My youngest daughter (Miss E.) goes out on her “first date” next weekend.
I swear I recall telling my girls that they weren’t dating until I was dead. Ok, not really. I would eventually like to have grandchildren MANY years from now, but while I’m still somewhat mobile–and coherent.
This child comes up to me today in church as I’m waiting for services to start with a goofy grin on her face. I know she wants to ask for something.
“Mom? Do we have plans next weekend? Can I go with N. to see Insurgent?”
N. has been a regular topic of conversation in our house for a while.
This pair has a history, after all.
He and my daughter have been in the same class since first or second grade. They share most of their 7th grade classes together. They even attend the same church, Sunday school and youth group.
On Miss E’s 13th birthday, N. made her a bracelet and gave it to her as a gift.
On Valentine’s Day, he gave her some candy.
They have lunch in the cafeteria once a week (on Fridays).
They text/Skype back and forth in the evening. (Whatever happened to phone calls?)
I wasn’t totally surprised by my daughter’s question this morning.
Still, all of these things are different than going to a movie together.
I looked at her as she stood there, her eyes as wide as saucers–probably because
1. She was so excited at the idea of going and
2. She was scared to death I’d kill her.
I told her I’d have to talk to her father. Yeah, a stall tactic.
I went to talk to my husband, who serves as a greeter at our church. I told him the question that was put on the table.
After a few face contortions, he asked me if I’ve spoken with the boy’s parents. When I told him no, he replied. “Maybe it’s time.”
The next thing I know, I’m in the gathering space of my church, talking to N.’s mom about our kids’ plans. I said something about wanting to make sure we were on the same page about this blossoming relationship.
She, too, was well aware of this friendship, although she had no idea plans were being made to go out beyond school lunch.
After a brief conversation, we both agreed to allow the pair to be dropped off to the movie theater by one set of parents and then picked up by the other. No chaperones sitting between them, next to them or behind them.
I hear the people now: Why? Why would you agree to that? 13-year-olds dating? That’s crazy! I also heard my own voice among the many I imagine will shouting after reading this.
Why did I say yes?
First, dating to these two very two young adults means sitting together at lunch. And then, maybe seeing a movie together of a book they both love to talk about.
Their view of dating is not about the sordid things that jumped through my mind. I am not naive. Neither is my daughter. I’ve talked to her about relationships and sex long before this. I gave it to her straight: sex has many different meanings and many outcomes–many of them not so good for people her age and even older. She’s horrified at the thought of it at this point. Holding hands is even a little scary for her.
Fear is good. It’s a healthy fear.
These two are exploring a friendship that is different for both of them in an innocent way (at least for now). Both sets of parents are aware of the situation. I’ve read her text messages to him. Oh, yes I have and she knows it. No apologies here for that. I pay for the phone, it’s my phone and I can look at it whenever I want.
Truth be told, she either tells me everything he texts or shows it to me, so sneaking is not really an issue.
She’s had lots of questions and I’m thrilled she’s asking. She came home from youth tonight and told me N. informed her that she will NOT be paying for anything when they go out next Saturday. Miss E. tried to argue, she said, but he insisted.
“Is that ok?” she asked me.
I assured her that it was a nice thing for him to do and to make sure she says thank you. I also told her I’d send her with money, just in case. And, IF there is a next time, she can offer to pay.
She seems to have picked a nice young gentleman. That’s the other reason why I said yes. I’ve met a lot of the boys in her class. If it were anyone else, I’d be much more hesitant than I already am at this point.
Right now, as much as it scares me to wade into this part of parenthood (our oldest–age 17–has yet to go out with a boy one on one. She’s more of a hang out with friends girl), there is also a part of me that is excited for her. I remember those feelings she’s having and I want her to feel comfortable enough to come to me through the good and the bad- and I know there will be plenty of both.
So, for now, I’m saying yes to one thing at a time. That’s all I can do. This is a first “date”–they are not “going steady” (do kids do that anymore?), they are not taking things to the next level, they are not “serious”. They’re exploring the changes in their lives together and I think that can be a cool thing.
I just need to remember to breathe.