The First Boy

It feels appropriate to re-post this, as it seems that first boy might be imminent…

To the boy who will love my daughter first:

Young man –  you will be her first love.  Make it good. She will remember you her entire life, sometimes fondly, sometimes with hurt or anger. Give her more reasons to recall you with kindness and nostalgia. In other words, don’t screw it up. Don’t screw it up for every other boy who will follow you, for while you will be her first, you very likely won’t be her last.

Take your time, and give her time. She is just figuring out who she is, her place in the world. That’s a scary thing, but more terrifying is someone trying to define that for her, or take it away from her. Don’t try to command her friendships, do support her time with her friends. She will be a better, more whole person for it. Don’t try to be her everything – that’s not what she’s looking for.  The harder you chase, the more quickly she may run.

No one besides family has loved her before.  The idea of someone who doesn’t have to care about her caring about her is difficult to trust. She may doubt, she may wonder why you care, she may not believe you really care. Be consistent but not overwhelming.  If you remain calm, she may come to believe it. In the meantime, there might be a dance of moving forwards and backwards. Trust me, she’s worth the wait if you’re willing to be patient.

She has priorities……School first, then family, then dance and cheer. You come in somewhere after that. Don’t attempt to mess  up that order. You’ll hear from us if you do. And she will probably set you straight before we even have to step in.  She’s kinda tough-minded that way.  She has big plans for her life, and if she feels like you might try to sway her from those plans, you’ll likely be shown the door. Heaven help you if you start shifting your plans for your life – kiss of death right there.

The heart is easily broken, so that first relationship is the most difficult, mostly due to fear of how it will end, and how you will deal with heartbreak. One of you will hurt the other. Most likely, you will hurt each other. There’s a lot of angst involved in that first love. There’s a lot of learning involved in that first love.

If you play your cards right, you’ll both learn, love, and grow, and someday, she will find all the notes you’ve written each other, come across an old photo or the first gift you ever gave her, and she will smile fondly in remembrance of her first love.

 

The Ending

*Something of a spoiler alert – if you haven’t seen LaLa Land yet (holy wow, who hasn’t seen LaLa Land yet?) But if you haven’t seen it yet, you may want to skip this post, cuz I tell you the ending…….*

 

I bought the LaLa Land DVD when it came out recently. I haven’t watched it though. The Princess and I did see it when it was in theaters, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch it again. Here’s why – the ending still haunts me. I still haven’t been able to decide if I liked it or not. And since we’ve kind of been in an emotional place in recent months, neither P nor I felt ourselves in a place to be able to handle it. Heck, the music is enough to make me cry.

I did really love the movie, but that ending…..Did you like it, if you saw it? I get it – it’s more real life than most movies. We don’t always end up getting forever with that one person who was with us during a time we’re becoming, we’re discovering, we’re learning about ourselves. I had one of those – a boy I dated right out of college. I was starting my career, really figuring out what I wanted to do with my life, and I was making plans. Turns out he wasn’t supposed to be Mr. Forever, he was just Mr. Right Then. It took me a few years to figure that out, and I don’t regret that one minute. He encouraged me in so many ways, helped me grow and learn. And we had some amazing adventures together. He was there for me at a pivotal point in my life. But we both ended up married to other people, and that’s as it should be. Spouse is my Mr. Forever, and has stood by my side through things I don’t know that other boy would have been able.

My deal is this – when I go to a movie, I don’t tend to want reality. Hello! I’m there to escape reality. That means the boy gets the girl, and the girl gets the boy, and it’s forever. Amen, and pass the popcorn. I had NO CLUE I was going to get a dose of reality at the end of this movie. For real – who puts real life at the end of a magical musical? It was like a punch to the gut at the end. It took me weeks to recover. I think that’s a big part of why the music still gets to me.

P and I talked about it. We both kind of go back on forth on whether we liked it or not. What’s your take?  Should it have had a happy ending? Or did you consider this a happy ending after all? I mean, she is married with a beautiful child, and is a successful actress, but she’s not married to the guy who helped her get there, the guy who stood by her side as she worked towards her dreams and began to see them realized. There still seemed a certain sadness, a what if, to her at the end. And he definitely seemed sad, even if he did fulfill his dream of having his own jazz club. I didn’t walk away with an “everyone is fine” feeling. I’m leaning towards it not being a happy ending, and it making me sad.

