Sense and Sensiblity

How to Get Teens Dancing with Each Other

So yesterday, I talked about how teenagers don’t seem excited to go to dances and even less excited to dance with each other.


The girls would just love to dance with this guy, am I right?

I have an idea that will solve this whole problem. Back in the times of Jane Austen, a lady was given a card that allowed fellows to reserve certain dances with her during the night. Those were the good ol’ days, when there were so many men wanting to dance with a girl, that she had to make appointments. The best part?  If a man asked a girl for the first two dances, then whoa! He was pretty into her. She could go home and put that card under her pillow, kissing his name to her heart’s desire!

Maybe we need the dance cards now, but I think it’s the boys’ turn to get them. After a boy asks a girl to dance with him, she signs his card. Three signatures means he gets access to the refreshment table. Since his best friend Joe has been known to down six of Sister Brown’s famous peanut butter cookies in under two minutes, he quickly finds the girl closest to him, mumbles something unintelligible and points to the dance floor. She smiles at him and pulls out her pen.

Maybe 10 dances get him a free trip to Taco Bell. They might have to rent a charter buses to take all the newly minted gallant boys for chalupas.

Parents could be a great support. When the boy comes home, he better have 15 names on his dance card or it’s going to be 15 days before he sees his Xbox again. They may even have to call a few of the girls for verification, just to make sure the signatures aren’t forged by a few of the buddies who proudly claim they can write like a girl, but I’m pretty sure the system will work.

How have you encouraged your teenagers to dance?


Why Aren’t Teens Going to Dances Anymore?

I asked my son if he was going to go to the church dance, and he looked at me like I’d asked him to jump the moon. So I called one of his friend’s moms to see if she was making her son go, and a few hours later, a group of boys, some more reluctant than others, were on their way to the church without their basketballs. A miracle indeed.


A few gallant gentlemen

Before my son left, my husband and I offered to pay him a dollar for every girl he asked. He shrugged his shoulders and grunted, which of course means “yes” for a 15-year-old, and we were elated that we had thought of bribing our son to be a gentleman. Innovative parents were we.

Then he texted:

There are like 20 people here.

What? I was confused. This dance had been well-advertised with posters and plenty of announcements. Surely, the church l would be so packed with kids that they would have to slow dance with each other the entire time.  How lovely!

I didn’t understand it. Where were all the other kids?  Still, I had high hopes and waited anxiously for my son to come home. There was so much to ask him. With whom had he danced? Had he talked to any girls? Had he actually tried using complete sentences?


How do you do, m’lady? That’s what they’re saying, in case you were wondering.

But when he got home, he grumbled and turned on the television.

When I pumped him for more information, he said, “Mom, it wasn’t like that, OK?”

I grilled him later only to have him say, “I don’t know Mom. I wasn’t paying attention.”

His dad asked, “What? You didn’t notice whether people were dancing?”

“Well some were kind of jumping around together and then some were doing the Napoleon Dynamite dance and some were just sitting around.”

“When you say jumping around together, you mean they were just jumping all together in one big group?” I asked.  (How romantic is that?! Ugh!)

“Yeah,” he answered.

Why don’t kids pair off for a dance anymore? Why is it so hard for boys to ask? Since asking a girl to dance is such a gallant thing to do, and since most 15-year-old boys are dying to be gallant, I don’t see what the problem is.


No! I want to be Mr. Darcy! No you can’t be! I’m going to be Mr. Darcy! Wanna duel over it?

Yet I have an idea for a solution.

Do your teenagers like going to dances?  Why or why not?

You May Need to Water Down Jane Austen for Your Kids and That’s OK

Jane Austen has not been easy going with my kids at home.  I started Pride and Prejudice with my fifteen year old.  We made it to chapter five, but he struggled to understand it, and I did not press him.

Good 5

Since we were going to see the a first rate production of the play, Sense and Sensibility, we tried reading that too but found it to be even more difficult than P & P.  Both the vocabulary and the idioms were just a little too much for him to digest.

Still, that does not mean we have to give up on these great stories all together.  A play is a perfect way to introduce a child to a great author.  A movie works well too.

Many of Jane Austen’s works can be found on DVD and these delightful movies provide plenty of fodder for discussion.

