My eldest child has just turned 18; not 18 months, but 18 years old! I can barely type that sentence on the page. It's frightening, scary, and a little sad. So much has happened over the past 18 years. Her first words, her first steps, her first day of school, her first crush, her first heartbreak. She and I have been through it all together, Mother and daughter, best friends for life.
Our relationship is two-pronged: I am a friend, but I am also a parent. So when it comes to issues like dating, I need to tread softly along that fine line to ensure I am giving her the best advice while maintaining an objective opinion.
Going back to my childhood, like many Indian girls I wasn't allowed to date when I was a teenager. The focus was always on school. Boys were a bad influence and any of my girl friends who dated were somewhat frowned upon. I went to no school dances, no boy-girl parties, or had any members of the opposite sex come over to the house let alone call me on the phone. It just wasn't something my parents supported while my sister and I were still in school. It was frustrating, confusing, and somewhat unreasonable, but I hunkered down and got through it, respecting my parents' wishes.
But today, it's been a different childhood for my 18-year-old. In fact things are very different in my household. My husband and I do our best to maintain the lines of communication. It isn't easy, especially for him. He has not one but two daughters to look out for. What's that old phrase, again?
"With a boy you only have to keep an eye on him, but with a girl it's all the other boys you have to worry about". Believe me he is worried! After all, he remembers what it was like to be a teenage boy with all those hormones raging.
So he can only imagine what boys are thinking about when it comes to our 18-year-old. As a result he tends to want to be more strict regarding boys and boyfriends. "No dating until you're 40,″ he says. And that's where I step in to remind him that our daughter is a smart, independent, confident girl who will not be swayed by the first cute guy that comes along. Well, so far that has not happened.
So dating is not forbidden in our house. In fact its encouraged. I want my daughters to know what is out there. I want them to know what they like, who they like, what defines a good person and what defines a bad person. I do not want them to make the same mistakes I did. I also want them to live and experience life in all its glory. But I also want my girls to date smart. That's where communication plays a key role. We talk about everything. Some topics of conversation can be shocking, but at least she comes to me to ask those scary questions and not someone else who could potentially give her the wrong advice.
Now for me this whole high school dating thing is new, almost foreign. As I mentioned before, I never had the chance to date when I was a teen. In fact I went to an all-girl school, so boys weren't really an issue. As we all know, the Indian culture doesn't really promote dating, unless of course a girl is looking to get married, then dating might be an option.
So the first time my daughter, at the age of 13, came to me and said "Mom there is this really cute guy in school, and I think he likes me ..." my heart jumped. I was excited for her, but also really nervous. How would I handle this? Is she too young to start liking boys? Should I forbid it? Or should I put a smile on my face and press her for all the juicy details? Well, I went for the latter and so far it has worked very well.
For the past five years I have been my daughter's ear when it comes to boys and dating. She is a little nervous talking about it with her stepdad, but she eventually comes around. He on the other hand looks like he is going to have a heart attack every time there is a boy of interest in the picture, but then slowly comes around to accept that dating is an accepted practice in our household. My husband's only saving grace is he is allowed to keep a "baseball bat" handy just for added fear effect on those so-called gentlemen callers. Those poor boys.
My daughter is 18, she will be starting university in September (Ugh! I am so old!) and that opens the door to a whole new path of life. She will be venturing towards a career, towards finding her special someone, and hopefully eventually to marriage and having a family of her own.
The choices she makes are hers and my job is to respect her decisions as she has respected mine as her mother and friend. I hope by allowing her to interact with the opposite sex at a young age, has better prepared her for the right man she will eventually spend the rest of her life with. Now I know I am getting a little emotional here, but I truly feel that the experiences she has had as a child and teenager will really mold her as a woman.
I lived a more sheltered life, with bouts of rebellion in my late teens and early twenties. I think if I had a little more freedom, if I were allowed to date, I would have made different choices and of course different mistakes. But I wouldn't have any regrets. So to my two daughters and son, here's to no regrets and an objective listening ear from your mother.
By Angie Seth
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Read more of Angie's parenting stories on:
Parenting in an interracial marriage here.
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