Thursday, May 13, 2010

A new rant: part 1

Sometimes I feel like I'm the only Mom in the world who feels a certain way, so I need to post a rant and see if there are any earthlings out there who agree with me.

First off, if you do disagree with me, you are probably "normal", so don't feel the need to tell me how normal you are. I already know. And just so you know, I love normal people. But I don't feel the need to connect with my normal friends at the moment.

Calling all abnormal friends!! Please come to the surface, please. I'm feeling lonely.

O.K. now that you are all here--all 12 of you-- thanks for joining me today.

So, what is my rant?

I'm trying to get my head around this enough to focus my thoughts, but this is the gist of what it is:

Why do perfectly normal Christian people allow or even encourage dating amongst their own children or other young people?

The reason I am asking is because: I don't get it.

I realize that the age at which young people are ready for relationship stage varies from kid to kid, but it seems that the kids who are the least prepared for life (no prospect of employment, no real goals, no real direction) are also the most likely to be involved with a teen relationship.
My question is for the parents of these aimless young people: What is the goal for your child in this casual dating experience? Are you hoping this experience will prepare them for marriage? Will it deepen their relationship with the Lord? Is it developing or stunting their emotional growth? Is it helping or hurting them with their educational or professional goals? Are they developing socially as an adult? Is this aiding or distracting from living a holy life?

I can not even see one benefit from casual teen dating. Nor, would I take it lightly if I sensed my kids wanted to be involved in any relationship with the opposite sex. I would take it seriously and soberly, praying with them for guidance and direction from the Lord.

We are not legalistic style parents. We have not set a magical "age" for dating/ courtship. I just expect them to behave like adults when the time comes.

For our sons, I would ask them this question: how do you plan to support a wife? If they are so far from financially supporting someone (let's say at age 16..) then, why would you want to get involved with someone when marriage is so far off?

For our daughter also. Is this young man going to support you?

Obviously, financial constraints are not the only questions, but they do put the issue in perspective for a 16 or 18 year old. I suppose there are a few industrious lads out there who could pull off marriage at a young age. But let's just think about these things.

It's not to say that young people may not have an "inkling" of who they would like to marry at a young age; I think that is entirely possible. But the "couple status" at a young age is probably not in the best interest of most..

Thoughts?


23 comments:

Mrs. Santos said...

I'm there with you...total agreement.

Lawgirl said...

I can understand some of what you're saying.

Are you equating dating with sex? In that case, of course I would rather teenagers not engage in that (though it's been happening since the dawn of time...)

I think being in a relationship takes practice just like anything else does before you're good at it. That's why I think dating is important - although not at the age of 15.

I think it helps you figure out what you do want and what you don't want, what character traits are compatible and which ones are deal breakers.

I know that I look at teenagers now and see their angst over their relationships and I think, honey, in a year, this won't matter. But THEY don't know that.

I would simply keep cautioning them to keep it casual and just enjoy the ride. Learn from the mistakes. Learn from the experience.

Herding Grasshoppers said...

Ack. *sigh*

I'm with you.

"Sport dating" really has no positive benefit whatsoever. Unless you really want to practice getting divorced. (Start a relationship, get emotionally - at the least - involved, then break it off painfully, and take up with someone else. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.) I can think of a zillion better ways to practice relationships!

My oldest is 13 and showing no interest in the opposite sex yet. Hallelujah. So, to be fair, this is all theoretical at this point. But... my M.O. is this:

1. You shouldn't get married until you're ready to support a spouse and have children, because - face it - even if you "plan" differently, it could happen sooner than you think. Doesn't have to mean house-yard-minivan, but ready to start a family.

2. You shouldn't be dating until you're ready to marry.

You're welcome.

Julie

The FitzGerald Family said...

Jumping up and down over here with a big sign saying, "I agree!" I teach a purity class for junior high girls at our church. One of the things I share with them is that they need to not only keep themselves physically pure, but emotionally as well.

Dating will end in one of two ways: either they will marry or they will separate. It is the extremely rare relationship that makes a lasting marriage which started in the teen years. That means that the odds are stacked highly on the separating side, which means that dating is like practicing divorce. You get emotionally entangled and then you separate.

