Will You Go Out With Me?
Can I just say that I am terribly unprepared to be a parent to teenagers? I’m fumbling constantly, falling down as I traverse this road of parenting. I am the very last person to offer advice to anyone. SO for the record, this little blog is never about advice; it’s about what I’m learning along the way.
I’m currently blessed with seven children, ranging in age from 1 to 15, a beautiful blend of biological, adopted and foster children. But how they got here doesn’t matter. What matters is what we’re doing now that they’re here. And I’m telling you, this parenting thing is stretching me. I did not know I had the ability to be so petty, selfish, sarcastic or impatient…until God blessed me with these little people.
I mess up. A lot. I have to apologize. A lot. I laugh now at all the things I just knew I was going to rock at as a parent. Cleary before I ever actually became a parent. Ideals I carried for so long didn’t last when held up to real-life situations and problems. And you know… real life people. Because, Lord have mercy, these little ones all come with their very own personalities. So I’ve learned quickly that we’re just all flying by the seat of our pants, too often reacting to situations for which we aren’t quite prepared.
Oh boy, did I have ideals here. Yep, I’m a weird, unsocialized homeschooling mama, remember? So I ate up every book on courting and not dating and so on and so forth. Ya’ll. My past is U.G.L.Y. James’ isn’t exactly clean either. We wanted different for our kids…and since the plastic bubbles were out of stock…
(Now stop and calm down, Susan. I’m not going to sell you on ‘courting’; I’m not going to tell you that people shouldn’t date. I’m going to tell you that now that the situation has hit I still have no idea exactly how we are going to handle dating. How can I? My babies aren’t supposed to be teens yet, dang it!)
But nope, here we are…they grew up on me without permission, and grown up situations seems to lambast us whenever it looks like we might have a quiet moment to breathe. (Which doesn’t happen too often around here.)
The latest to hit the Brown household: the world of boys and girls. God help me. Seriously. God, help me. From my boy crazy seven year old whose biggest drama is deciding who she’ll marry some day (and will he be okay with her “moving in with her best friend to open a boutique”) to my fifteen year old strong-willed daughter who’s ready to forge out into the world…and no man stop her. So imagine my surprise when the first situation centered on “dating” came through my thirteen year old son.
My son has an intuitive nature to protect the girls in his life. I’ve seen that with his sisters, and I’ve watched that spill over into his friendships. It is most evident when I watch him interact with and recount encounters with the girls in his dance classes and youth group.
We used to tease him quite a bit about the girls in his classes and who he might have a crush on. We realized our responses were fueling the exact opposite of how we desired our children to respond to the opposite sex. That became clear the night he came to me, clearly stricken at how to respond to a girl who’d messaged him six short words. “Will you go out with me?” His protective, sensitive nature immediately kicked into overdrive as he agonized over how to respond to this beautiful girl in a way that protected her heart and dignity. And I realized that in constantly joking about it, I could have desensitized his soft little heart toward the girls whom he enjoys so much as friends. In treating it as common place and a joke, I could have taught him to view it as such. Now we had a real life, darling, flesh & blood girl on the other end of his phone. And he desired so much to do the right thing.
You see, we’d taught him that he needed to be in a place where he could take care of a lady’s heart before he was ready to think about dating. Okay, okay, we used some old, corny courtin’ lines too. Ha! But in all seriousness, he knew that he was not ready to take on the responsibility of a dating relationship while he was still figuring out what friendships and life looked like to a young teenager.
With all the things James and I did wrong, together and apart, as teenagers and young adults, we simply desired our kids to have a pure start and desire to fulfill God-given roles as young men and women. If that sounds a little old-fashioned…well, it’s one area I guess I’m proud to be so. There is so much baggage that comes from the way we lived early on, we wanted our kids to live the way we knew it could be done. You see, we don’t preach this to our kids because we think we’re perfect, we preach it because we. were. and. are. so. very. broken.
What I am trying to say is we have certain things we want our children to know before they begin navigating the world of dating. I want my sons to know how to protect a woman’s heart. I want my daughters to be secure in themselves so they don’t try to fulfill themselves in a way only God can.
At 13, they just aren’t prepared to do that. They are too busy navigating a new world of hormones and insecurities! And I don’t want these first blundering attempts to set the course for future, more serious dating. I’d rather they spent these preteen and early teen years learning to be good friends to the opposite sex. To enjoy laughing and learning what makes boys, boys and girls, girls. Most importantly to figure out what makes them, them.
Back to our situation: my son handled this in a way that brought so much pride to my heart. I believe that his genuine, pure, brotherly love came out in a way that validated this young lady. He presented where we were as a family in terms of dating. And he stated that her friendship was a precious thing to him. Of course, it sounded a little more like 13 year old boy-speak. But still, it was wonderfully, thoughtfully done.
And then two nights later. Another message. “Am I ugly?” This one hit to the most tender places in my heart. And I wanted to scoop this girl up and hug her close. I wanted to tell my son “forget our ideals! Just tell her yes, of course you’ll “date”…whatever that means in 13 year old land.”
But instead he built her up. He told her that she was pretty and that she needed to believe in herself. In short, he was her friend. And that’s what she really needed. Gosh, I remember those awful junior high years. I remember the insecurity. The need to be validated and filled up with something, someone. And my path from junior high to college was marked by attention-seeking, promiscuous behavior.
How I wish that some boy would have been strong enough, brave enough, kind enough to look at me and tell me to run hard after God to fill me and that I’d find myself in the process. And yes, my experiences do color the way I parent my kids in this area. But I think that’s okay. I have the perspective, having once been a junior high girl, to share with my son how very tender and vulnerable these young ladies are and to teach him to be just as tender to their hearts.
And you know what? I still don’t know what the heck we’re gonna do about dating. But I know that we got through this scenario and that I’ll be holding tight to God to get us through every one after this. Because I don’t think dating is bad. But I think we need to raise up strong men and women who are ready to date well.
And I think I had better stock my cupboards with some chocolate and wine…because I have a few more years of this ahead.