This movie was made many years ago, but the acting is first-rate.  (And isn’t it fun to know that in real life, Eleanor ended up running off with Mr. Willoughby?)

51jzH2v5fvLI also found this recent production very well done.

senseAnd don’t you think that these actresses look just like Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet from the first production?

Getting your children to sit down for one of these movies could be a little tricky, but you’d be surprised what allies you might find in a bucket of popcorn, Junior Mints, and a frothy root beer float.  So think about it next Sunday night or Friday afternoon when the kids might have a bit of downtime.

And then the movies is done, ask them a few worthwhile questions.  You’ll be surprised how much your children understood.

How have you introduced the great authors to your children?

But Seriously, is Jane Austen Really Meant for Children?

Jane Austen is not exactly known as a children’s author, but wouldn’t you know it? The Oxford University Press just released their “all-new children’s classics” last month.  Since the Oxford folk are a rather selective bunch, they only released 36 children’s books, and while Heidi, The Jungle Book, and Oliver Twist were obvious picks, I was surprised and delighted to find Pride and Prejudice included in their collection.  So way to go Jane!

9780192789860Want to see the entire list? 

Why might Austen be included with children’s books?  Isn’t she more for women?  Isn’t she all about romance?  Yes and yes, but Austen’s books are first about families.  When we read her, we want to be a better sister, daughter, father, cousin.  Don’t we love the way that Emma dotes on her father?  Isn’t it sweet how Edmund gives his lonely and uprooted cousin a little journal?  Aren’t we touched that it becomes her most prized possession?

Aren’t we moved when Eleanor and Marianne cling to each other after they are ejected out of Eden and tossed into a much more cruel world.  Of course they are still sisters, and so they still deal with misunderstandings and hurt feelings, but their love and loyalty are stronger.

In P & P, we have a family of five sisters who can annoy each other to pieces, and yet they must somehow still get along.  We learn that despite our parents’ foibles and our siblings’ gratings, we still are always loyal.  We need them, and they need us, and when the storm comes, we gather together and hold fast to each other.

But Austen does not just talk about family.  She talks about courtship because in the end courtship becomes family.  We learn how men should treat the ladies, we learn how we should talk to each other, and we learn that we must be kind even we would rather ignore our obnoxious cousins.

In this world where families are facing more and more pressures, where girls are becoming more and more forward, where chastity seems as outdated as a country ball, and where marriage happens after the baby, Austen might be far more relevant than The Bachelor.

In what ways do you think our society should be more like Jane’s Austen’s society?

Next post will talk about how to get your kids going on Austen.

Check Out What Our 6th Grade Son Says When We Ask Him to Take Ballroom Dance Class

We’ve been thinking about signing up Davy for ballroom.  It’s two days a week after school, and they desperately need boys.   But we weren’t sure whether Davy would be game for it.


Davy in his natural habitat.

Davy is our boy who begged not to go to the Jane Austen play.  Davy hates classical music.  Davy is not a big fan of art museums. Davy is more of a bottlerocket, swimming, fireworks, airsoft gun kind of boy, and he is not what you would call a passive resister.  So even though we weren’t sure how Davy would respond to our ballroom class invitation, we had a pretty good idea.

We decided to put a hidden camera in the room.  (More like the captain pretended to be playing his Word Scramble game on his phone).  As you can tell, this is very unrehearsed.  If it were rehearsed, I would not have walked right in front of the camera at the beginning.  If it were rehearsed, we would not have had screaming children in the background.  If it were rehearsed, my voice would not have sounded quite so squeaky.  But here is how it all went down.

Ha!  Ha!



Should I Force My Sixth Grader to Take Ballroom Dance Classes?

I went to my first Back to School Night last night without children.  (They weren’t invited, bless that wise administrator.)   There were several sign-up booths out in front flanked with recruiters.

good painting 015

My sixth grader.

I stopped at the after school ballroom dance program table.  “So you’re teaching ballroom, huh?” I asked.  “That is so cool.”  I was reading a Jane Austen book so I was in the right frame of mind.

“Yes.  Is your child a boy or a girl?” she asked anxiously.

“A boy.”  I wish I could have captured her reaction on camera.  It was seriously better than a Bob Barker, You just won a new car! moment.

“”What grade is he in?”  she asked.