Twenty-One

A girl walked into a bar, a big country bar a la Urban Cowboy. She wasn’t alone. She had brought along two partners in crime, a proverbial Girls’ Night Out. Not long after those girls walked into that bar, a few boys walked by them. One of those boys caught the girl’s eye. The boys kept walking. A few minutes later, the boys walked by again. And then not long after that, the boys walked by again, and one of them approached the girl, gave her some line, bought her a drink, and they started talking. Thus started a new journey that led to here. But it wasn’t all love and roses from the get-go. You see, that girl had been in two disastrous, damaging relationships book-ending two long-term, learning relationships. She was broken, distrustful of love, overly-cautious, not trusting her own instincts, not ready in the least to give her heart to someone new.

I don’t regret our beginning. I’m glad for the way we started out. We lived an hour away from each other. And I made him work for it. We talked every day on the phone – imagine that, talking on the phone, back when I still liked talking on the phone – and saw each other almost every weekend. But I would not commit. I was terrified and gun-shy after the previous five years’ experiences. I wouldn’t give of myself, wouldn’t open up to him. I gave very little, but he hung in there and fought for me, for us. I’m so grateful he did. I can’t imagine what my life would be had he not stuck it out, not battled hard for our relationship.

I threw everything at him in those six months….all my crazy, all my brokenness, all my insecurities and issues, even my crazy family. He didn’t run away. He stayed right there. That enabled me to build my trust in him. I needed to be able to trust him that much before I handed him my heart. I  needed to know he was going to stay, and he did.

We’ve not really ever talked about what that was like for him. He had to have reached some level of frustration. Six months in, he drew the battle lines, told me he’d had enough, had invested his limit if I wasn’t going to meet him halfway, make a commitment. I needed that ultimatum at that point to open my eyes to where we were, who I was. It allowed me to think about life without him, and I suddenly realized that was the last thing I wanted.

I’d love to say we lived happily ever after after that. We didn’t. We had more drama to go through. We’d been together just over a year when the long-distance just became too much. We broke up, for all of 36 hours. It was an awful 36 hours for both of us. Again, it made me reevaluate my life, my goals, my wants. I put in for a transfer at work, and four months later, moved to his city. Five months later, we were engaged, and thirteen months after that, we got married.

We still haven’t lived happily ever after….marriage is work. We’ve had our share of battles and struggles. We’ve faced tragedy, sickness, health, loss, huge moves, and disappointments, but we’re still here. I’d like to think that initial six months set us up for success. It taught us both how to fight for what matters, to keep our eyes open to who matters. It gave us time to really learn each other, because we talked every single day for at least an hour. Because we took our time to know each other, we established a base before we committed to each other. We were friends before anything else, which is something I still appreciate.

Twenty-one years later, he still makes me laugh, still makes me feel treasured and cherished, still makes me feel chosen. He also frustrates the hell out of me, drives me insane, drives me over the edge at times. But I love him, and am so thankful he fought for us when I wasn’t ready to yet. I chose him, and continue to choose him every single day.

What do I tell her?

The Princess will be 15 in a few months, starting high school just before. We are entering the world of boys, dating, parties…..high school social life. I’m a bit terrified. Such a minefield. So here’s my question – how much of your life experience do you share with your teens? Does it make a difference or change their behavior? Do they even listen, or just nod their heads while rolling their eyes?

Do I tell her my mistakes? Do I tell her about the time I cheated on my boyfriend because the guy I’d had a crush on years before finally took a moment to notice me? Do I tell her the potentially really bad situations I put myself in? Do I tell her about the relationships I sabotaged or ended before the guy could have a chance to leave me, or prove himself? Do I tell her about the boys I treated badly, using the excuse of recovering from how the last boy treated me? Do I warn her off controlling boyfriends? Do I tell her the things I really regret doing or not doing?

I went from not being noticed at all, to getting a decent amount attention from boys. It was pretty heady, and overwhelming. It took me years to figure out how to handle myself, handle them. I needed, oh how I needed. I made so many mistakes, so many errors in judgement. Sometimes I just shake my head, realizing how lucky I am to be where I am. On the flip side, I had some amazingly wonderful experiences, met some incredible people, and grew because of choices, right and wrong.

I try to think back to when I was her age. Did my mom try to talk to me? Did I just tune her out, unable to imagine her as a teenager facing what I did each day? Would it have made any difference if she did tell me, and I did listen? Do we all just have to walk that path on our own?

We were driving home from the studio last night, and I felt this driving need to tell her everything, really talk to her about boys, dating, sex, relationships. But I didn’t know where to start, what to tell her, what to hold back. So I didn’t say anything. It haunted me through the night – memories dredged up, old hurts revisited, heartbreaks re-lived, some of my darker, most regretful moments brought back to life.

