My Teen Girls Are Dating And I Try Not To Get Too Invested — But Wow They Make Some Choices
By Paula Schuck
Photo © Terralyx/Twenty20
Mar 26, 2020
A lanky teen boy with a mustache stands on my porch knocking on the door.
When someone new starts dating one of my daughters, they come to the door. Period.
We need to meet the people they date. This is non-negotiable in my world. They will not hook up at the mall or at a coffee shop. Oh, for sure they have tried, but I think I have caught it — most times, anyway.
There’s something especially horrible about parenting a child through the dating phase. My girls are 15 and 18 now, so we’ve seen our fair share of dates. And they have been good, bad and truly messy. Sometimes, I can put myself in their shoes and remember those early days when things are new and a little magical. That feeling of meeting an interesting boy or girl not being able to wait until you get to spend time together.
Other times, I kind of shake my head and wonder: what are you thinking.
Parenting teens? Read about CTFD Parenting here.
Young Love is Awkward
Oh, I know there’s a certain acceptable level of eye-rolling and hand-wringing that goes along with watching teens negotiate relationships, but let’s face it, as parents we want the best for our children and youth.
I’d love to be able to communicate what I know and have them nod and say: “Yes, you are right.” But teens are not built that way. As a parent, it’s hard not to feel invested when they bring home a boyfriend or girlfriend.
That first time my oldest girl brought home a boy, we were tentatively optimistic. He was a handsome young man who got great grades and knew what path he wanted to pursue after high school. He was fit and athletic. He treated his parents with respect. More than that, he was respectful, patient and kind and I watched the way he treated her, even on a couple of occasions when she had an anxiety attack. This bodes well, I thought.
They dated for about a year and then — for reasons I am still not privy to — they broke up. While we weren’t close, there was a short mourning period, because like it or not I got invested in the idea of envisioning her future with someone like this youth.
Since then, we’ve seen a series of boys and young men knocking on our door. Sometimes, I wish I could simply block some straight at the door and send them packing, but then I remember these are all learning moments and they are important for her. Imagine me standing there with score cards, docking points for lateness, being dishevelled, too old, too young, too nervous.
The Many Teens at My Door
The mustache. Nice enough, but he needed more mental health care than he was getting, and my daughter thought she could help him. Cue eye roll. Clearly not healthy for either one of them, so I voiced my concerns and waited it out.
There was the boy one met through friends in drama club. He aspired to become a chef, but he quickly displayed flaky behaviour that was disrespectful of her time. He showed up late for dates a few times, cancelled and stood her up one night during Christmas holidays leaving her heartbroken.
Next came summer boy, 19, who lived with roommates, had no job and was taking a break between high school graduation and university or college. He said all the right things when I was in the room. Polite, attentive and sweet, but my Spidey senses were on alert. This one had a few too many girl followers on Instagram. That’s right. I scope all of their prospective dates out on social media.
"This one had a few too many girl followers on Instagram. That’s right. I scope all of their prospective dates out on social media."
That one hugged a bit too long, clinging way more than the occasion warranted. I didn’t trust him. My suspicions proved valid when he invited her away on a weekend getaway after dating her for three entire weeks. UM, NO. They broke up soon after my 18-year-old told him she couldn’t go away for the weekend with him.
One of my teens briefly dated a girl who was immature. She lived with her parents, then suddenly she didn’t. When they broke up, it was a wild mess complicated by social media.
So, what’s a parent to do? I learned early on to stop getting invested. Teens are meant to date and explore and make some mistakes. It’s part of growing up. It’s also torture to watch my kids make dating choices you I don’t agree with. And with my parent goggles on, I see the outcome before it happens.
Not sure teens can teach you anything? Well, they taught this parent about gender. Read about that here.
I Can Only Do So Much
I also know that saying something like, “That person is not right for you. They will let you down or break your heart,” will be met with opposition, irritation and outright hostility.
I’ve learned that a boy or girl someone dates at 15, or even 18, is highly unlikely to be around two to three years from now.
I have to ignore a lot and let it play out. Of course, I step in to enforce limits if there’s anything questionable or worrisome happening. If safety is at issue ever, I speak up. I remind them what appropriate behavior is right now and reinforce the discussions they’ve had at school about consent.
"When relationships end, those are times I tell them hearts that break and knit themselves together again are healthy."
I have been married more than two decades now, so dating in 2020 is out of my wheelhouse entirely. But I also point out occasionally that their dad treats women with respect and that’s what they should also expect. Period.
Though their chosen love is often not remotely worthy of their attention, I bite my tongue hard and never blurt I told you so. From time to time, I’m a shoulder to cry on when hearts shatter. Retail therapy, baking, movie nights and hugs are, I hope, reminders they are loved. When relationships end, those are times I tell them hearts that break and knit themselves together again are healthy.
I used to worry they fell in love too fast and said I Love You too easily. Now, I see this as the gift that it is and am grateful. Raising kids into young adults who are kind and loving is a parenting success story.
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