“Sixth,” I answered.  And now she just won the new refrigerator, the patio furniture, and the trip to Europe.  Even I was getting a rush out of this and wondered why I had never considered game show hosting before.

“Do you think he will want to do ballroom?” she asked.

“No,” I answered.  “He will hate it, but he’s not the decision maker on this matter.”

Another lady interrupted us.  Rude.  (Obviously, she had not been reading enough of her Jane Austen lately.)

“So can my daughter sign up?” she asked.

“There is a very long waiting listing for the girls,” the recruited rather curtly.  “We only have five boys that have signed up.”  Then she looked hopefully back at me.  Maybe six.

This intrepid lady was not about to give up though.  “When my daughter took lessons before, they let her dance without a partner.  Couldn’t she dance without a partner?” she begged.  How sad is that?


Girls love to dance. If only they could find a partner!

“No,” said the recruiter firmly.  “They will be entering competition, and they must have a partner.”  Then she smiled again at me.

How could I let this recruiter down? I signed my boy up although there was a still thinking about it escape clause included.

I told the captain all about it when I got home.

“What are you trying to do?” he asked.  “Torture the boy?”

Now if this was year 1798, my husband would not have said this. He would have said something like, “Well done, my lady, and will our chap be learning the quadrille as well?”

But my husband had just finished a game of Word Scramble on his phone and so he was not at all in a Regency England mindset.  I should have whipped out the Jane Austen and started reading to him right there.

But instead, I tread carefully.  “Well,”  I said.  “I was thinking maybe we could strike up a deal with Davy.  Maybe we could agree that if he will do ballroom dance, we will also sign him up for the Lego Robotics class and the snowboarding class.”  (Just so you know, I am not usually so gung-ho on extra-curricular activities.  The fact that our new school is in walking distance from our house has dramatically changed my opinion about the value of these activities.)

“I don’t know,” he said.  “That’s a tough sell.”

So I lost my nerve, and I haven’t even pitched the ballroom classes to my sixth grader yet.

What do you guys think?  Should we try to get him to do it?  Do we need to bribe him?  Or twist his arm?

Why Don’t Men Read More Female Authors?

We took our boys to see the plays Henry IV Part I and Sense and Sensibility.

But while Shakespeare is considered the universal playwright, Austen is supposedly the pioneer of chic lit.  Why is Austen so often categorized as a women’s writer?



It’s not fair.

Henry IV is hardly a play that gives equal attention to the sexes.  While the men play a king, a prince, several earls, and a fat guy that steals the show, the women play a wench, a few singing Welsh women, and a wife.  They have maybe 1% of all of the lines of the play.  None of these women have any power or influence.  Only men are allowed in the rooms where the politics are really going on.

Sense and Sensibility, the girlie book, is stuffed with male leads.  There’s the charming, but untrustworthy Willoughby, the ever loyal Colonel Brandon, the stumbling but endearing Edward Ferrars, and the loud and generous Sir Middleton. The male leads are actually given quite a few lines which just proves that a woman wrote the story because we all know that men don’t talk that much.  (But Austen can feed women their deepest fantasies, can’t she?  A man that reads poetry? Sigh.)

While I had no problem going to see Henry IV, my youngest boy threw fits about Austen while the other two seemed uneasy about it, like they were worried someone they knew might see them going into the theater.

After the play was over, I asked my oldest what he thought.  He was sitting in the passenger seat of our van, looking out the window.

“I liked it,” he said.

“You did?!” I answered too excitedly.

“I mean, well actually, you know Austen is all the same though.  It’s like the same plot every time.  Why did she have to write six books?  She could have just written one.”

“You liked it!” I sang.  Ha! Ha!

I can’t think of a time where Austen is more relevant, especially to boys.  The book/play is a comedy of manners, and Austen’s whole message seems to be, “This is how you treat people.”

Be polite even when you’re feeling cross.

Help your local farmer when he’s stuck int he mud.

Ask people about themselves.

My youngest son was still groaning about the play afterwards,but today, when I stopped on the side of the street to pick him up from school, he asked, “Should we offer those girls a ride?  They live in our neighborhood.”  Then he actually rolled down the window and did it.   Money well spent if you ask me.

Do you know men or are you a men that read books written my women?  What are some of your favorite books?