I had my first "boyfriend" when I was in the fifth grade. We even kissed one day after school. Fifth grade! By the time I was in junior high school, I had regular "make out" sessions with a guy who I was "dating". My freshman year in high school, I lost my virginity. I was fifteen years old! Fifteen!!! In no way, shape or form was I ready for the emotional mess that I was making of my life. I was dishonoring myself, my parents, and God. Too young and immature to realize that "love" is not found in the backseat of a car or in the warm fuzzy feelings of holding hands walking down the school halls.
In my quest to love and be loved, I began a down hill spiral of dating guys, giving away more and more of myself emotionally and physically. I was convinced that I needed a boyfriend to be a complete person.
My high school sweetheart and I were committed to each other. I followed him to college, we lived together. There was nothing left to the imagination. We dated for five years and vowed to be together forever. "Forever" ended the summer before my senior year in college when he broke off our engagement. My life came crashing down around me. I was broken. I attempted for months after the break up to mend myself. More guys, more loss. As I scraped and scrambled to pick up the pieces, I found that I did not even know who I was. For years, I had received a large part of my identity from the guys I dated. I did not know how to be alone. I did not know who I was. I was twenty-two years old and utterly lost.
In the years that have followed, I have discovered my true self. I have learned tremendous lessons in love and self sacrifice by being a wife and mother. I have also developed convictions as a parent about what is beneficial for our children. Pete and I both feel like our life stories, the good and bad chapters can be used as teaching tools for us and our children. We are not perfect and we know that our kids are not perfect, they make mistakes and they will continue to, but we are here to point them in the correct direction whenever possible.
Pete and I both feel strongly that our kids should not date until they are in college. College? Yes, college. I know that this sounds radical, but it is our opinion that middle school and high school kids are not ready to date. Let's face it, kids that age are hormonal. They are naturally attracted to the opposite sex and that is normal, but why fuel the hormonal fire? Most kids that age are not self-controlled or mature enough to handle a relationship with the opposite sex beyond a friendship.
So friendship is what we encourage. What more do they need from their peers at this age than to work on developing strong, solid friendships? Isn't that important training ground for the future serious relationships that could lead to marriage?
Kids need to be able to grow, develop and discover who they are without getting lost in someone else. Kids need to be able to concentrate on their spiritual, emotional, mental and social development, their family relationships, and their school work without the distraction of a boyfriend or girlfriend.
The way we see it, there will be plenty of time for our kids to date when they are ready. College is a great place to start. Although, I will say that waiting until at least the second semester of their freshman year in college seems to be a better time to date. That way, they have made it through the first semester adjustment period. Even in college though, dating should be a carefully thought out endeavor, because really, if you are not ready for a commitment, then what is the point of getting into a romantic relationship?
I want to say that my parents raised me right. They tried to instill sound moral values into me. The bottom line here is that we as parents can try to help our kids and try to give them the right tools to navigate life; however, our kids are going to make choices that are not the best from time to time. Our hope that is that our kids will only make those mistakes from time to time and not all the time.
Two great resources on this subject are: I Kissed Dating Goodbye and When Boy Meets Girl by Joshua Harris.