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I remember gasping when I realized my daughter liked a boy at age 12, I mean really liked him, and wanted him to be her boyfriend.  I should have known this was coming, because in kindergarten on the first day…she was kissing a boy on the cheek when I went to pick her up from school. But still, I wasn’t ready for the boy/girl thing as middle school began.  And there aren’t really “manuals” that come with kids on how to navigate the first loves of their lives.  Even if manuals existed for this sort of thing, kids aren’t machines!  They’re all so different!

I suppose parents can just squelch any talk and ban these feelings from the kids, but that won’t really work.  Because she’s still going to write him notes, go to bed at night thinking about that dreamy boy, and wonder what it might be like to hold his hand…or more. 

He’s going to get sweaty palms when he’s around that girl, or gaze at her longingly across the classroom, and wish he could get the nerve to text her hello.

I remember a couple of things we did…not sure if they were right or wrong…but here they are:

One thing I recall that we did that seemed to at least relieve my own fears was to invite the parents over, with the boy, and they did the same in turn.  We made it a family affair of sorts.  We the parents visited and the kids sat and talked to the side, NOT in another room or bedroom.  This just wasn’t allowed.  There’s no point in giving our kids opportunities for mistakes when other opportunities are available.  I don’t know if they kids thought we were silly, but they were just young enough to just be glad we all got together for fun.

Another thing we did was invite the young man out on a date with our family.  He rode with all of us out to dinner or to do something fun.  He got to see how our family operated.  The other parents did the same.  It was so helpful to me as a mom to meet the other mom and dad.   We realized we had a lot of the same values.  The kids got to see us interact together.

Did my daughter end up with this young boy as her husband?  No way.  That boy was her first “love” and she really liked him for quite a while, from age 12-15 maybe.  They never went on an actual date because neither of them was old enough to drive, thank goodness!  But this pre-date time and first love and attraction experience gave us, as a family, time to exemplify what we expected when our kids actually began to like someone again, when they were older.

It wasn’t foreign or weird to have that person of interest come hang out at our house, with the entire family, often.  It wasn’t odd for us to insist on meeting the other parents, and to have outings with both families.  Maybe it was because we started this practice from the get-go.

Parenting teens as they start to like and to love and to wonder and to flutter is hard.  Throwing them out to be alone in those emotions with that person they like is dangerous, when there have been no boundaries or examples set.  But starting out with family time, and keeping it that way, is a good practice to begin from the get-go.  And if they buck that beginning, then they’re in no way ready for the dating scene…

Family is important.  Mom and Dad are part of any relationship that’s starting to foster.  And alone time is just not happening, with early teens…  Parents can set it up that way, and teens can eventually give thanks for those parameters…maybe when they’re grown and gone.  We can always pray that it’s so…

The Beginnings
by Marcy Lytle
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