It started out as a show that let America indulge its love of the pop song, but there's a reason Glee is attracting more families to the couch these days. Friends who have teens at home tell me they like to watch together because the show is giving them an inroads to talk about some of the "tough stuff" that the teens encounter onscreen.
But one of the best "teachable moments" to come out of this week's "Blame It on the Alcohol" Glee episode had nothing to do with boozing at all. If you haven't watched yet, tune out now, because we're about to throw out a major spoiler. In a small scene that isn't getting much attention today, the Glee writers opened us up to debate: should gay kids have sleepovers with one another? Are they really any different from the straight kids in that regard?
After a boozefest at Rachel Berry's house, a drunk Blaine crashed at the house of stepbrothers Kurt and Finn, the two members of the New Directions who managed to stay sober. If you're not a fan of the show, you may be giving this one a thumbs up. Responsible designated drivers bring home drunk kid to let him sleep it off. Win, win, right? Kurt's dad didn't think so. Because Kurt is gay. And so is Blaine. And while there's currently no relationship between them, the way Burt Hummel saw it, his son was crossing a line. Two gay kids sleeping in the same room, Burt said, is like a straight girl and a straight guy. It's room for trouble even if there's no risk of pregnancy.
And you know what? I think he's right ... to a point. Call me old-fashioned, but when a mom mentions her daughter's boyfriend sleeping over, I cringe. I have the same reaction when it's a son's girlfriend sleeping over. It screams of parents saying, "Hello, make me a Grandma!" I'm guilty of thinking "pregnancy" first.
But the risks of teen sex aren't just pregnancy and disease. It can be an emotional nightmare. It's why Kurt's dad was right to look at two gay kids in the same way he would two straight kids (he warned Finn can't have a girl sleep over either). Kurt may not get pregnant, but he can be emotionally destroyed by jumping too quickly into a relationship too mature for him.
The sleepover line for me comes between teens who are in a relationship and teens who are merely friends -- whether they're gay or straight. I shared more than one sleepover over the years with teenage male friends, and we were just that. Friends. Nothing happened.
Once kids are in a relationship, parents go on high alert. You pull out the birth control and education about STDs and pregnancy risks. You start wringing your hands and acting all nervous. But that's really where your involvement in the decision should end.
One of the top reasons American kids say they are putting off losing their virginity is because they want to find "the right one." Let them wait! Let them work to find the one and figure it out! Providing kids with all the sleepover opportunities they want seems like a parent's way of saying, "There you go, no need to debate these issues. Have sex, we approve." That shouldn't be a parent's decision. It should be a kid's.
Our kids need to figure out for themselves if they're really ready, if this person is worth it, and if they have all their bases covered. Making them feel all warm and cozy at home doesn't force them to face this major life step like an adult.
Kurt may not like his dad right now. He may think his dad is showing once again that he doesn't "get" gay teens, but I think Burt was just being a good dad.
Do you think teens should be having these kinds of sleepovers? How did you think Glee handled it?
Image via Fox