By Eric Miller
Parenthood was simpler when Kate was four. Her life before high school and boys is a foggy memory. I yearn for the toddler years when she bummed rides on my shoulders. I would gladly relive having a sore neck and achy back. Kate’s now sixteen and college is on the horizon. I try not to waste time watching it fly by.
At sixteen my mind and hormones wandered aimlessly. My biology teacher taught basic anatomy, but it was a friend’s secret stash of magazines that opened Pandora’s Box. Lust confused matters of the heart. In chemistry, I learned that protons were attracted to electrons, and they stick together, like partners; but with lust and love, the attractions fade and disintegrate. At best, lust and love are tangent. After contact they divert away.
My image back then was as superficial as I view a Kardashian. I was a clean-cut jock. I played hockey, took college prep classes, and shoveled snow from Grandma’s porch. Outwardly, I squeaked cleaner than polished glass. But on the inside, my testosterone raged like a wildfire and spiked more abruptly than a NASDAQ composite. My folks encouraged my brother and me to date girls, but they were nonchalant.
“Just don’t be stupid.” Though we got A’s and B’s, we still did stupid things. The source of said stupidity was inside our genes, and jeans. Good grades may mask stupidity, but they don’t prevent it.
The fathers of the gals I dated in high school were seemingly aloof men. Only once did I meet a girl’s dad. A root canal had more appeal. Perhaps the other dads were too embarrassed to meet me, or felt awkward counseling their daughters. I want to advise Kate about dating. Not all boys are bad. I’m sure a few young men with strong morals roam campus. The problem is that strong morals can lose out to hormonally charged reproductive organs.
I considered banishing Kate to her room, covering the house with barbwire, or setting traps near windows. But that’s infeasible. For one, kids need freedom. Two, I’m not a skilled handyman, and three, traps require maintenance. Plus, if I caught a boy, what do I do with him?
I decided to engage this modern day dating dilemma metaphorically. Kids’ exposure to dating, whether through TV or social media, is a different concept than when I was in high school. These media are loaded with sexual content and innuendo. Kate and I often ski together which gives us time to talk.
The message she needs to hear is that intimate physical contact can have more bumps and slips than a ski run. The aftermath of a break-up is a thousand times more painful to the heart and mind than any fall on a ski hill. My heart ached when Shelly Snodgrass dumped me for a senior, Sammy Schnitzel. They flaunted their love on campus, while I powerlessly sank into despair.
Kate will not understand it now, any more than I did back then, that she’s too young to think about mate choice. My advice to her is to become friends with boys, enjoy their company, but to keep her hands in her pockets to protect her heart.
I wish I had control over Kate’s daily environment, but the reality is that I don’t. If you are one who thinks you can control anything, you’re deceived. Try holding a cat over a filled bathtub. So, parents, talk with your kids, meet their dates, and repeat this cycle like it was the movie, Groundhog Day.
Maintain honest communication. Their biological clocks will not stop unless we perform surgery on them. But I’m sure there are laws against that.
A New York Times article reports that the choosiness of females has gradually declined over evolutionary time. I am unsure how that translates to me, but when it comes to Kate, I strive to keep our communication open. Setting boundaries early on will set the stage for her success; and she will be a success.
I offer these nine dating principles you can use to facilitate awkward and amusing discussions with your teenagers (See sidebar: Nine Dating Principles). Loosen or tighten them as you see fit. Have a conversation you’ll never forget. Good luck.
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Nine Dating Principles
1. I/Dad will meet all proposed dates beforehand.
2. Stand firm on your beliefs and morals.
3. Keep your priorities in line: your beliefs, family, school, friendships, activities. No behind-the-scenes dates. We need to know where you are and what you are up to.
4. Keep an open communication with Mom and me so we can help you be the best you can be.
5. Slow movement of relationship. Let the relationship grow in its own time.
6. Make decisions based on what is best for you and not based solely on the relationship.
7. Because it’s okay with a boyfriend’s/girlfriend’s parents to do something does not mean it is okay with us. If he/she has different morals, stop the relationship. This is difficult and will result with hurt feelings. But it must happen.
8. No inappropriate physical contact, texting, or Facebook posts. No public displays of affection. No passionate kissing. Modest hugging and handholding is okay.
9. No texting after 10 PM. Curfew is 11 PM unless you clear it with us in advance.
I agree with these principles and will uphold them to the best of my ability.
Signed, Dad/ Daughter/Son