I met my daughter’s boyfriend for the first time the other day while dropping her off at the movies. As he approached me, he looked me in the eye, said hello, and asked how I was. I told him I was happy to meet him and that I hoped they had fun.
He was sweet, he was polite, he was excited to spend time with my daughter — isn’t that how we want our kids’ peers to be, whether they are dating or just friends?
When I picked my daughter up, she said that he had told her how nervous he was to meet me. While I know some sort of nervousness is normal in these situations, I was hoping it wasn’t stemming from the idea that I would grill him, or come down on him just because he likes my daughter. He deserves to feel comfortable and be treated the same way I’d treat one of her friends.
I have two sons and a daughter, and they are entering a time when they are interested in romantic partners. I had boyfriends who I did things with outside of school functions at their age, and it was a fun wonderful time.
But there was, and still is, a strong stigma when it comes to boys dating our daughters. Many of us feel that boys are only driven by their penises and will probably leave our daughters a sobbing mess. The jokes start when they are young about how we won’t let them date until they are 30, and how when the prom date arrives, it’s a good time to polish the ol’ gun collection. The dialogue needs to change.
A study done by Journal of Adolescence proves otherwise, so it’s time to stop this whole “You better not hurt my daughter or you’ll have to answer to me” crap.
The study surveyed 105 boys whose average age was 16. It found their reasons for dating were more driven by feelings of “like” or “love,” as well as a genuine desire to get to know a girl, rather than wanting to get physical.
Trying to intimidate kids, especially boys, about dating your own children is doing us all a disservice. Not only have I seen the way my son treats his girlfriends with respect and understanding, but I’ve watched how his girlfriends’ parents treat him with respect and understanding, too. He feels welcome to be himself and not like he is being constantly judged. And no one wants their child to feel that much pressure, regardless of the circumstances.
I’ve taught my daughter to trust and decide if a boy is or isn’t for her. If she comes to me with something he’s done to upset her, that’s a different story — just as it would be a different story if a girl did something horrible or damaging to my son. There are always times when interventions need to happen, or we advise our kids to steer clear of another person — but not before they have done anything wrong. That just isn’t fair.
When we hover or warn another child of hurting ours, or accuse them of having wrong intentions, not only is it unnecessary and uncomfortable for everyone, but it makes them feel they aren’t capable of treating another person with decency — as if they come from a home where their parents don’t teach them respect, manners, and how to behave. I don’t know a mother or father of a son out there who wouldn’t take offense to these allegations, especially if their child has done nothing wrong.
This behavior also implies our girls are our possessions. Yes, we want to protect them and hate to see their hearts broken, but heartbreak is inevitable. I want to teach my daughter how to deal with it in a healthy way. I never want one of her boyfriends to feel like he had to stay with her because he was so afraid of what her parents would do to him. And I wouldn’t tolerate it if another adult tried to guilt or scare my son.
I’m not saying there isn’t a time and place to have a talk with our daughters’ boyfriends, but it should never happen unnecessarily as a way to try and scare or intimidate them.
Honestly, no one wants to deal with being intimidated, and our kids are no exception. This way of thinking infuses drama and conflict while they are just kids trying to figure things out. And most of them are pretty damn amazing, which means we need to give them (and their parents) credit by trusting them until they give us a reason not to.