Over-the-top Homecoming proposals: Parents lend helping hand

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By Parents

It was the ultimate in high-school Homecoming proposals.

Ben, a teen from Phoenix came to TODAY’s plaza this morning with a colorful homemade sign asking Kelly Pope to the homecoming dance. He was just hoping Kelly would see the sign.

But then Matt Lauer got Kelly on the phone and –- gulp! -- had Ben ask the question on live TV.

You could hear the crowd collectively holding its breath when Kelly, after a more-than-slight pause, said “Yes.”

We can only imagine how Ben’s mom felt about it. What if the girl had said no?

There’s plenty of pressure for teens (usually boys) when it comes to The Proposal. Should it be private or public? Should it be simple or elaborate?  YouTube displays for all to see the gamut of stunts kids have pulled, from the guy who played guitar and serenaded a girl in the school cafeteria, to the guy who did a rap in front of his class asking a girl the big question.

And while The Proposal can be nerve-wracking for teens, parents can be dragged into the drama, too.

Jennifer Landes, a friend of mine in Bellevue, Wa., has helped her 17-year-old son, Cole, with his last two Homecoming proposals. The biggest challenge, she says, is making it creative and affordable.

“He didn’t want to do anything that someone else had done,” Landes said. “It had to be original.”

Last year, Cole asked a friend by decorating her bedroom with streamers, balloons and a "Will you go to HC with me" sign. Landes was in on the decorating and they got permission from the girl’s parents to go in her room. (She said yes!)

This year, Cole wanted an even more inventive idea for his girlfriend. So Landes helped him orchestrate a scavenger hunt around town. Each clue had a different word. A cupcake said “Will.” A pizza slice said “You.” And so on, until the last stop was at a park where Cole was holding a sign saying “Me.” (She said yes, too.)

Landes doesn’t mind helping her son since he’s one of her three boys. “It’s the only time I get to do anything that feels like having a daughter.”

Moms of girls aren't without the drama. There's the "waiting to be asked" tension, followed by the "I need the perfect dress" spectacle. As one mom of a 9th-grade daughter who recently got asked to her first homecoming said: "The expense is unreal," adding that she will spend anywhere from $150 to $300 on a dress. "It's hard to imagine that we'll have four years of this."

For moms like Deepa Arora of Palo Alto, Calif., The Proposal is less dramatic, only because her sons don’t involve her in it.

Still, she feels a motherly tug of concern. When her eldest was a senior, he asked a girl by presenting her a bouquet of flowers in front of other friends. The girl said no. Her son decided not to go to the dance. Arora didn’t know about the whole thing until after the fact.

Her second son is currently debating how to ask a girl for this year, and while Arora knows he won’t ask for her advice, she hopes he’s OK, no matter the result.

“You really have to prepare your kids on, 'How are you going to feel if they say no?’” Arora says. But she admits that, ultimately, “They have to make their mistakes on their own.”

Have you helped your kids with a school dance proposal? Go on, share!

Kavita Varma-White is a writer, editor and mom of two tweens. In between cheering at numerous soccer and baseball games, she's a contributing editor for TODAY Moms and MSNBC.com.