Sunday, December 9, 2012

Future Freakout I: Dating boys

Even before his daughter turns one, this dad is already panicking about high school romance

By Dustin Faber
Future Freakout is a monthly feature where parents of infant or toddler children get stressed out about things that won't happen for at five years down the road.

hen I was a teenage boy, I worshipped the idea of girls. Girls were pretty, girls were romantic, and they made you feel funny in ways that probably aren't appropriate to talk about in this blog. I spent more time than I needed to thinking about the opposite sex, putting my friends and family on the backburner every now and then with the thought that, "This could be my chance to go out with Hermancia! Clear my schedule! I'll be a hermit until I get a kiss!"

That effort would be admirable had I found meaningful relationships in high school. But as it stands, I apparently was not a dateable man, even though I was the most romantic person around and could write really good poetry. I have two possible reasons for this. One, my grandpa was one of the town's most notable citizens, as he was a generous small business owner and upstanding deacon at Waldron First Baptist. This led to a lot of mothers knowing me, knowing I was a "good kid" and probably telling their daughters, "Oh Dustin would be a nice guy to go out with."

Most girls do not want to go out with someone their parents love, so I was blocked before I could even start. The other reason was that I drank A1 sauce out of the bottle and carried around a sock puppet called Mr. Socko (made famous by WWE wrestler Mankind). See, I told you I was a charming boy!

My point is, I spent so much time trying to pursue the opposite sex that I feel it compromised other things I could have been doing. I could have spent more time with friends. I could have been more involved with after-school activities and church stuff. Probably could have read my Bible a little more often and I know that I could have done a better job with my grades (that 12 on the Trigonometry test was a low moment).

Jump ahead 13 years, and I'm a parent to a little girl named Lucy, who is almost nine months old at the time of this writing. She has a smile that will melt your heart, and when people stop us at Mass or at the store and tell us how cute she is, the future dad of a teenager in me winces. If she's this cute now, what's to stop her from being that cute in middle school? And in high school?

And the horror sets in. Some boy, at some point, is going to find my daughter attractive. He's going to want to call her his girlfriend, he's going to want to hold her hand during  Return to the Blue Lagoon 3, and, if he's a good guy, will probably want to marry her someday.

I tell people that I want my kid to be 35 before she can date people without a chaperone, and they laugh thinking it's a joke. But it's no joke to me: It's a man desperate to hold on to his daughter for the rest of eternity. Unrealistic? Yes. A noble cause? Absolutely.

But, am I that crazy? Yes, to limit someone's personal life until their mid-30s is a little extreme, but is it that extreme to say, "No, do not date anyone in high school. Concentrate on school and your friends first." I think about all of that time wasted on my end, and now I have the perfect chance to keep that from happening to someone else. My wife made a good counter-argument the other day: High school relationships is where you learn the basics behind relationships.

The only thing I figured you could learn was how to get dumped and how to break someone's heart. I'll be honest, I can't think of one thing I learned from those failed relationships other than, "I should have been doing something else with my time," or "Man it sucks getting dumped, I'd better get married so I don't have to worry about that ever happening again!"

I'm not the only one conflicted about this. Turning to the internet doesn't seem to provide any answers, because there are so many differing views. Josh McDowell, a highly-respected Christian speaker, gives advice for teens on how to ask girls out for dates. Meanwhile, Josh Harris' book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, is about getting rid of dating in favor of focusing on friendships instead.

The more I think about it, the more I like Harris' idea: If you're going to spend time with boys, do it in a group setting. Focus on friendships. The most fun I had in high school ended up being the time Chuck, Joey and I hit golf balls into a neighboring apartment complex, running back into the house when we hit a building. OK, the second most fun I had in high school ended up being with girls where there was no romance, just friends. It was even that way in college as well. I can't really remember any specific "dates" in high school, but I remember Leena, the German Exchange student, and another of my friends helping me eat a five-pound Hershey bar.

I think being having girls just as friends taught me more on how to relate to women more than any girlfriend I had. With romance, let's face it, that sexual temptation is there when you're in high school (in any relationship for that matter). This is not to say that every high school boy or girl is a hormonal mess, but for me to pretend that I didn't want to get to second base with the few girls I did date would make me a liar.

With female friends, sure that temptation was still there, but it wasn't nearly as big. Instead, I learned things like the importance of listening, and that girls have much different ways of thinking and processing things. I'm still not perfect at these, but I like to think that my friendships with Jenny, Sarah and Robin really prepared me for even more meaningful relationships down the road.

I think my wife could come to some common ground on this. Thankfully, I have some time to prepare for all of this. But I have a feeling that in 15 years, I'll wish I had another 15 years to get ready for that boy knocking on the door because my daughter smiled at him.


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