My twin girls entered high school this year. That’s a scary sentence right there. It really seems like we were just taking the kindergarten tour just a few months ago. It’s like I blinked and they’re almost all grown up. The years have literally flown by and we’re officially in the home stretch.
What most of us moms don’t realize until it happens is that this is when it really counts. This is when we get to see what our parenting chops are really made of and when we get to test out all of these little lessons we’ve been trying to teach these little humans for the last 14 years.
My girl has straight A’s, runs track and cross country and makes me laugh each and every day. She has an amazing heart and is far more level-headed than I was at her age. A few weeks ago she told me she has a boyfriend (gulp) she met in school. I think, or hope, I played it cool. I asked a few questions, but not so many that I would look overbearing or like I don’t trust her at all.
There’s no need to panic, I reminded myself. Just keep the conversation flowing. How old is he? What classes do you have together? What are his hobbies and extracurriculars? And then to her twin: What’s his deal? What have you heard? Is he acceptable for our girl?
We’ve had a few conversations since then about this boy. He’s 14, they’re together for English and lunch; he plays basketball and is on speech and debate. Her twin seems to think he’s okay and claims he isn’t a troublemaker and seems to be a nice enough kid. We’ve also talked about boundaries, making smart choices, and rules for dating at 14.
The funny thing is that about 1 in every 3 people I mention this to seem to say pretty much the same thing: “I would never let my 14-year-old daughter have a boyfriend.” To which I reply, “Lucky for her she’s mine then.”
Little secret, friends … I did lots of things I wasn’t “allowed” to do at 14. Most 14-year-olds do. I have a few well-meaning friends with older teens who tried this route and it didn’t work anyway. I won’t say it never works, but it usually doesn’t work. These kids still had boyfriends or girlfriends. They just lied to their parents about it.
This thought scares me for a number of reasons. For one thing, I don’t think I want high school to be the years where my kids feel like they have to hide things from me. That can get out of hand really quickly. It will quickly become a habit. I’m the mom. I don’t expect any of my kids to tell me every little thing, but I don’t want them keeping the big life moments from me.
I want all my kids to trust me enough and I want to trust that I did the best I could to raise smart, responsible kids that will generally make good choices. They will all make mistakes, but my daughter will know that even when she screws up, I will always have her back. If she had to lie to me about this major life event, she may never really believe she can count on me if she gets into trouble.
Another reason I don’t want to flat out refuse to allow my daughter to have a boyfriend is that I want her to come to me with questions or concerns about dating and boys. I don’t want her learning from the internet or her friends, or even her twin. They are all just as clueless as she is and none of them have the maturity to handle some of the bigger issues on the horizon.
Basically, I can appreciate another parent having different dating rules than I do. But I’m still not changing my mind. I think of it kind of similar to when I leave my kids home alone for the first time. An arbitrary number doesn’t tell me when each of my children is ready for that responsibility. Much like dating, being left home alone depends a lot on independence and maturity. I may find that my son isn’t ready when he’s 14. And if that’s the case, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. As a family. Without your judgment.