Let me give you a quick review. I have four children. I’m divorced. I prefer to say we are co-parenting rather than single parenting. I refer to my children collectively as the fan4 or fantastik4. The oldest will be 17 soon and I lovingly refer to him as The Teenager. Second up is my daughter who is now 14 and she is my Honeygirl. The third one, who has the qualities of the attention grabbing middle child, is 11 and referred to as Little Dude. The last one in our line up is my baby boy who is nine. He acts like he’s 39 most of the time. He’s the self appointed referee for Little Dude and often finds himself blowing the whistle, throwing flags and explaining the rules of life to him. From now on we shall refer to him as Ref. I determined early on to protect their identities since I share things that occur in their lives.
Dating… (Insert eye roll and a deep sigh) (after I typed that I realized I should use some really funny meme but since I don’t have a stock pile of them to flip through and select from I’m using good old fashioned words) I will not lie, I’m not a fan of teen dating. After polling my daughter and her previous bff, we determined that from middle school to high school the average relationship lasts about four weeks. We have six six week grading session during the school year. By the time they begin middle school in sixth grade until they graduate they could potentially have “dated” 63 people at the rate of nine per year.
But what is dating at 11 or even at 16?
When I think about my daughter and her friend excitedly discussing dating and boys in general it made me sad and a bit anxious.
Sad because the friend felt incomplete and was upset with her parents because they wouldn’t allow her to date. She really wanted her very own boyfriend. This disagreement sparked a rebellion and she began running away. My daughter has been asking me about dating for years. She asks her dad and me to define the timeline and allowed activities. His standard answer is 36. Mine is based on maturity and decision making ability. She is enamored with dating. I refer to it as the Disney effect. After watching those popular teen shows she thinks dating has perfect lighting, a laugh track, great clothes, hair and make up as well as a great ending. Periodically I like to dash their dating dreams on the rocks of reality and talk about kissing, hugging, touching and what if that’s not what you want? What’s your exit plan? How do you protect yourself from a person who may overpower or manipulate you into something you aren’t ready to do?
I was anxious because a lot of adults don’t have the cognitive ability to select a good partner and remain committed. If after years of education, reading articles, blogs, after video viewing and talking to other people we as adults make questionable relationship choices then how are they expected to make sound decisions at such a young age? Each dating partner is given a tiny piece if not large chunk of their hearts. They aren’t looking for spouses. They are looking for good times. They aren’t searching for anything deep and long lasting. It’s fleeting and shallow.
Exhibit 1- the teenager went on a first date to the movies recently with some girl he met through a friend. He asked her to be his girlfriend the next day. She asked him to join her at church on Sunday, meet her parents and have lunch with her family afterwards. She prepped him on what her parents would say and how to respond. I texted his dad with my concerns of how quickly this was moving. She broke up with him the next day.
I’m glad I never really learned her name or got attached. I don’t even want to know the newest interest’s name until they make it past the four week mark.
I’m not into the whole bring people home so I can meet them thing. My two brothers ruined that for me. They brought everybody by the house. It wasn’t something special it was normal. I have a male friend who whole heartedly disagrees with me. He wants to meet any and everybody his daughter dates. The one time he and is ex found out she had a boyfriend they planned a family dinner and invited him over. They broke up after the invite but before dinner.
I understand the desire to have somebody to call your very own. Who doesn’t want their very own George or squishy? I have friends who met the loves of their lives in high school. It happens. Is it possible to somehow bypass the other 62 people to get to that one? Yes, it is. Serial dating does not have to become their norm neither does looking for someone to define or complete them.
How are you helping your teen manuver through the obstacle dating course?
Sounds really hard! I have two boys, as parents we always made sure they were super-busy with sports, music and other activities that they were interested in, and they know that focussing on studies and doing well in every activity they choose, is their primary goal as of now. Thankfully, so far so good….