Navigating the World of Boyfriends

When you have your precious little babies, they are the center of your universe, and we (mommy and daddy) are the centers of their universe, too.  I remember the days of not being able to go to the bathroom alone or being able to sit down without having a kid attached or not being able to eat a full meal without it getting cold or the constant chatter and questions.

Honestly, there were days that I wished that I could share my kids with someone else.  Anyone else.

That is, until the days of BOYFRIENDS.  It is quite a shock when your kids start to have relationships that start to eclipse the ones that they have with you.  Those are the days that you wish you could go back to them hanging onto your shirt tails and driving you crazy.

The same guy that I worked with who shared with me the Three Rules for College Students also gave me advice when dealing with teenager’s and young adult children’s relationships with the opposite sex.  “Don’t get attached.  As soon as you do, they will break up.”

That being said, we have done a few things when it comes to our daughter’s boyfriends.  We meet them.  We get to know them.  We make an effort to get to know their families.  When the time is right, we integrate them into our family events.  It’s sort of based on the proverb – “Better the Devil you know than the Devil you don’t know.”

Not that any of our children dated boyfriends who were like the Devil.  It’s just a saying.

Our strategy has always been to get to know our children’s boyfriends and their families.  It’s not only a way to stay connected with our kids, but we’ve also benefited by expanding our base of friends to our kid’s boyfriend’s parents.  So many parents become detached from their kid’s friends and families as they move into middle school and high school.  We think it’s almost more important to stay connected during these years, even if your kids object, because it’s our experience that they will actually appreciate it in the long run.

And staying connected allows us and our other kids to keep an eye on each other.  It is seriously helpful to us that our kids look after each other, too.  Helpful for those times when our kids have chosen to be surreptitious.  Yes, it happens.  And, yes, we usually find out about it eventually.

Our son-in-law, Ryan, also spends time with our girls and talks to them about relationships and their boyfriends.

We also established hard and fast rules when it came to boys.  We expected to be able to meet the boys who were potential or real boyfriends.  No boys were ever allowed in the bedroom area of our home.  Boys were not allowed in the house unless a parent was home.  The girls were not allowed to attend overnight co-ed parties.  If you think these rules are obvious, then you would be surprised at the frequency with which these things occur with increasingly younger and younger children.

One thing we didn’t do is prohibit our daughters from having relationships with boys.  We wanted them to have relationships.  We felt that it was very important for them to get experience having relationships before they went away to college when experiences with boys move to an entirely different level.

Have we liked all of the boyfriends and relationships that our daughter’s have had?

No.

Have our daughters and our son-in-law liked all of the boyfriends and relationships that their sisters have had?

No.

But, we all try to respect that each person needs to try out different relationships because we know that it is these experiences that will help each person to develop an understanding of what type of person with whom they will eventually invest in a long-term relationship.

But it’s hard not to say something sometimes.  It’s hard when you see your kids hurting from a relationship that is not going well.  It’s hard to know exactly when to say something.

We want what’s best for our children.  So, you must say something if a situation is unhealthy or unsafe, but most situations fall into that big gray area.  That big gray area where you have to figure out the best time to say something or not to say something.  And we don’t always get it right.

There is no how-to manual for this.

It’s true – we have gotten attached to a few of our daughter’s boyfriends.  We have felt the loss, along with them, when a breakup has occurred.  Mostly, though, we have allowed our daughter’s relationships to run their course with very little intervention.  Sometimes there’s been a lot of conversation but there’s mostly very little intervention.  This is, after all, how we all truly learn.

True Story – Early on, DSH established the baseball bat rule.  The girls were required to have any boys with whom they were going out with for the first time come to the house to meet us.  The boys not only had to come to the door, they had to come into the house.  As a joke with our oldest daughter, who was having a boy come to the house to meet us, he got one of his baseball bats out and put it into the corner by the front door.  He told her that he would use it, if necessary.  It was a joke, but all of our girls thought this was so funny that they started to ask Daddy to get out the baseball bat when a new boy came to call.  And they told the boys about it, too.  While it was all done in good fun, it did send a strong subliminal message that Daddy cared enough about them that he would protect them, and I don’t think the message was lost on the boys either.

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