Thursday, May 19, 2016
Dating for Kids : It's not that hard
Misleading title alert! Heh. I have two adolescents now, so obviously I know everything about guiding my kids on the dating scene. Luckily, my two oldest are girls who are not boy crazy yet. One is shy about being vulnerable to her middle school classmates, which shows some semblance of good judgement. The other has a sweetheart in her class that she does not even *think* about contacting outside of school, which also shows proper developmental boundaries. Yay! They are not that screwed up yet! On the other hand, one loves tight clothes, high heals and heavy make up while the other finds basic grooming a serious obstruction to living her life freely. So, you know, fallen natures and all that.
One thing I notice catching my eye as my kids slide into this middleschool phase is lots and lots of blogs touting "What I Want My Son or Daughter To Know Before Dating" type entries. I love a good bandwagon, but I want to address the things I don't see, like what to do if someone comes on too strong, etc. So here is my feeble attempt to log into history my own hopes for my kids future dating lives....
1A: Date a lot. Or, rather, go on a lot of dates. Seriously, this boyfriend/girlfriend stuff is too serious. Just go out on dates with lots of people to learn what you like and what you don't. Date 4 people at a time. Don't lie or deceive, just let them all know that you like them, but exclusivity seems like a choice you want to make after a few weeks.
1B: Mom and Dad don't know how to prepare you for every situation, so feel free to use your best judgement. Sometimes your judgement will be bad. Talk to a trusted adult and/or your parents. We might freak out, but that is mostly because we will feel like failures for not preparing you for whatever thing we didn't prepare you.
2: Both parties have a very serious responsibility to the other. Girls shouldn't dress or act in a distractingly provocative way, boys shouldn't treat a girl like a sexual aspiration. Girls should remember that they are helping their dates learn how to treat women, boys should remember they are helping their dates learn what a gentleman is. Girls should remember that many young men have a drive for risk taking that can make them legally insane, boys should remember that girls need to be free to say no to things without being treated like a killjoy. Every so often the shoe is on the other foot, and the rules apply equally. We offer one another guidance through our relationships. Don't forget that.
3. Violence: NOT OKAY. The other day Molly kicked Paul in the chest. Why? He was smooching her arms to annoy her. My typical response to violence between brother and sister is to bring down the hammer of Thor for discipline. However, in this case I told Molly and Paul that Molly did the right thing. Why? Paul learns the hard way, and Molly is not typically a violent person. Both felt that the violence was wrong, which is the gear I want my kids to be in. Yet, when it comes to physical affection, I try really hard to instill mutual respect in my kids. Yes, they need to hug each other when one of them is feeling down, no they do not need to be hugged if they don't want to be. So, while I do not condone violence of any kind in a romantic setting, self protection is primary. It is a favor to the other immature person who is crossing the line and not receiving the message in any other way. In my mind, it's like slapping a hysterical person. Not fun, but sometimes what the doctor ordered.
4A: Listen to your instincts unless they are clouded by hormones. So, if you have a twinge of caution, or an inkling of a romantic spark, cool. If you are high on a thrill of some kind, sexual or adrenaline, pump the brakes and drink 8 oz of water. Proceed to a crowded and well lit area.
4B: DO NOT DRINK. Altering yourself during a date is both seriously unsafe and a good way to ruin a budding relationship. No matter how nervous you are, you can't listen your instincts if there is beer/marijuana/pills squishing them down. And your date is not getting to know you, but altered you, which is the same as being deceptive. Don't.
5. Do not bury your feelings. Feel sad when things don't work out, feel disappointed, feel happy, joyful and jealous because those things matter. It is when we get stuck in a gear or hide from the negative feelings that we become manipulative and weird. So just be patient with your dates, yourself and your parents whom you are convinced do not understand anything. We are all just learning as we go.
These are my main hopes for my kids. I will not be giving them this list or lecturing them on these topics. Rather, I hope the conversations develop naturally and easily. I hope there are other adults that reinforce these ideas. I want the kids to understand themselves and their dates to a degree that encourages them to have integrity and also respect the trickiness of these years.