Oh no, the dreaded question – or one of them anyways – from the near-thirteen-year-old. We were driving to dance yesterday afternoon when she asked how old I was when I started dating. Whew – dodged one bullet there, right? You thought she asked something completely different, didn’t you? Anyways, driving to dance is good mother/daughter conversation time, for which I’m grateful. The boys, and Daddy, are not in the car. It’s the perfect time for girl talk.
The Princess had been to a leadership conference yesterday, at which there had been kids from other schools. They shared a bus with the ASB (associated student body, aka leadership) from another middle school in town. In her words, “Their ASB has cute boys.” I looked at her. She had that look. Oh boy, boys…..cute boys. I knew where this was going. “Did you talk to the cute boys?” I asked. “No, S talked to them so we couldn’t.” And another girl managed to get the phone numbers of a few of them by getting them to pose in photos with her and telling them she would text the pictures to them. (Smart one, that girl. I hope my daughter does not become her bestie). But she had seen cute boys! And she had recognized cute boys, which prompted her to ask me how old I was when I started dating, and then to ask how old she has to be to date.
Last year, when she was starting middle school, we threw some random age out there, an age that seemed light years away. We told her – and her big brother who is her protector – she has to be sixteen to date. It wasn’t really an issue last year. There was one boy who was interested, and did ask her out, but her brother did his job and let that boy know she isn’t allowed to date until she’s sixteen. Go Big Man!
I was honest with her. I was a total nerd, who also had zero self-esteem and was ridiculously shy in high school. I didn’t date until well into my Senior year. I did go to our winter semi-formal every year, and to my Junior and Senior proms, but I didn’t date or have a boyfriend until I was a Senior. It just didn’t happen before then. She asked again how old she has to be to date.
We’re open with our kids. We’ve had “the talk” with Big Man and the Princess, which is actually an ongoing conversation. If they ask questions about anything they’ve heard, seen, or read, we answer them honestly. I don’t want the subject to be taboo. So, I had a long answer to her question about dating. I told her I’m okay with her doing group things….boys and girls going to the movies or ice skating. I’m not okay with her, at 13, to go on one-on-one dates. I don’t know exactly when I’ll be okay with that. We talked about teenage boys with raging hormones. We talked about having sex for the first time and what an emotional thing that is for girls. We talked about needing to be ready. I reiterated my thought that I don’t want any of my kids to have sex until they’re ready to take on parenthood.
Now, having two sons, I’m allowed to say this. Teenage boys can be immature punks. They, with those raging hormones, tend to have one thing on their minds. They can, and often do, say whatever a girl wants to hear to get her to comply with his desires. My main point with my Princess is that I don’t want her dating one-on-one until she’s emotionally ready to face that. Does that make sense? She’s a smart cookie with a good head on her shoulders. She’s tough, and boys are not a mystery to her. She will likely be ready before I’m ready for her to be ready. For now, we’re sticking with sixteen years old being the age she can date one-one-one. That’s a fluid line. I essentially left her with that age, but also with the stipulation of “we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it” if there’s a boy, a good boy, before then.
We are entering a new world in our household. In ten days, we will have two teenagers. We will face things we have not faced before. We’ve told both of them we know they are at an age they are pulling away from us, becoming more and more independent. We respect that. We will keep giving them more and more independence as long as they keep showing us they deserve it. If, however, they cross lines, they will lose that independence. If they break our trust, we will rein them back in quicker than you can say “Boo!” That’s where I left it last night, as we pulled up in front of the dance studio. I told her, “P, you are a cute girl. Boys are going to like you. You’re going to like boys. Remember who you are. Remember what you want. Stay true to you.” With that, she hopped out of the car, and skipped into the studio. I sighed…..my little girl who is becoming a big girl still has some little girl left in her.