I Didn’t Know That Then

This morning when Hubby woke up and said, “Happy anniversary,” I wondered how he got old enough to celebrate Year #30 when I managed to stay so young. Thirty years. Wow. In celebration of three decades of happily-ever-after, I thought it would be appropriate to post a rerun of “I Didn’t Know That Then.” This is one of the first posts on The MOM Journey and one of the most popular. Since many new friends have joined us since then, it will be new to a lot of you. Enjoy!

I was married with a toddler when my single 20-something BFF from college, Diane, handed me a list. Now, Di is a funny girl. She has a dry sense of humor, a sharp wit, and she quotes the best movie lines at the exact right time. So as she handed me this list—two columns on a yellow legal pad—I thought she was joking when she said, “This is my dream boy.”

I looked at the list and tried to do the math in my head. (I barely do math on a calculator, so this was quite taxing.) I estimated…oh…40 items on the list? But I only remember three: blonde hair, at least 6 foot 2, will kiss me on the forehead.

I looked from the list to Diane and realized her smile was dreamy, so I decided not to laugh…although we did giggle together at a few of the items as she explained each one. And in the years afterward, every once in a while I’d tease her about “the list” and we’d giggle some more.

Then one day, after Diane quit calling me past midnight to fill me in on her dates (which she apparently thought was more important than sleep to the mom of a toddler and an infant—we still giggle about that, too), Diane called to tell me about her new list. This time only four items were important to her, and the first three were not on the original:

  • He has to be a spiritual leader.
  • He has to love me.
  • He has to be a provider and a protector.
  • He has to have a good personality.

“But what if he’s not 6 foot 2? What about the blonde hair?” I asked. She laughed and said, “Well, I’d still like it if he’d kiss me on the forehead.”

After Diane revised her list, guess who showed up? Yep. Dream Boy.

What Diane doesn’t realize is while I may have been entertained at her expense, her “list” is priceless to me.

Because I have two daughters…and I don’t want their list to look like mine probably would have if I had made one. Mine wouldn’t have been on a yellow legal pad like Di’s. Mine would have been on a 1×1 post-it note: Is he cute? Did he ask me out?

No, I want my daughters’ lists to look like Diane’s—the real list, the one that has all the important things, and none of the things that really don’t matter.

So I did two things.

First, I talked to my girls. Not when they were 16 and allowed to date. Not when they were 12 and looking hard at boys. I started talking when they were little.

Disney movies were great conversation starters. My girls loved the princesses, but we talked about the their need to be royally “rescued.” And the Prince Charmings? We talked about their qualities that weren’t so charming and the qualities they lacked. And from there the conversations and lists have grown over the years. And the lists have become the measure my girls compare their future princes against (and this mom is praying it works).

Out of curiosity, I texted Kelli at college last night and asked for her list. Here’s what she texted back: have a heart for God, respectful, funny, compassionate.

I have Diane to thank for that. When she started her list nearly twenty years ago, neither of us realized she was shaping my daughters’ hearts.

And here’s the second thing I did. I started praying for the little boys somewhere in the world that God had picked for my daughters. I prayed that God would raise them up to be men who love Jesus and who will love my daughters as much as I do.

It’s fun to pray for a little boy…whoever he is…and him not knowing he is the center of some little girl’s mama’s prayers. When he was little I imagined him playing with a Tonka truck in the dirt or swinging a t-ball bat or saying his bedtime prayers.

But now it’s really fun, because now when Randi and Kelli bring a boy home, I look at the boy sideways. And when he catches me looking at him sideways, I just smile and make him wonder even more why I’m looking at him sideways. But I don’t tell him what I’m thinking: “Are you the little boy I’ve been praying for your whole life?”

We start praying for our babies before we even have them. When we’re trying to become parents, we pray to see the + on the stick or for the adoption process to speed up. We pray as the baby grows inside us, or grows somewhere away from us as we wait for him to come home. Then we pray our babies will sleep through the night, and the first time they do, we wake up and fear grips our heart as we rush into the baby’s room praying everything is okay.

So why not start praying for the little babies who will one day marry our little babies? It’s not too soon.

And why not talk with our children about the qualities that should be on their lists…rather than let society make the list for them? Because when new love interests start to blossom, the list empowers you to ask an important question: “Which qualities on your list does he have?” If I have concerns, I’ve learned I don’t have to say much. The list does the talking.

As my girls mature I’m sure their lists will evolve. And I’ll check in every so often to make sure items like “loves cats” or “will take me on shopping sprees” don’t sneak their way into the important things.

But there is one quality I think I’ll suggest Kelli and Randi add to their lists: will kiss me on the forehead. I kinda like that one.

What qualities would you like to see on your son or daughter’s “dream list”?



  1. Sally Poyzer says:

    My mum told me when I was younger how she had a list. When I was 12 I mentally wrote mine. It was ridiculously long and ridiculously unrealistic (i.e. will be able to fix cars but won’t want to be mucking around with them all the time, will be good at gardening but not in the garden all the time, will be good at sport but not watching/playing it all the time). The list I encourage my daughter to have is: Loves God with all his heart and loves you with all his heart. I don’t care about anything else!

  2. Mary Ann Featherston says:

    I feel the same way. I don’t have girls. I have 2 sons. My youngest son is not married. I pray for my son’s wife he will have someday. I pray she will be a woman after God’s heart. Loved this.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.