I wasn’t promiscuous, nor considered a “bad girl” by any means, and yet there are still many things I would have changed, avoided. But what, really, does she need to know, if anything at all, of my past? All I’ve told her to date is that I kissed my share of boys, and dated/hung out with more.

What do you tell your kids when you reach this stage?

The Story of Us

We went to a get-together last night to meet the neighbors who moved in across the street last month. It was kinda cool, as we learned new stuff about the neighbors we’ve known for awhile At one point, the stories began of how each couple had met, which I found most intriguing. You see, yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the day Spouse and I met. So while our story was very pertinent to the day, I’m always interested to hear how other couples come together.

February 3, 1996…..Two of my friends and I decided to drive to a big city (I lived in a rather rural suburb with almost zero night life) an hour away, to a big country bar we’d been hearing about for years. Girls Night Out. Oh yeah. I was a  year off a rough break-up, completely NOT wanting a new relationship. I just wanted to hang out and have fun with my friends. But not long after we walked in, each grabbed a beer, and found a good spot to people watch, three guys walked by. I caught eyes with one of them, but that was it. A bit later, we moved to a different spot. Those boys walked by again. And then they walked by again. After the third pass, that guy I’d caught eyes with walked up to me. I don’t even remember exactly what he said, but we started talking, and pretty  much hung out much of the rest of the night. I liked him enough to exchange phone numbers, but I was clear I didn’t want a boyfriend, nor really to date anyone, especially someone who lived an hour away.

We talked on the phone for a couple hours the next day, which would set a pattern. We talked pretty much every day, and a few weeks later, began getting together on the weekends. I was adamant what I did on my time was none of his business. While I didn’t date anyone else, I didn’t want to be accountable in the least. That went on for about six months, during with time he was by my side for a minor surgery I had to have, when my dad was in the hospital, my birthday, and a few fun weekend trips. Finally, in August, I think he’d had enough. He told me he wasn’t going to hang out any longer, invest any more emotion if I wasn’t willing to give back the same. I realized I didn’t want to be with anyone else. We were officially Boyfriend & Girlfriend. Just over two years after that day, we were married. And the rest, as that old cliche says, is history. Five moves, three kids, 17 years of marriage…..twenty years since we locked eyes. And that’s the story of us…..

Love & Marriage

Funny thing about having a teenage daughter…I am reminded what it was like to be a teenage girl on a near-daily basis with all the hopes, dreams, fears, wonders and insecurities that brings. The Princess is a curious girl, not afraid at all to ask questions. We have quite a bit of time in the car together driving to and from the dance studio, time without an audience of boys. She definitely takes advantage of that time.

She began a conversation the other day about marriage, and how you might know a man is the “right man.” Someone had apparently told her you’ll know he’s the right one when you’re with him in a room full of people but it feels like it’s just the two of you. Ah the romance of that, right? There would likely be a lot less divorce if it were that simple. And I told her. So she asked me how I knew Spouse was the right one for me.

I had the blessing of being a bit older when I met my husband. I’d had time to figure out who I was, what I wanted, what I thought I needed. I’d had the gift of a few relationships and a multitude of male friends, good and bad, to help me realize my priorities as far as character traits in a spouse. I literally had a list of what I wanted in the man I would marry, a list which was created before I met my husband. I told her something my mother told me when I was a teenage girl. I told her from here forward, for every man she dates or has friendships with, write down the quality she loves the most, and the quality she likes the least about him. At some point, she will see a trend, build a picture of the man for her. It’s not a magic formula by any means, but it makes sense, doesn’t it?

We talked about marriage. I told her it isn’t anything like the love songs, the movies, or the books she likes so much. It isn’t about that gushy, mushy feeling. That feeling of being in love comes and goes over the course of time. I honestly explained there are days I don’t like her dad all that well. There are days he doesn’t like me too much either. But we make a decision every day that this is where we want to be, who we want to be with. I may not be “in love” with him every day, but I love him every day. Don’t you love that feeling when your kid looks at you like you discovered the most amazing thing ever?

I don’t proclaim to have all the answers regarding marriage and relationships. I’ve had my share of failures. You do your best when you’re trying to guide your kids. I just don’t want her to think marriage is some fairy tale or love song, like there’s some magical guy out there, with whom fireworks will literally light up the sky when she meets him. I feel privileged to watch this journey of hers.

Mom, how old were you?

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.

Ballerina Princess

Ballerina Princess

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