I Wish You Didn’t Ask Me That
I’ve avoided this topic for a few months now, ever since a Mom Journey follower asked me to discuss how I handle my girls…dating…boys.
Since this has been the most requested topic to date, I guess it’s time to give in. I’m not sure why I’m reluctant to discuss this topic openly…
Maybe because, unlike many of the topics we’ve discussed, I don’t have the luxury of looking back to reflect on what worked, what didn’t…because we’re still in the middle of the dating scene and it could all backfire at any moment.
Maybe it’s because discussing it reminds me that dating forces me to give up some control…and hand it over to a girl…and a boy.
Or maybe it’s because I can only pray my talks…and talks and talks and talks…will have some influence. Because my girls won’t let me to go on their dates with them to referee. (Whistle blows. “That’s holding. Penalty is 15 yards. I said 15 yards. Move further back. A little more. GET AWAY FROM MY DAUGHTER!”)
At some point, Hubby says, we have to let go and trust we’ve done our best to teach them what’s right and why and that actions have consequences. Whew. Trusting teens with hormones for brains. Not easily done.
And so…those talks and talks and talks…and my thoughts on dating, since you asked:
Dating Is a Training Ground
Some parents are proponents of group dating…where a boy and girl can date but only with a group of friends until they graduate high school. In theory, it sounds like a good idea because group dating can eliminate some of those things we parents worry about. But dating is a training ground, and group dating interferes with important things our teens need to learn:
- Our kids must learn how to talk to the opposite sex. Their ability to communicate with others is already inhibited–because talking to boys (or girls) with any level of depth is awkward at their age, and texting/messaging has nearly eliminated the kinds of conversations where words come out of the mouth. Group dating makes it even easier for our kids to avoid developing meaningful communication skills.
- Dating is the time for teens to develop an impression of who they will marry someday. I don’t mean a specific person…but a specific type of person. Teens are chameleons. They can be one person in a group and another person when peers aren’t around. Our kids need to see their boy/girlfriend in both settings, so they can take inventory of personality traits they would like in a spouse and traits they wouldn’t. This is vital training for our teens…so when it’s time to make a lifetime choice, they are prepared to make the right choice.
- Dating prepares our teens for life after high school. I can’t imagine my daughter going on her first “alone” date with a boy she meets in college…a boy I don’t know…in a setting where stereotypical college-boy behavior petrifies me. If she’s only been on group dates, she hasn’t learned how to handle herself in this boy-girl situation. Wouldn’t it be better for her to train for college dating by learning how to date in high school…with familiar boys in familiar settings and with the security of home at the end of the date?
So that’s my argument against group dating. But that doesn’t make me right. You may have a bushel basket full of counter arguments that are valid and much better than mine. I know my argument isn’t perfect. And that’s why I decided arranged marriages might be a nice idea.
Sixteen Is Still the Magic Number
I know it’s old fashioned…probably really old fashioned…but our girls didn’t date boys until they turned 16. This included dropping them off at the movies when they were 12, 13, or 14. That’s still dating…it doesn’t matter who drives the car. We don’t want them to become comfortable with a boy at 14…because we don’t want them to be too comfortable with a boy when they’re 16, right? Prom is the exception, because when you live in a small community like ours, chances are your daughter may be asked to prom before 16. And prom seems like a fairy tale. In that case, we default to the group date and prom ends at our house with food, games, and movies.
Okay, so she turns 16 and a boy asks my daughter out. You know what’s running through my head…probably the same thing that’s running through his head! My goal here is to control what I can…and I can control time. My daughters don’t have a curfew. If they have to be home by midnight, who knows what’s going on until midnight? Instead, they have to be home when it’s time to be home.
Let’s say my girl and a boy are going to the 7 o’clock movie. If they eat before the movie, which has a running time of 1:48 (I know because I checked the theater website), and the drive home takes 25 minutes…they better be walking in the door by 9:30 PM. Now, the night doesn’t have to end there. They can invite friends over to watch movies, shoot pool or play Nerts, or just hang out with the cool parents. But what they’re not doing is whatever happens between 9:30 and midnight on the weekends.
Keep ’em at Arms Length
When my girls get a boyfriend, I’m friendly…but I keep my distance. This is high school dating after all, not a marriage. The boy is not welcomed into our family like he is our son…because he’s not. In two months or six months he probably won’t be in the picture at all. We’re the parents. We don’t get involved in the relationship…because when that happens, it’s no longer about just the boy and the girl. Then when the end naturally arrives…and 99.9% of the time the end will arrive…a boy is no longer just breaking up with a girl (or vice versa). Suddenly, he’s breaking up with the whole family. It’s like a mini divorce, and that’s just too much to put on a 16-year-old. In fact, the relationship might last longer than it should because a teen is afraid to disappoint the adults involved. We stay out of it.
Have the Talk
Once it appears that a date or two is going to turn into a steady thing, we have the talk. Not my daughters and me…we’ve had that talk a long time ago and many times since. The boy and I have the talk…well, I guess I do all the talking. His face just turns red and his eyes bug out and he smiles to pretend like he’s not mortified and that he agrees with me 100%. All the while my daughter is hissing, “Mom! Mom!” which I ignore. I turn on my momma glare and get straight to the point:
“You’re not making babies. You know what makes babies, and you’re not making babies. You have plans for your future; my daughter has plans for her future…and a baby doesn’t fit into those plans. And I’m not raising a baby for you. I’m done raising babies. I have plans for my future, and a baby doesn’t fit into those plans either. So no babies.”
We also talk about God’s plan for building families and why it’s the best plan…because our parents sure didn’t tell us that, did they? They used the shame method…with varying degrees of success. I don’t know how successful my method is…but fear in a young man’s eyes is somewhat reassuring.
It’s Not All About My Girls
I insist and repeat to my girls that they must be true to themselves. They know how they deserve to be treated, and they know their values. If either begins to be compromised, they must be honest with themselves and end the relationship. I repeat this and remind them…because teenage girls will ignore the truth when it’s tugging at them…because rejection may be worse than compromising in a fragile girl’s heart and mind.
Believe it or not, though, when my girls first start dating a boy, I’m not concerned only with my daughters’ hearts. I’m adamant they don’t break a boy’s heart…at least not any worse than it needs to be when the relationship has come to an end.
When it’s over, it’s over. They must be willing to recognize that and end it well. That means end it in person, not by text. Both of my girls practiced this. And they’ve reversed it. They make boys break up with them face-to-face…you know, so the boys can witness the tears and suffering they caused.
Ending it well also means ending it without drama. They shouldn’t flirt with other boys to send a message to the soon-to-be ex, or mistreat the boy so maybe he’ll break up first, or involve everyone at the lunch table in the break up.
And when it’s over, my girls better make sure it’s over and not drag a boy’s heart around. They need to make a clean, respectful break.
My plan isn’t foolproof, I’m sure. And my girls aren’t perfect, I’m even more sure. But we’re a few years in…with some successes and some losses. Considering the plan is dependent upon teens making choices…I guess it’s working as well as it can.
A certain boy walks into your daughter’s life, and even your SUPER MOM Thea whispers the first time she meets him, “I think he’s the one…” And 18 months later he’s still hanging around. And you’re okay with that…because he’s evidence that all those talks and talks and talks just might have mattered.
The MOM Journey News
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