It’s been challenging for you lately, and I know that. You’re young, and you think you’re in love, and I think it’s wonderful. You’re growing and learning and figuring out who you are and what you want in life, and I have no problem with you having a partner who cares about you to help you figure that out. I also know that there are others who disagree and some, young and old, who are giving you a hard time about it. I appreciate you telling them that I allow you to date and that they can take it up with me; and I know we’ve talked about this, but I’d like to make sure that you fully understand why I allow you to date because it’s a privilege, one that I feel is very important for the healthy development of your mind, body, and spirit.
As you know, I’ve been given a fair share of advice from others about how to handle the ‘dating situation.’ In fact, it’s a topic that has come up among friends and acquaintances many times, and often, it becomes an admonishment on me for allowing you and your sisters to date. This is something that I pray about a lot and your father and I talk about a lot, and while we don’t have all of the answers or make all of the right decisions, we try our best. We have our reasons for the things we do and allow, very good ones we believe, and you should know what they are. I’m not setting out to tell the parents of your friends or even your teachers what is right or wrong, but I do want you to know why I have made some of the choices I have in regards to you.
I have been told, “High school children belong with their families and not out on dates. They have plenty of time for that in college and beyond.” Interesting thought, but I have another take. I have heard, “Teens are not mature enough to handle dating.” No argument from me about maturity, but I’ll get to that. Recently, you told me that an adult told you, “The purpose of dating is to have sex, so if you’re not planning on getting married and having children in the immediate future, then you should not be dating.” Uh-huh. I have lots to say about that one, but let me begin with the least of the reasons why I allow you to date.
5. You’re learning the Ropes. Your high school years are all about preparing for your future. You will need to develop good study habits, learn time management, become skilled at balancing school and a job, and become adept at standing up for yourself and your beliefs. Along with those things, I want you to also prepare for the dating scene. What is proper behavior on a date? Where are acceptable locales? What is the proper dress? This may all sound silly to you, but seriously, these are important questions and not just old-fashioned ideas. I want to know that when you leave the house with a boy, you know what is acceptable and what is not and what should be expected or not (by and from both of you). And I want those values and rules coming from me, not from your college roommate.
4. Dating is part of growing. It is part of figuring out what you want in a future spouse. That does not mean that you have to marry the first boy who asks you to a dance. If means that you are learning what it feels like to be asked to a dance, to hold hands, and yes, even to kiss (cue the gasps). It also means that you are learning about mutual respect. Does he open the door for you? Is he attentive to you in conversations? Does he put your needs and desires first? Is he able to compromise? Does he respect your wishes, your values, your family and friends? If the answer is no, then move on! He was not the right one, but it’s okay to try again. Would you buy a pair of shoes without making sure that they fit, that they work with your wardrobe, that they’re comfortable and make you feel good? Dating is no different but far more important.
3. You need to see him with his mom and yours. Dating in college is very much a social endeavor. You will go to parties, night clubs, football games, and dances, much like you are doing in high school, but you will be doing it on your own time, with your own friends, and without your family tagging along, so there are things that you will miss, important things that won’t be revealed to you. For example, how does he treat his mom? Is he kind to her, loving, respectful? Does he help out around the house? Does he like being with his family? And, in a way, more importantly, does he like being with yours? Is he kind and respectful to your parents? If he never wants to spend time with your family, then I have to ask why? Is he selfish? Is he all about what he wants and not what you want? And on a darker note, is he possessive? Is he violent? Does he try to drive a wedge between you and your family? Remember, when you meet the right one, he will become a part of our family. Is he willing to do that? Dating in high school is about blending your family life with your dating life, and that’s an extremely important facet of being a couple. Learn to do it early and to do it well.
2. Maturity is learned not inherited. If I had kept you in the nursery until your eighteenth birthday and then suddenly set you free in the world, would you think I was crazy? Would you know how to manage on your own without any prior knowledge? Of course not! And dating should be no different. You can’t grow and properly mature without experience. You need to learn how to behave in public and in private. You need to know how to set limits, how to compromise, and how to say no. Everything you do as you are growing up affects what you do and how you act when you are on your own. But you need to recognize that you are still growing, still learning, still maturing until, scientists say, the age of 25. So there will be limits set on you while you’re at home–curfews, acceptable places to go, and acceptable people to be a part of your life. If we say no, the answer is no, but we will always explain to you why. And hopefully the ‘why’ will stick with you and help you mature into a person who makes good choices.
1. The world is a scary place, but I’ve got your back. You will be put into uncomfortable situations. You will be faced with circumstances that you may not know how to handle. You will have questions, and fears, and will make mistakes. And I want to be there the first time you do, the first time you come face to face with the ugly side of dating. I want to be sitting on your bed with you when you’re crying after your first broken heart. I want to be behind the wheel when you need someone to come get you because you don’t feel safe. I want you to crawl in my bed at night because you’re upset and need your mom. I want you to go off to college with a past, not a reputation, but a past in which you learned how to spot a nice boy, how to say no, how to get yourself out of a bad situation, how to dress and act on a date, and how to know if he’s the right man.
The dating world has changed a lot in the past thirty years. You all do things differently and at a much faster pace than we did. But to be in the right kind of relationship, make the right decisions, and figure out who the right mate is, you need guidance, and I’ve only got four short years to be that guide. But know this, even when you are on your own, when you have questions, or when you make mistakes, I will always be here. I will always be praying for you. I will always be your mom. Even when you are grown and go home to someone else.
Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her latest book, Whispering Vines, is now available for purchase.
You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.