The Five Reasons We Allow You to Date

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Dear Daughter,

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.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me(2015), Whispering Vines (2016)

Listing for Love

Ken and Amy's Wedding33-001I am a list maker.  I’ve been a list maker since I first learned to write and realized the magic that accompanies crossing off things accomplished.  Sometimes, the more I cross off, the more I add to my list. I’ve had a list on my desk for about a month now that lays out all that I want to accomplish this fall.  My Katie laughs when she reads it because one item is “Write a book.”

“You’re always writing a book, Mom, but that’s so cute.”

Yes, I’m always writing a book, but to see it on a list makes it real, makes it something that must be done and must be crossed off.  It’s a means to an end.

When I graduated from college, my best friend and I sat down and wrote lists.  They weren’t lists about what we wanted to accomplish in life or what our goals were for our twenties or beyond.  We had those lists already, and they were getting longer and longer by the day.  No, just for fun, we wrote lists of what we were seeking in the perfect guy.  It began as a joke, a way of blowing off a steam about the fact that we were now four years older, four years more experienced and worldly, four years wiser, and still single.  But as we compiled the list, we grew more serious, each of us reading each other’s lists and critiquing, improving, and offering further suggestions.  After all, who knows you better than your best friend?

Within a year, I was engaged, and within a couple of years after that, so was she.  I still credit that list with helping me focus on whom and what I wanted because, miraculously, when I met Ken, I was able to cross off all 25 things on the list, not 20 or 24, but all 25.  Not everything on the list is as important to me today as it was then.  Half of the things probably wouldn’t even make it if I had to write it all over again.  One of the things was that I needed a man who would change with me as I grew older, who could adapt to any situation.  That was near the bottom of the list, but well over twenty years later, I see that it should have been at the top.

So if I were telling my daughters to write their own lists (and no, I’m not doing that because this list is not a game – it’s a serious, what I want for the rest of my life list), but if I were telling them to write their lists, here are the things I would recommend they put at the top:

  1. He must be adaptable to any situation with the realization that life isn’t a long, superhighway.  It’s a twisting, turning, up and down hills and mountains, country road with surprises around every bend.  Be ready to change course and handle the wrecks along the way.
  2. He must share some of your interests but must also have interests of his own.  While you should share the most exciting adventures together, it’s okay to do things apart; in fact, it’s a must.
  3. He should not say “I love you,” within a month or even two, and when he says it, he needs to look you in the eye and say it from the heart.  Those three words should be the most important words he ever says to you.  They need to have true meaning and depth.  They are not a way to get you in bed or make you feel special.  They are the three words that he should tattoo on your heart and his and be willing to put them into action every day for the rest of your lives.
  4. He needs to dance.  He doesn’t have to like or be good at it, but he needs to be willing to do it.  You should not be that one person who, at every wedding (and by the time you write this list, there will be wedding, after wedding, after wedding) or at every family party, dances with friends to every fast song and then sits by his side and watches everyone else dance the slow songs.  It’s during the slow songs that your bodies communicate, and it’s during the fast songs that you let loose and have fun.  Do it together. Even if he looks like he’s the star in a Steve Martin movie.
  5. Watch him carefully when he is with his mother.  The old saying is so very true, how he treats his mother is how he will treat his wife.  Is he kind to her?  Respectful?  Helpful?  It’s okay if he complains about her a little.  In fact, that lets you know that he’s not still hanging onto the apron strings.
  6. Never make him choose between you and his mother unless you are certain that he will choose you.  If he won’t, then stop here.  You don’t need to look at anything else on the list.  BUT be careful about what you are asking him to choose because his mother will become your mother.  Treat her as such.  You will find that you will need her someday when there’s no better ally than her to have on your side.
  7. He must pay for that first date, and the second, and even the third.  If he’s worth a fourth, then maybe you can treat, but don’t insist or overdo it.  A true gentleman expects to pay.  It’s a matter of respect.  If he doesn’t want to impress you, then what’s the point?
  8. He must care about how he looks.  This isn’t about vanity.  It’s about respect.  If he doesn’t have respect for himself and the way he appears to others, then he won’t have respect for you.  Of course, if his phone is full of selfies, or he can’t stop glancing in the rearview mirror to check his hair, then ask him to stop the car and let you out.  Walk away, and never look back.
  9. Your family must be as important as his.  Do not let him or his family make every decision concerning your social calendar.  If he won’t spend time with your little sisters (even when they’re being bratty), then he will never be a good brother-in-law or father.  If he dates you, he dates everyone in your family and must be willing to accept and spend time with them.
  10. Most importantly, he must be kind.  To you, to your family, to his family, to your friends and his, to his colleagues.  He shouldn’t be a pushover or passive aggressive, but genuinely kind.  He must always think about others, especially you.  “A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.” St. Basil

So there’s your start.  Your list will be longer and will include trivial things like “Must listen to _______ music,” and “Doesn’t eat all of the popcorn,” and that’s okay.  You will have to live with this person for the rest of your life.  Have fun, but think it through, and when you’re finally able to cross everything off, you will feel more than accomplishment.  You will feel completion.

Amy Schisler is the author of two mystery / suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores and online.  Amy’s newest mystery, Picture Me, was released in August of 2015 and is available in stores, at Amazon, and at Barnes & Noble.  Both novels are also available for Kindle, Nook, and iBooks.  Amy’s children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad, may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

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.