Dear Well Meaning Friends & Family, I know you mean well, truly I do. And I appreciate the interest you take in my child’s life. But the time has come I really must ask – please stop asking my child if she has a boyfriend.
This question may be the way many adults relate to kids as an easy conversation starter, and I get that. But I want to challenge you to ask yourself, is this question more for my daughter’s benefit or your own?
I really don’t mean to hit you where it hurts. But I’m sure you can understand how this question tends to put one on the spot. If the answer is no, will you express disappointment or will she be met with an awkward silence? If the answer is yes, will she be met with a barrage of questions she doesn’t feel ready to answer?
More importantly, is it right for us as adults to impose a likeness of the word boyfriend between what we know it to mean and what our children interpret it to mean?
My daughter has admired boys for years now and even men, from the time she was just a little girl. When she was 8 years old she looked at a man 4x her age with stars in her eyes and proclaimed him “so handsome” 😉
Like most kids, she is now inclined to call crushes boyfriends, especially because that’s the manner of speaking she is constantly surrounded by. But as adults, we know better. We know there is great difference between a childhood crush and a mutual respect and true commitment between two people old enough to understand what that actually means.
Sure, I remember “marrying” boys on the playground when I was in kindergarten – but I later grew up to understand that was all pretend! I understand experimenting and testing boundaries are a normal part of childhood development – one that ultimately helps kids distinguish fantasy from reality.
While I don’t correct my daughter on her word choice because I don’t feel semantics are worth demotivating her to talk to me openly, I absolutely continue to parent with the end in mind when I talk to my kids about boy/girl issues. In otherwords, I ultimately want my kids to understand they’re ready for a boyfriend only when they’re ready to entrust their heart to another human being and be mature enough for the independence that facilitates this level of relationship. Thankfully, right now my kids are years away from driving age, let alone committed relationships, so we’ve got some time on this one.
All of our children are surrounded by society’s explicit temptations to grow up faster than they need to. Mainstream media and peer influences send kids mixed messages every day that make life hard enough as it is. Kids are also naturally inclined to compare their lives to each other’s and easily jump to conclusions if someone else has something they don’t – like the boy-girl relationships they hear adults talk so much about. Why add to that? Our kids have so much to sort out already.
When kids have been raised in a home where they were taught that your first kiss is a sacred gift you save for the one you love this can be especially confusing. We’ve read books like The Princess and the Kiss with my girls since they were preschoolers. They’ve been sent to summer camps like The Princess Within to learn the value of waiting. This is the foundation my husband and I have laid for our girls and we’d like to keep it strong.
Our children are inundated with conflicting opinions and mixed message enough as it is. So I ask you – help a sister out? Let’s find some new conversation starters for the next time we all get together, shall we? Needless to say, I’ve got your back on this issue too. You won’t hear me asking your kids if they have a girlfriend or boyfriend either. They’ve got their whole lives ahead for that! It’s time to let our kids be kids 🙂
What are your thoughts? Have you struggled with this issue from either side of the fence?