- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 12, 2009

Dear Ms. Vicki,I know parents have written to you in the past, and I like how you are candid and frank with them. I realize you will do the same with me.

I am a military spouse; my husband and I have three children, including a 16-year-old daughter. She has been dating her boyfriend for more than a year, and we know his family very well. They are a church family, and my husband and I liked the characteristics and family values with which her boyfriend is being raised.

My daughter confided in me that she wanted to become sexually active with her boyfriend, and as parents, we did not want to put our heads in the sand and ignore this issue. After about three months of talking with us, she said she knew she wanted to proceed on this course with her boyfriend.

We were heartbroken, but I took her to the doctor, and we talked about protection and sexually transmitted diseases and discussed birth-control options.

What we discovered later has been shocking. We knew my daughter and her boyfriend had started having sex. His family did not want to hear of it and tried to prohibit their son from having contact with our daughter. He has become defiant and disrespectful to his parents.

As a mother and a woman, I did not want my daughter to have sex in cars, in the park and other unsafe places. We discussed a respectful way for her to have sex with her boyfriend in our home. We would give her privacy to have relations with her boyfriend only when no one was home.

As far as I’m concerned, this option had been working. However, one day I came home early with her younger brothers from their soccer practice. She had placed the yellow scarf on her doorknob, which was my signal that she had company.

I did not intrude, but when the door was opened, I received the shock of my life. Ms. Vicki, she was in her bedroom with a different young man, not her boyfriend! She has betrayed our trust in a big way, and I am heartbroken.

What do we do now?

- My Daughter Misunderstood Our Directions

Dear Directions,

Misunderstood? Trust me, your daughter didn’t misunderstand anything.

Every now and then I receive a letter that leaves me point-blank speechless. Well, after reading your letter, my mouth is wide open. I feel like my grandmother when she would say, “Lawd have mercy” - not Lord, but “lawd.”

I won’t beat you up, but here’s the deal: I applaud you for trying to be proactive. You took your daughter to the doctor and spent time talking with her about options to prevent an unplanned pregnancy and avoiding STDs. I think that’s great because many parents look the other way and hope for the best.

You can talk to your children until you are blue in the face and advise them against a decision, but I’ve found that our teenagers will do what they want to do, not think about consequences and forget about their parent’s guidance.

My mother’s warning to me was, “Don’t do it.” In retrospect, I wish she had offered more education to me about changes in my body, etc., but that wasn’t my mother’s style. I wasn’t perfect (and I’m still not) but I knew having sex when I was a teenager was not the answer for me. I was a poor black girl from the inner city. I knew having a baby then would ruin any chances I had to succeed. I had seen it happen to many others.

So, again, while I applaud you for talking to your daughter, I am confused as to why you would go out of your way to make her comfortable in your home with her sexual experiences. Some boundaries have been severely crossed, and I doubt you will ever be able to regain a certain level of respect with your daughter.

Where in the world did you get the idea for her to hang a scarf outside her door to let you know when she was in her room with her boyfriend? It is ridiculous, disrespectful and inappropriate. What will you do when your other children want to do the same thing?

You are her parents, and parents should always stay in that role. Right now, she considers you and her father to be her buddies. Trust me, a 16-year-old needs parents.

Now you are facing another dilemma: She is sexually active with more than one boy at 16. This is a mess.

Lady, it’s time for you and your husband to put a stop to this madness. This is something you both created, and you should stop it. Tell her she will no longer be allowed to have sex in your home.

You and your husband also will have to spend a great deal of time talking with her about options other than sex. You see, 16-year-olds are really not ready for sexual relationships. They are only caught up in the thrill.

Tell her she is important and she has a great future ahead of her. Tell her these boys are not going to be around for more than a few minutes before they move on to girls No. 2, 3 and 4. She is only an experiment.

Here’s the biggest and most important task for you and your husband: Tell her you made a mistake and that you are sorry for allowing this. Parents make mistakes; I’ve made many. I’m sure she will forgive you. Keep in touch and let me know what happens.

Reader responses:

• Dear Ms. Vicki,

I’ve never read your column before, and I’ve never written to anyone, but I think you missed the mark Nov. 8 with the woman who is toiling over her relocation with her husband. You should have made it very clear that’s it’s her role and responsibility to move with her husband. She should be so happy he is serving his country and should happily support him. She can finish college at any time. With what is happening to our country and in our military, her husband should not be worried about his family. Thank you for listening.

- Sheila Parks

• I love your column. I am 72, and we were in the military for four years in the 1960s. Your advice is always sound, practical and free of psychobabble, and you don’t hesitate to remind questioners of their personal responsibility.

In your Nov. 8 column, however, I think you could have suggested that the young wife concentrate on finishing her nursing studies. As an adult university student - I didn’t graduate until I was 41 - I’m sure she will find her studies stimulating and her colleagues supportive. Not only that, once she becomes a registered nurse, she will have lots of options through temporary nursing organizations for her to follow her husband to almost any post and keep her busy when he is deployed overseas. Keep up the good work.

- Jeanne Rodgers, Phoenix

Vicki Johnson is a licensed clinical social worker, military spouse and mother of three. Her column runs in The Washington Times on Thursdays and Sundays. Contact her at dearmsvicki@ yahoo.com.