One of the illustrations I have for the girls in the class is made with a piece of very expensive chocolate at the beginning of the lesson. I tell them that they will get to eat it, but that they have to wait until I tell them it's okay. Then I proceed with the lesson. Periodically, I ask them to pick it up, smell it, even open the wrapper...but not to eat it! At the end of the lesson, I ask them how they liked being able to smell, see, and touch, but not to enjoy eating. None of them like it! They all were distracted from the lesson by having the chocolate so close but not something they could eat. That's Christian dating to a T! "Here kids, see each other, get emotionally involved, but be holy and pure and don't go too far." Is it any wonder that the teen sex rate among Christians is not that much different than their secular friends???

I was talking with a 16-year-old boy the other day. When he pretended to show interest in a girl (genuine pretense, not true feelings), I asked him if he was ready to support her. Did he have a job? A home for her to live in? Was he ready to become a father? No??? Then back off, bud! You're in no position to woo a girl's heart. Finish your education. Get a job. Look for a godly woman who you would want to be the mother of your children. Then we can talk.

Okay, off my soap box here. Just to let you know, you have a cheerleader in your corner over here.

Kathryn said...

Ok, i'm not a parent, so i'm probably disqualified right there.

I'm also not from a "normal, healthy family" so that's another point against me.

I think i've told you this before, but i moved out as soon as i turned 18 & i had never dated. I didn't have good boundaries or a good understanding about life in general. I didn't grow up with brothers & essentially knew nothing about men. I know that my experience is not what your kids have had, nor most other children raised in healthy families.

However, even in my unhealthy family, had i dated before i moved away i would have had some "protection" from making bad choices & being with people whom i did not understand their motivations. I would have had some experience in how to handle other people & how people related to one another. Waiting until after i was 18 & living on my own to navigate those waters was a BAD thing.

I believe that "causal dating" among teens - really casual as opposed to becoming "serious" helps teens to understand relationships & how to relate to others & how to develop boundaries. Maybe this isn't needed in healthy families &/or children who grow up with siblings of the opposite sex. However, it would have been a vital learning process for me & dating was devastating for me without that understanding of people.

Persuaded said...

Well gracious me, what a timely topic.

Last night, my son took his sister to her ballet class (it's only a block away, so this basically consists only of walking her over, helping her untie her shoes, sitting in the waiting area until class is over, helping her re-tie her shoes, then walking her home.) According to other adults present, he was literally swarmed with young girls from age 10-14yo... giggling, flirting and "asking to be his friend." Now, I'm sure they were very sweet nice little girls... and honestly I don't blame them for having a hard time resisting the appeal of my handsome and charming son;-D.. but the kid is only 11yo for crying out loud! We sat down last night and had a chat about the whole dating thing and we're ok for now, but I'm not deluded enough to think that this won't come up again and again and again. The neighbor boy- a sweet adorable kid- is "dating" girls already, many of whom are years older than he is. EEEEEEEk! I'm tempted to wrap my son in cotton wool for the next decade... or at least dress him like a complete dork or maybe not supply him with deodorant and personal hygiene products*... anything to keep this whole issue at bay.


*just kidding about the personal hygiene products- don't call CPS, ok? ;-D

Kristi Lea said...

I could write a book on my feelings towards this matter. Dating is by far the worst and most horribly dangerous thing you can allow your teenager to do. We aren't even going to allow our twenty-somethings to date, if they are still in our home. We are going the courtship route. I really wish more people understood the danger in it.

Let me start by saying that both my husband and I dated many people before we married, and when we married, I was only 17 and he was 20. So I can talk on this subject from experience! The emotional baggage that I brought into the marriage was rediculous. And the expectations that he had of marriage were just as rediculous. I can't go in to what all we went through, but I can tell you we split up...many times before we finally came into what I call, "a steady christian marriage" the way God intented it to be. And there are still emotional scars and barriers that I have today from my "dating" experience.

I don't have the time to get into all my feelings on this subject, but let me say that you are NOT ALONE HERE SISTER!!! We may be abnormal, but Jesus said we would be, and there's nothing wrong with that!

Kristi Lea said...

