Tuesday, January 16, 2007

My teenage daughter and her first-ever (the horror, the horror) boyfriend.

Thanks, Anna Rae, for your steadying words. I really do need to take that step back, that focus-on-the-present-moment breath. Maybe that will help my mind stop ricocheting back and forth like a pinball; it starts at the Scylla of Rose's nonexistent (but possible!) future of STDs, AIDs, rape, and totally idiotic teenage boys and bounces over to the Charybdis of my own past of lots of really stupid choices and, well, idiotic teenage boys. Fear and projection-- a disfunctional combo plate to serve yourself, if ever there was one. And I'm being flooded by so many weird memories...

- I'm 14 and my best friend, Annemarie, has just come back from a make-out session (with and Italian boy named Giovanni) on the ball field. She's calling me excitedly and pointing to her jean leg saying, "Elizabeth! Elizabeth! Look, my first sperm! I'm going to cut it out and frame it!!"

-I'm 15 and at a dance. A boy I had previously had a crush on comes up and asks me if I know where the girl who currently has a crush on him is. I say no. He's clearly drunk. He wanders off, wobbly, disconsolate, and horney. Later he finds me again and asks me if I want to go out the the field. We all know what happens in the field, though it's never happened to me before. I say, "OK." We leave the dance and he waits to hold my hand until we're beyond the lights of the party, so no one can see. We make out and, never having done it before, I do it badly. It's boring and awkward for me. At one point he says insistently, "Bite me, bite me," and I have no idea what or where I should bite.

And there's no way we can protect them from these clumsy , is there? I'm guessing, also, that this is hardest the first time around. Probably by the time Eliza (now 8) tells me she's dating I'll be entirely blase about the whole thing; 'OK honey, here's some birth-control pills and some condoms. Have fun!'

As further middle-aged mom laugh therapy, anyone who wants to can leave a pitiful, humiliating, or funny (not dirty or gross, please) teenage memory for me to laugh at.
As always, lots of love, Elizabeth


Will said...

All of the following can be filed under the "Well, that's easy for you to say, you're not a parent" or "You'll understand when you have kids" cagegories.

That being said, kids (as well as adults) have to make their own mistakes. Mom & Dad may tell you not to put the screwdriver in the outlet, but if you insist on doing it, you'll find out why they told you not to.

It'll be OK, T. Hell, dating is almost as scary for them as it is for you. And as much as you want to protect them, they're at that age where the phrase "My life is OVER" gets thrown around every other day, and they may get hurt. But it's life, and it's not quite the real world, and 10 years from now, they'll be laughing and trading heartbreak stories.

Hang in there.

Anna Rae said...

I have learned that my daughter isn't nearly as "bad" as I was. I know what I was up to at 23 and she isn't, thank God! It really is hard to not expect her to do the same things that I did. That's when I remember, "Oh yeah, she's not me!" and acknowledge that some of her choices have actually been safer/better than mine at her age.
I think that one of the best pieces of advice that I ever gave her (she was 14 maybe 15?) is to not confuse sex with love. I also educated her fully about, birth control, HIV and AIDS. I did add that it is much, much nicer when there is a deep emotional connection, nothing finer. She also had access to our library, a bool entiltled Human Sexuality was frequently stashed in her room.
I was taught that one had to be in love to have sex. Well I know exactly when I began to want sex so I talked myself into being "in Love". What a tragic mistake for a 16 year old girl, dumped after the first go! Maybe you remember seeing me around school, very depressed, shattered self esteem and beginning to slide down a very slippery slope. I think that I have helped safe my daughter from some unnecessary heartache.

jo cabaniss said...

(Maybe I shouldn't have included my last name - never blogged before and I just noticed people are only signing their comments using their first name only. . . oh well)
Reading about you and Annemarie made me laugh - I remember those times too well. Do you remember Wayne? We were out in the field making out and he was going crazy over the smell of my hair and asked what kind of shampoo I had used. I started laughing because I had run out of shampoo and used some dishwashing detergent - Chinese dishwashing detergent - that pink stuff, whatever it was. When I think back on my teen years and some of the guys who were my boyfriends I can't help but shake my head and realize that so much of it was just hormones going crazy.
The whole dating thing can be kind of scary now that we are on the other side as "the parents". My girls are older than yours. Jessie will be 23 in April. Heidi just turned 21 in November. Lauren will be 18 in May. My stepdaughter, Laura, is 19 and will be 20 in July.
I have certainly had my rollercoaster rides with my girls, however, I have always tried to let them be themselves, let them know that I love them and am interested in them. I have tried to keep communication open and talk with them. I don't get shocked too easily and I feel very blessed in that they tell me way more than I ever would have told my parents. I know there is still a lot they don't tell me, but I am surprised at times how candid they are - I think it is because they feel safe with me and I am thankful for that.
I think it is important to set boundaries, give guidelines and expectations for your kids - they may gripe about things, but I think that they feel safer if you, as the parent, take the initiative to define some boundaries - what is "okay" and what is not. Growing up is kind of like a game in that it helps if you know some of the rules. In a world where things can seem so abstract, and with all the changes of puberty - physically, emotionally and socially - guidelines are helpful. Know though that our children will make their own choices despite what we tell them. They are going to do what they want or feel like doing at the moment they have the choice.
It has been proven that children feel more loved when their parents are involved in their lives and set reasonable guidelines and expectations - they may not seem reasonable to your teenagers, of course! I tried to discourage one on one dating especially during the earlier teen years. I also have never allowed my girls to be home alone with a boyfriend, to allow it just seemed to be asking for trouble. For me as aspect of being a teenager that was almost more worrisome was when they started driving. At least when we were living in Taiwan our parents didn't have to worry about who we were driving with since we either walked, took taxis or buses. Something else you may have noticed is that when your children are younger you tend to know the parents of your children's friends, but as your children grow older you often find yourself in a situation where your child is wanting to hang out with someone you know very little about, and you certainly don't know their parents.
There is nothing wrong with asking to meet their friends before allowing them to hang out. There is also nothing wrong with making a parent contact and exchanging phone numbers. I have made it a point to always find out the first and last names of my daughters' friends, and also any contact info - phone #'s and home address.
It is also a good idea to tell your teen that if there is ever something happening that they don't feel comfortable with or safe that they can call you and ask you to pick them up, no questions asked. Sometimes kids get in situations they want to get out of but they won't call their parents because they don't want their parents to know what is going on.
Anyway, I've said way too much - this is a comment section, not a place to write a book!
Talk to you later -