A few months ago one of our neighbor kids was over and got on the phone to talk to a boy my daughter is friends with. Mitchell is the son of my friend Karen, and he and my daughter have struck up a long-distance friendship-- no big deal. They talk on the phone, IM and email. They are friends in every sense of the word. Through this friendship, my daughter is learning about this whole boy/girl thing in what (I think) is a healthy, non-threatening way. It is not being thrust on her before she is ready.
So, back to the neighbor girl. She is in school and is caught up in the whole boyfriend/girlfriend thing. She insisted on the phone to Mitchell that he and my daughter liked each other and just acted tacky about it-- embarrassing both Mitchell and my daughter. What she didn't realize was that I could hear the whole thing over the baby monitor! I went upstairs and asked to speak to her alone.
I sat down with her and explained that we just don't believe in the whole dating game like other people she knows probably do. I have never encouraged my kids to seek out a boyfriend or girlfriend, never called it "cute" to my friends or played it up in talking to them or others. Now, I also don't have my head in the sand and think that they aren't going to show interest in that sort of stuff as puberty sets in! I explained this as best I could (and as gently as I could) to the neighbor. I told her that she is beautiful and that God created her with one special man in mind to be her husband someday. I told her that she should be praying for that boy to have his heart protected as he is also somewhere right now navigating the whole boy/girl thing. The interesting thing is, as I uttered the words "You're beautiful" she began to cry. Hard. She continued to cry the rest of the conversation. I don't think anyone had ever talked to her that way. It made me really sad. I still hope I gave her a vision beyond here and now for what awaits her.
Later she told my daughter that she knows that what I said to her was true, but that if she tried to live that way in front of her friends she would get made fun of mercilessly. And so, instead of guarding her heart and saving herself for the man God has for her, she will sell out in the name of fitting in. I have thought of this often since it happened. I feel sorry for her and all the kids out there who enter into "relationships" they are nowhere near ready for. I wish more parents would catch the vision for protecting kids from themselves instead of acting like it is cute and promoting it. It just isn't something to make light of.
I saw a young woman once give a presentation on courtship and she walked across the stage pretending to give pieces of her heart to different boys as she walked. Then she pretended to get to the altar at her wedding and hold this little scrap of a heart up to her groom, saying, "Here, you can have what's left." That image has always stuck with me-- and it is what I am trying to prevent my kids from doing.
(DISCLAIMER: In an effort to not sound like a hypocrite, I will say that my son (15) does have a "girlfriend." I call her a friendgirl, which he does not think is funny. This girl is a precious, godly young woman who seems to have her head screwed on straight. Her family is a Christian family and if they spend time together it is always with the family present. For instance, her family is all coming over here for the 4th to cook out and go to our neighborhood pool. Most importantly, he and this girl are good friends, and that is the foundation of what they are building from. But at the same time, we also feel very strongly that we have to protect our son in his immature emotional state. And so, we walk the balance between letting him feel normal and hemming him in. It's a hard path to walk and we won't know if we did it right for many years to come. But then again, doesn't that sort of sum up all of parenting?)