This morning at Scribbet (one of my regular haunts in the blogosphere), Michelle raises the question that puzzles most parents of teenagers: How young is too young?
For Michelle, it's no dating of any kind before age sixteen, and no "serious" relationships while still in high school.
Now, you'd think that my having a six and eight-year-old at home would enable me to put off pondering this issue for a few more years. But just last week, Sarah came home and announced that she has a boyfriend (we'll call him "Davie") ... and a few days later, when we went to a "family movie night" at church, where all the kids were flopped on blankets and pillows in front of the screen, Sarah raced back to me and announced loud enough (in a tone naughty enough) for the entire room to hear that "I get to sleep next to Davie tonight and we're not even mawwied!"
Now, the silver lining in this particular cloud is that Sarah has already absorbed the message that sleeping together and marriage are connected. (The other good news is that Davie's mom is a veteran foster mom who understands the emotional needs of traumatized children.)
Finally, I'm being given ample opportunity to start forming in both my children the attitudes they will need to make healthy choices in relationships. Sarah especially, since I'm inclined to believe her headstrong nature will serve her well if she learns these lessons young.
Fortunately, she has a father who adores her, and parents who treat each other (and her) with respect and genuine affection. She has a mother who has made enough relationship mistakes of her own to understand that the vast majority of these mistakes must be headed off before the relationship even begins. A young woman who is confident in her own dignity and worth, who knows she doesn't need a boyfriend to be happy, who trusts her instincts and avoids unsafe situations, and who believes that every date is a potential mate is FAR ahead of the game.
She won't waste her kisses on players or liars or the emotionally bankrupt. She won't give her heart away to men who can't be trusted to protect and cherish it. She'll understand that her feminine charm is intoxicating, and a little goes a long way; where men are concerned, a little mystery -- and a lot of self-restraint -- is a good and necessary thing.
Oh ... and that if a boy wants to date her, he has to ask her father first ... preferably over brunch right after Mass! Because she is worth the effort it takes to be with her.