My 12 year old daughter has always been something of a tomboy. She is very athletic, and most of her friends are boys. But she's getting to an age where she is becoming aware that the boys are starting to "notice" her, and not just as a "friend".
In her current group of friends, she has noticed that the boys sometimes seem to "fight" for her attention, arguing among themselves about who they believe she likes more. One of them once asked her to go to a movie with him. She said no because she interpreted that as a "date". To a point, she seems flattered by the attention and sometimes talks about crushes. But sometimes she feels very uncomfortable with this.
Now she wants to invite one of these boys over to hang out with at home, but she wants to make it clear she does not see it as a "date". When she was younger, she had playdates with boys all the time, but now it is tricky and neither of us really knows how to handle this.
I don't want to tell her not to be friends with these boys, because she seems to have trouble with other girls now more than ever. She isn't yet into make-up and hair, but some of her female peers tease her over this and over her lack of fashion sense. So it seems that trying to encourage her to be friends with girls may not really work for her. She's already got friends who like her and don't pick on her appearance. But where do we draw the line and how do we handle her relationships with her male friends?
Sticking to group or family activity is easy enough. My DD 15 has always connected better to boys than girls. She's adventurous, active and can't stand drama. She did find in middle school, it was better to hang with mixed gender or all girl groups at lunch and school activities but outside of school, through her activities, it was always boys. When one was clearly trying to be alone with her, she would say "oh, movie sounds fun, let's invite our other friends too" or "Sure, my parents can take us to the zoo this weekend." Few boys are brave enough to say "no, I just want to go with you." If they were making her uncomfortable, she distanced herself. We found that at 12, when boys were looking for a "date" they were generally feeling pressured to do so by a group (and often by a group of girls!) They seemed to relax once it was clear that she wasn't interested and they could just be buddies. Good thing is, those middle school crushes tend to be very short-lived. If she acts clueless, they tend to move on to a girl who is more responsive. It's far more complicated now at 15 when they are genuinely interested in dating. Still, boys aren't really the issue. They tend to take the hint. At 15, it's other girls who are jealous that DD is buddies with boys they like. Even if DD has NO interest in them and they've been adventuring since they were 8 together.
I agree with whatsnextmom that doing things as a group makes it clear. My 14 year has mostly male friends, but she VERY seldom does anything one on one with any of them. My DD really like Big Bang Theory, and is very clear in her head that she "doesn't want to be the Penny character." Penny is the cute girl down the hall who often hangs out with the smart boys, and one of the boys adores her, but she isn't seen as an equal.
My DD doesn't want to get involved with any of the those in her circle of friends because she understand the impact that would have have the group dynamic.
Having 1 boy over for a playdate could easily be misconstrued, not just by him, but by others in the circle of friends.
But part of this needs to be up to her. She is old enough to have a real conversation about it and then face the social fall out, which might be intense, but very short lived.
but everything has pros and cons
It's in your dd's best interest to have some good male friendships-the teen (and pre-teen) girl stuff can be intense, so having guy friends is helpful. I would scope out the social situation as much as you can-however you can do this, and make sure that having someone over one on one isn't going to be an issue. That said, my dd has guy friends she would hang out with at our house just fine, until the teen years started and that became a more loaded situation. But, at 12, it was still fine. Now, groups are an easier way to go.
This is all part of learning how to interact with each other as the kids get older, and it's not easy for them as so much changes so quickly!
Lol, Linda, I actually really like Penny. I think she has some inner strength going on:)
Thanks for the responses, everyone. This is all very new to me, since I didn't have that problem at that age. She asks me what she should do, and I don't really know how to guide her. I'm thinking I will tell her she's too young for dating (I think that's what she wants to hear, she needs validation of her feelings). But its also good to know there won't be any permanent damage even if she does make mistakes in who she hangs out with. I forget how temporary all these relationship issues are anyway.
And I'm not looking forward to the teen years where these problems will probably compound. :(