Let me also add, that there is no need to get emotionally (or physically)attatched to someone to find out if they are the right mate or not. Lustfull feelings are misleading and very harmful. If you have an attraction to someone, and you feel they will be a good provider, father or a good mother, wife and the parents agree...that's all you need. Marriage is not supposed to be about lustful feelings and whether each person is getting what they want out of it. It's a lifetime commitment of Godly love and respect. There's no need to practice before hand. Marriage is a special bond that is at it's strongest when the couple has not brought in baggage from previous relationships. There are no character flaws that are dealbrakers. Once in that union, the wife must submit to her husband and the husband must lead his household. Not bicker and argue until they both compromise. This is what I believe dating trains people to do, instead of the way God ordained it. Okay, I'm going to make 500 comments if I don't just quit now!

Jenny P. said...

I wish I hadn't dated. So much drama and heartache.

I do want to say I'm glad you're committed to looking at each kid one on one rather than having a set age. I met my husband just before I turned 20 and married just after turning 21. My sister is nearly 22 and not yet ready to settle. Each person is so very different, and God has different time tables for each of us.

Organizing Mommy said...

Wow!! Great responses! It's so fun when everybody chimes in! I'm amazed that there are so many of you who see the issue the way I do. I have more things to say on this topic. I think sex and dating go hand in hand, in MOST cases. But even if there's no sex, there's emotional attachments being made. I wish I could say that this type of dating doesn't leave scars, but I fear it does.

Kathryn, perhaps you moved out for shelter/ safety reasons? That would explain things. I wish I could have been your mama!

Kayla said...

I totally agree! I never really dated until I met my husband, but that didn't mean that I didn't want to - I wasted way too much time thinking about guys I had "crushes" on - but never noticed me.
My lack of dating experience I can only think of as a blessing, God protected me, even though at the time I felt like a total loser.
I'm already encouraging my kids (10,7,4) to wait for the one God has picked out for you. I really feel like God was a matchmaker for my husband and me (married nearly 13 years).
I want to encourage my kids to not waste emotional energy on crushes and there will be no dating. Definitely courtship.
Think of what kids can accomplish during the teen years when they're not wasting all their energy on attracting/keeping the attention of the opposite sex?

Jan Hatchett said...

Amen! As a school teacher, even at a Christian school, I see the drama caused by this very issue daily.

I am not encouraging my children to date! My hubby and I didn't (personal choice, but supported by parents) and we have avoided much pain.

sara said...

I think I agree with you, but if your children, at the age of 16 or 17 or 18, wanted to date, how would you stop them?

Jen said...

So I guess I'm just a little confused, and don't think I'm against your views because I totally respect them.

I myself didn't date a whole lot before I met my husband but that was just because I had better things to do than worry about silly teenage boys :) In the one comment, the poster said that you don't need to be emotionally attached to want to marry someone? That sounds like an extreme statement to me. I got married to have a fulfilling and loving relationship that would honor God and each other, not to find someone to put food on my table and give me babies. I dated my husband about four years before we decided that marriage was right for us. Sure, we were the same people when we met and he was equipped to take care of me at that time but we weren't in the right place for marriage. If we would have done it then I think it would have been a totally different start to our marriage, and not in a good way. Everyone is different and there's no way you can apply the same statements and ideas to each person. We are all made differently and it honestly kind of scares me that people would get married off of first impressions and a parents opinion. It seems to me you could get stuck in a bad relationship and not even know the difference, having had no prior experiences.

Sorry if I offended anyone with my views, just trying to show kind of another side with the same motives!

sara said...

OM, just to clarify, you're talking about underage, recreational dating, right? Not the kind with matrimony in mind?

The dB family said...

I'm in full agreement with you too!

Blessings!
Deborah

Organizing Mommy said...

What I was referring to was the high school "dating" experience,not the type of relationship where the parents and child agree on developing a relationship that could potentially result in marriage.

Here again, I am unsure of what age that may be. My children are: 18, 16, 14, 12 and 5. So far, none of them are ready for dating/ courting/ emotional attachment relationships with the opposite sex.

I have heard of kids being ready for this commitment at younger ages, but our lives and our kids' lives have been different than those families.

I think the process should be as unstilted as possible. There are some extreme views on this. Of course, we want there to be emotional attachments to the person that you are going to marry. I hope there would be a good heap of physical attraction also.. LOL. But to be experimenting with these with no obvious plan for marriage in mind is what I am referring to casual dating.

