastonia, N.C. 28054 and at http://www.rosemond.com/parenting on the World Wide Web.
If you or someone you know has parenting problems, call the Parents Anonymous 24-hour confidential Help-Line at 892-2172.