So I was talking to a friend of mine who is a mom of two teenaged boys. Knowing that Matthew and I have already been through this stage twice now, she was in need of some encouragement. Her younger son has his eye on this pretty little thing, and the thought of him having a girlfriend at his age makes her skin crawl. Honestly, for moms, it’s the thing of nightmares.
Most people take for granted that dads of girls go through difficulty as their daughters near the age when dating is to start, but fewer people realize that moms go through similar fears with their boys. Most moms are taken by surprise themselves at the feelings they have at the prospect of their boys venturing into that arena all alone.
The dating continuum for teens is pretty broad. On the one far end, some parents go the route of courting. Yes, I said courting. And yes, I do realize we are no longer living in the nineteenth century. One step farther to the right on that continuum I mentioned is arranged marriages. Listen, trust me, the older your little precious ones get, the better arranged marriages begin to look.
But moving on back the other direction on this continuum and to the far other end, are parents who have no idea who their kids are seeing, how much of them they are seeing, what they are doing with how much they are seeing them, and how often they are doing it. This philosophy is what can make for instant grandparents.
I think reasonable is as always, somewhere in the middle.
I encouraged my friend that if she and her husband were wise, and they are, they should put off the dating/girlfriend thing off for as long as possible. Popular culture encourages young people to date. To seek a girlfriend or boyfriend. And it begins younger and younger. I have heard of parents who are perfectly fine with elementary aged kids having a romantic relationship. I’d like to ask those parents what exactly they are smoking, but that might seem a bit tacky to put here.
Well… the Bible tells us that there is a time and place for all things under heaven. (Eccl. 3:1) Everything has its proper season. Most of the time, with most things, we rush the season. We are in such a hurry.
Both of my older boys are in dating relationships. Both of them are at an age where they can handle the ups and downs that come with inviting a young woman into their lives. And there are ups AND downs. Both of them are old enough to understand what it means to hold a woman’s heart in their hand and treat it with loving care. Those have been some painful lessons to learn. But even now, we caution them. Not because we question their choices, the girls they are dating are both lovely. We remind them of the season.
You see, what happens in relationships is this. Most of the time, kids want to run faster than the proper pace of a healthy dating relationship. What happens when we outrun the proper pace of a healthy dating relationship? Either the relationship ends poorly with broken hearts strewn everywhere, or the couple ends up doing things together that only married people should be doing. And then I become a grandma before my time. (For the record, I will be called MeeMaw… but only in proper season, please)
So with all the hormones raging through your teenager’s veins, waking up body parts they were previously unaware could control their thoughts so completely, what is a parent to do? Talk about it. Set firm boundaries, and talk about it.
My pastor said it well when he was talking about how this affected his own kids. As each of them grew into teenagers, began going through the same things, and having those same desires, he would remind them, “Right feelings. Wrong season.” The feelings our kids are having are completely normal. They just start a little ahead of their abilities to manage them well. So that becomes our job.
WARNING: Your kids won’t much appreciate it.
Most of them are reluctant to talk about their relationships or their feelings at that age. Another reason they are not yet ready. Talk about it anyway.
My 16 year-old-daughter recently told me what one of the pastors at our church said about finding that right person. He told her to run her race, and to keep her eyes on her purpose, on Jesus, and RUN. Then every so often, look to the side and see who is running their race alongside hers. Then she is to keep running her race a while longer. At the proper time, the proper season, the person running her same race will become clear. (And her dad will have a nervous breakdown.)
Most teenagers still have a lot of running to do before they are ready to start looking side to side to see who’s running with them. It takes a certain amount of maturity to continue running when everyone else is busy being all consumed with someone else.
I’d like to say this is an easy season. But it’s not. Still, parents must engage. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told that I’m too involved. Whatever. As I sit back and watch my two oldest boys run, I have to say, it’s all been worth it. We’re not to the finish line yet, but it’s looking pretty good.