One of our precious children went through an awkward stage--actually, all our children had an awkward stage. Whether it was looks, body, acne, teenage insecurity, friends, bad choices, rebellion, we were afflicted as a family, because one child's choices or transitions affect every one in the family.
One child's changes seemed to be reflected in her friends. Mostly, I'd heard horrendous stories about my daughter's friends from other mothers grateful their children weren't hanging with the hoodlums. Their children were safe, because the hoodlums were at my house.
I wasn't going to judge these children by rumor, but I did learn that rumors are often based on factual experience, but my child had chosen these friends, they were a reflection of who and what she was at the time, so I embraced them whole heartedly.
I didn't believe there was an alternative. I wasn't going to chase away my own daughter. If she and her friends didn't feel comfortable and welcome, they would have gone elsewhere. Elsewhere has dark corners without restrictions and parental supervision. My space had rules and love--I made sure the love was strong enough so that the rules would be obliged.
There were specific consequences to my decisions. Plenty of good ones and plenty of bad. Because I accepted these friends, my daughter felt she could be honest and open and when one of these friends made a bad choice, she was free to talk to me about it instead of hide it. This open conversation helped her realize some of the foolish choices her friends were making.
In the company of these friends, my daughter dared to do things I don't think she would have done on her own, or perhaps that is what every mother chooses to believe. We are attracted to people with our own nature and ideals. Rejecting these friends would have been rejecting whom my daughter really was. I needed to hang with her through thick and thin. There was never an alternative and because of this, and a lot of prayer, I never worried we would lose her to the vicious vices that trap and ensnare children.
In the end, it all turned out. Yes, there were bumps in the road, and when our family returned from vacation, we'd find beer cans on the deck--apparently, the friends felt more comfortable than I'd wanted.
This approach worked for my daughter, but I do not endorse it for every parent/child situation. A different child might need her parents to ban the hoodlums, even chase them away at night, or an even more drastic measure: move! I always knew I would move for my child if needed.
I recently received this note from the daughter who ran with the wolves: Something that I value most about you is that you taught me compassion and how to love everyone and to see them as what they truly are, children of God. I always appreciated that you had open arms for all my friends through out the years and I want to teach my children the same.
Tears, but also a caveat for my daughter: don't assume this is the only way to teach your children about love and acceptance. You may have to let the hoodlums in the house, but be willing to have the courage to do otherwise. The kudos from my daughter, my acceptance, worked for one reason only: I acted with prayer and followed the subsequent promptings. That it worked for us, is a miracle; that it might not work for others is just as much so.
I would hate to have raised children all on my own.