By Kim Chaffin
In this last post, I want to look at how we have tried to balance on this dating tightrope with apartments and a promise ring. If it wasn’t already nerve racking enough when the kids were in high school, our Son has his own apartment and is in a serious relationship with an amazing young lady. Our daughter and her boyfriend are at separate schools on different sides of the state, but when she comes home there is the worry that her boyfriend also has an apartment. It is as if the rope has been raised even higher, and now the fall between the tightrope and the safety net is a much farther drop. In this drop, there is a whole new risk factor and we have to trust that the safety net (God) is securely in place.
We have been very honest with these young adults about our expectations for them. My husband and I have made it very clear to our son that he better be treating his girlfriend the way he would want someone to treat his sister. We are thankful our son is scared of his girlfriend’s dad and my husband has also tried to put a bit of healthy fear into my daughter’s boyfriend. We have also found that we need to really make time to stay connected with our kids. To have fun with them to laugh with them and to allow them to really speak there minds to us. We have a lot of love and laughter in our family and I think that is important because when the big issues do come up we are all very comfortable to talk openly.
Secretly I think my husband loved saying, “See that little girl over there? She is my one and only, and if you get any ideas about hugging and kissing, remember I am not afraid to go back to prison.” I kind of feel sorry for the guy, because after asking my husband if he could date her, as my daughter and I hid around the corner busting up laughing, my husband added to his fear, looked him up and down, and said, “How tall are you? 6’1” or 6’2”?” When he responded, “Yes, 6’2”,” my husband said, “Good, the bed of my truck is 6’5”; you and the shovel will fit in the back just fine.” Oh, I wish I had a camera to have caught the look on his face.
Sorry I digressed, but that is such a funny story, I had to share it. I am back on track now. With the apartment, we cannot be there to monitor our son and his girlfriend. We have to have faith that they will make healthy choices, and so far we have been very impressed with what we see. They asked me to go with them to the lake, because they knew to stay at the cabin without a chaperon would not be right. When my son was given a gift from the baseball team he coached, he asked if I could go with them to Montana to use the gift. The gift was for two people to take a “Walk in the Trees” and one hotel room. He wanted to know if I would go with them and help him to cover the cost of a separate hotel room. My son even called his girlfriend’s dad to ask permission to take her. He explained that his mom would be willing to go, and that his parents would cover the other hotel room. At their age, they could have told us to mind our own business and stayed in 1 hotel room.
Do I cringe at the thought of them being alone in my son’s apartment? Yes I do, but I also have to let go, TRUST and let him be an adult. We still have some very blunt talks with him, and while working on this series, I was blessed to see them give up their Saturday night out with friends to hang with us for a family game night. Our daughter was home from college that night, and she and her boyfriend also joined us. Both couples could have chosen time alone in the apartments but they chose to hang with us. As I sat back and watched the four of them laughing, I was happy to see they were comfortable showing affection in front of us. I believe because we allow them the ability to do that, they don’t feel they need to hide behind closed doors, where things can go too far.
Something else I want to share with you is that a year ago my daughter heard a sermon about waiting for the right person. The sermon was about a young woman who kept a container of change for years. As she received change she added it to her change holder, and prayed over it that some day she would buy the man God had planned for her a wedding ring. My daughter asked me to find her something so she could do the same thing. I found a makeup bag with “Bride” written in bling, and she adds her money to the bag so that someday she can buy her husband a ring. I think it is important to encourage our kids to look towards their future with excitement and this is one way my daughter can do this with out rushing things and getting ahead of God.
The reality is, this young man our daughter is dating and the beautiful young woman our son is dating could become their spouses someday if that is God’s plan, and it is our job as parents to help them to stay pure. Because now we can’t keep them in the safety of the playpen I talked about in my first post, we have to trust we have given our kids a firm foundation to stand on.
At this stage, we believe that communication is our best means of helping our children successfully navigate across the dating tightrope. Not just communication with our kids, but my husband and I also feel it is important to really get to know the young man and young woman in our kids’ lives. We both make time to spend getting to know them. We talk very openly with them about what we want, not only for our own kids, but for them as well. We talk about our faith and our hope that both couples will make wise choices. We believe if they know what we expect, not just from our own kids, but from them also, and how much we want the best for all of them, this will give them the best chance to make it to the other side of the tightrope.
When our kids took the first step off the safety of the platform onto the dating tightrope, in a sense, they left my husband and I behind. As their parents, we are standing on the platform behind our kids as they walk the tightrope. We continue to cover them in prayer and give them words of encouragement as they hold on to the guidelines we set in place. Those guidelines are like the pole that helps to keep them balanced. God is the safety net below in case they stumble and fall. As they get further across the tightrope we know that what waits for them on the other platform is the man and the woman God has planned for them to spend there lives with. As I typed this, I found myself closing my eyes and I could see a hand reaching out to take the hand of each of my children and lift them up onto the platform at the other side. That hand reaching out to help them step onto the platform is their future spouse. There is going to be great joy when they make it. I can see my husband and I standing there with a sense of relief and mixture of emotions, because once they reach that platform on the other side we will find ourselves at their wedding day. I am now in tears as I think of this. It has been scary at times, as our kids have tried to maneuver the dating tightrope. At times I wish I could turn back the clock when my biggest worry was being there to catch them if they fell as they were learning to walk.
As I said in one of my earlier posts I do not have all the answers to dating. The age that worked for us may not work for you. I hope, however, you understand that prayer, communication, clearly stated guidelines, and allowing your children to feel okay about having feelings towards the opposite sex can all help you to guide your child safely across the dating tightrope.