Mrs. Parunak said...

I, too, am totally, completely, 100% AGAINST casual dating. I do not think it's possible to do without creating some level of emotional bond, which then gets ripped apart when you "break up" and means that you are, as many others have said, practicing for divorce. You also never really completely get over the people you've been bonded to, and you take a little piece of them with you for the rest of your life. That is baggage that we absolutely don't need in our marriages.

The only place I differ from the mainstream courtship crowd is that I met my husband when he had just turned 16 and I was still 14. That is really young. But we both knew. We knew we wanted to marry each other. It wasn't just that we were filled with teenage hormonal twitterpation. We were soul mates. And we saw it pretty much immediately. Obviously, the young man who would become my husband couldn't support me at that point. But wanting to marry me provided the drive to grow up as quickly as possible. At the age of 22, he had an engineering job, and we were married. At that point, we had seven years of committed, serious, totally not casual, long distance (Michigan to Oregon) letter writing, phone calls, and visits with each others' families under our belts. My only regret is that we didn't find a way to get married sooner. Conventional "courtship" would have had us wait to have any kind of relationship at all until my husband landed that job. But we would have had NO contact whatsoever (because of our long distance), and who's to say what would have happened? I think there's room within what you called "behaving like adults" to say, "I want to marry you. I'm heading towards supporting you as quickly as possible. Please wait for me." I realize most 16 and 14 year olds aren't ready to say that, but we were, so it's hard for me to completely jump on the "no relationships until you're ready for support" bandwagon. I'd be much more inclined to say, "no relationships until you understand that this is serious business and are ready to commit for a lifetime."

Organizing Mommy said...

Wow! Mrs. P, your example is an inspiration to us all. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could raise all of our 14 and 16 year olds to behave as maturely as you did? That is the level of maturity I am talking about. Sounds like a Bible story I know.. Jacob working for Rachel?

Yes, if my kids found someone at that age, I'd be on board with it, if they handled the situation the way you guys did.

It just goes to prove the benefit of blogging--continually honing ones opinions and broadening ones views to being led by the Holy Spriit!

LA said...

OMommy, I had to check in on this one. So many good comments here!

Two words: EMOTIONAL PURITY. In fact, check out the book by that name: http://www.emotionalpurityreview.blogspot.com/

And one big caution: No Private Relationships. This includes getting attached to someone via texting, internet chat, etc. If you wouldn't make contact in person, if you wouldn't call her/him on the phone, if you wouldn't write her a letter, don't text her. Keep it public.

The one comment I haven't noticed, and which is critical, is that my teens/young adults Completely Agree that casual dating and forming relationships that are not geared toward marriage are D U M B.

Talk to your youngsters in an open, forthright way about this. It is very likely that they will see the sense in what you're saying. They are very smart! Then connect with likeminded families so they can see there is hope for them. Check this out: http://www.nogreaterjoy.org/articles/general-view/archive/2006/january/22/jumping-ship/

Keep up the good work.

Organizing Mommy said...

LA: likeminded families--hmm... maybe that's why we have you guys as "real life" friends, eh? Your boys were complete gentlemen when they accompanied us to McDonalds and prayed out loud in the restaurant with our kids. And even though it was dorky to have me there, they were so kind and respectful.

I pray that each family who has a conviction about this will find others with the same style of parenting.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I am so glad you brought this up. I too am amazed at how many Christians don't seem to get how destructive dating is. It literally is divorce practice. It would be like encouraging my children to get as close to the flame as possible without getting burned. Or taking them on for a walk on the freeway to teach them how not to get hit by a car. Better to stand far off, point and say, we don't walk there! This is one of those issues where we must teach using examples from God's Word and the lives of others, not one they must experience first hand.
I wasn't saved as a young person and had no good moral direction from home. I dated a lot and it is true emotional baggage for me and for my husband. Those are painful memories that can never be erased, despite my new life in Christ.
To Fitzgerald Family, I love the chocolate illustration. I'll have to use that!

Patricia said...

I agree with you. One very wise lady from my church told us how she kept her three (now grown and married) kids from dating when they were teens: they couldn't go on a date until they had a car that they had paid for THEMSELVES (along with the insurance, etc). It worked. ;)