It was love at first sight…
Of a MySpace picture.
I fell for his perfectly crafted black-and-white portrait right then and there. I didn’t even know his last name, but I didn’t need to. That was of little concern to my 15-year-old heart.
Fast forward a couple of weeks, and I met that boy. Fast forward six months, and he told me he loved me and would marry me someday.
Cue the Palpitations
As a parent, this is where your heart starts to race and beadlets of sweat begin to form along your hairline. High schoolers in “love.” Yuck.
But now, fast forward twelve years, and we are very happily married with two little boys. So it can’t be all that bad, can it?
Having been a young girl madly in love with an even younger boy (only by 5 months, but you better believe he holds it over my head), you’d think I wouldn’t get that ominous pit in my stomach thinking ahead to my boys dating. Mom and Dad’s love story feels like quite the modern-day fairytale, so why the concern?
It’s actually thanks to our rather uncommon meet-cute-turned-happily-ever-after that the pit in my stomach might be even slightly bigger than normal.
The memories of our highly immature love (which, not surprisingly, I’ve come to realize wasn’t yet actually love at all) come flooding back, forming a tidal wave of fear and hesitancy. But someone had felt the same exact way that I will one day; someone had been in those same fearful, hesitant shoes.
My encouraging, supportive, patient, dedicated parents.
So how the heck did they do it?
They Set Boundaries
My parents were what my friends would not so affectionately refer to as strict. I didn’t see most PG-13 movies despite my being older than thirteen. I didn’t get a cell phone until I was a junior or drive until I was seventeen. And I and didn’t get a computer of my own until I left for college.
So, once I began dating, it wasn’t at all shocking when they swiftly established new boundaries.
He wasn’t allowed to set foot in my bedroom, we couldn’t hang out in the basement unless the door remained open, and we shouldn’t be out past eleven. They weren’t absurd rules, and my parents weren’t on some power trip. I was simply being cared for by the two people that I was entrusted to, and they made appropriate choices for me knowing that I was too young to make them for myself.
They Didn’t Burst My Bubble
Remember how my 15-year-old boyfriend told me that he loved me and wanted to marry me one day? Yeah, well you can only imagine my reaction to that incredibly beautiful sentiment sent via instant messenger: I immediately floated on air to my mom and relayed the joyous message.
And, as I reflect on that moment through the lens of a parent, I can only imagine all of the disconcerting thoughts that raced through her mind, not to mention the wisdom that told her that the likelihood of his words being sincere were essentially nil.
But you know what? My mom was ecstatic for me. She hugged me and listened to me rattle off my hopes for a future with this boy, never once attempting to bring me back down to reality. She allowed me the space to dream, to be vulnerable, and to love, knowing that it may very well end in heartbreak; stifling me would only ensure pain now rather than prevent it later.
They Encouraged Me
At fifteen, I had no idea who I even was. I was in the midst of trying to figure all of that out when I met my husband. So it was evident as we began dating that I started to put my identity in being his girlfriend rather than being me. Because who was I, anyway?
Yet my parents encouraged me to be me first, whomever that may be. They reminded me to never put my identity where it didn’t belong and that there was more to life than my newfound love. I still had hobbies, schoolwork, and friends that needed and deserved my attention, so putting my eggs in one basket certainly wasn’t in my best interest. They never discouraged me from dating him; they simply encouraged me to stay true to myself.
So when your daughter comes to you one day and declares that she’s in love, first and foremost, maintain consciousness. Then, do what comes easily: love her. Show her what a profound and beautiful love she deserves, then stand alongside her as she navigates the winding course. You’ll both make it out alive, I promise.