Here's one thing I've realized since my older girls have left home: they did a fair amount of parenting/nurturing. In their absence, there is no friendly sister upstairs to console, consult, or pal around with Becca. In fact, this enormous resource of wisdom, help, commiseration, and friendship is suddenly very far away. And I'm feeling rather pressured to fill the void -- I mean someone has to.
Point in case: Becca was asked out on a "date" of sorts last weekend. I won't go into details here, but rest assured that once I caught wind of the details I was all "No. No way. No chance. No how." Had her sisters been around they would have easily recognized this was not a plan I would endorse. But since their wise words were thousands of miles away, I had to give a little dating talk of my own. I remembered a story I heard in church many moons ago that I thought might get my point across, and I share it here with you. (I believe this is a Boyd K. Packer story.)
I told Rebecca to imagine that she had worked for a long time to save up enough money to buy a new car. In fact, she had saved money from numerous summer jobs and babysitting gigs and hours of backyard weed-pulling. For birthdays and Christmases there had been no presents, only a request to add to her car fund. And after many years of hard work and sacrifice, she finally had enough. She marched down to the car dealership and bought a beautiful, shiny, red convertible (in my mind it's a Mini Cooper). She loved that car and took careful care of her new prize. One night, as she was leaving with friends, she realized that her car was too small for the group and ran back inside, handing me the keys.
"Mom, we are taking a friend's car instead. Could you move this into the garage for me?"
"Sure, no problem."
But later that night when she arrived home, she found the garage empty. She quickly became concerned and rushed inside to ask me about her car.
"Oh. A nice boy stopped by and asked if he could borrow it."
Becca immediately unleashed a torrent of questions, "WHO? Why? Where was he going? When will he bring it back?"
"Oh," I replied. "I don't remember his name, but he's been over once or twice before. He just really needed a car, and he seemed super honest and nice."
And, of course, because real-life Becca is a wise and thoughtful girl, she began to put two and two together. She's a far greater treasure, I told her, than any old convertible. And when she goes out with a boy, he needs to be someone trustworthy. Someone with a plan and excellent intentions. We need to know where she is going, and when she will be back. And sometimes, for less overt reasons (to her), we may be reticent to send our treasure into uncertain adventures.
But then I also reassured her, as with her sisters before her, that this was a period of training. And soon enough she'd be at college, completely free to make her own decisions and to date whomever she saw fit. Right now though, I have a mere two and half years to teach her the ways of dating, and honoring, and being true to herself. You know, all those elements necessary to being a good person and a productive citizen. Such a grave responsibility requires a certain degree of bossiness on my part and gracious receptiveness on hers. So let's work together here folks!
Honestly, I'm feeling really good about the whole thing. Of course, the raw material is excellent.
What about dating in your family? Any dos or don'ts to share?
[Note: Becca is newly 16, and in our family 16 is the magic dating age -- although we encourage group dating until our kids are out of high school. And we make prospective dates submit to polygraph testing. ]
Just kidding about the polygraph part. Sort of.