There are no rules to date my daughter. I don’t need you to have rules.
She (they) has… or will have, all the
rules information she needs to date, at least that’s the plan. Of course, all the good in the word paves the path to Hell, but all the assumptions that whomever your child chooses to date will be bad sets them up to fail, too. Relationships are hard… one of the hardest things in life. As adults, very few of us, myself included, have learned it all, and we need to work hard to maintain our relationships- from friends to partners to our children and parents.
So when it comes to love; when it comes to helping my children grow and learn, I cannot simply put rules on dating. I must teach in order to protect. In life, rules are not always productive alone, but as my 2016 word: Autonomy declares, learning to govern oneself can create independence, and that can move mountains.
There are rules for my daughters to date, of course. I’m a parent and we make rules… The Rules, as they’re often referred to in this house. In our home, it’s not our job to govern anyone but ourselves, and we have all the tools we need to do so. As a family, we discuss and confer- most things are only up for a debate if you are a creator (ie parent), but I’m certainly open for negotiation in some areas. Others, I am not.
I have seen post after post and multiple memes that discuss RULES TO DATE MY DAUGHTER or RULES TO DATE MY SON. But these all seem threatening, unnecessarily aggressive and aimed at instilling some sort of fear- whether emotional or physical- on the opposite sex. And, ultimately, this line of thinking isn’t funny; it’s denying our children the opportunity to date, to learn. These lists seem more to bully the dater and infantalize our children: This is my child, don’t make me remind you.
But your child knows they are yours. You’ve raised them with love and respect. And you respect others, whether it’s a spouse or partner or friend or the checkout clerk at Target. You have prepared your child, and thus the threat of owning a glock, or reminding any girl who darkens your step that you are her son’s first love, is unnecessary right?
I have to set some guidelines for dating, as I mentioned, but these are not for your child to follow, I trust that you can handle that. So here’s what I’m teaching, and I hope that reflects in loving relationships… even when they end up in broken hearts.
- She must love herself and respect her decisions.
- She must understand her actions have consequences to herself and those who love her. Love is not a game, and the heart is not a toy.
- She must know that no means no, and no one can force her to change her mind. She needs to know no one should even try. Physical or emotional abuse is not love. She cannot change someone who does not want to be changed. She cannot force herself to feel comfortable in a situation where she is not safe. She must understand this. She must put her safety first.
- She must follow her heart, but make sure her brain is in step.
- There are no “roles” anyone plays, male or female, and any expectations of those from anyone else are not a form of love or respect.
- She must understand that no relationship is “50/50”. All relationships are 100/100- you put yourself in, or it’s just not worth it.
- Most relationships don’t end in marriage, and all marriages do not end in divorce. Relationships are work. While heartbreak will happen, she needs to know that it’s OK when something ends- that’s not failure. And it’s OK to be excited when something begins- sometimes that’s the best part!
- She must understand that her partner is not there to be her support, but to be there in times of need, as she needs to be as well. If she isn’t willing to support, then, she cannot expect to be supported in return.
- Her job is not to convince us (her parents) to like her chosen partner- she should choose who she cares for with all respect for herself, mind and body. If she does this, we will surely come to care for him or her, as well.
- She can always call for help, advice, or an ear. Always.
Some of these seem like things your average “tweenager” may not grasp. If my girls reach the point of wanting to date, but perhaps don’t have the love for themselves, the understanding of the importance of their safety, or are ever made to feel bad about their feelings- dating will not be for them, yet.
I cannot control every aspect of their hearts, but I can both protect them by giving them the personal tools they need to be autonomous in their relationships, and I can hold them close and guide them towards loving the most important person in their lives now- them- so someone else can later. Of course, when their beautiful hearts are broken, a part of my own will be, as well. I’m sure I will feel a twinge of pain and bitterness, but breakups and heartache are all a part of life- who am I to spare them from that?