I don’t think any parent would say that the moment your child starts dating is an easy one. Even when they start with an innocent crush, it still feels odd to think that your baby is now having feelings for someone other than their family. I have always encouraged my kids to be open about their feelings. Even when I tried to discourage a grade 6 crush that eventually came crashing down, there wasn’t much that I could do about it other than support my daughter and try to pick up the pieces.
When my 15-year-old daughter announced to us that she had been texting with an older boy that she had been ‘introduced’ to by a friend, of course, we were hesitant. Almost three years older and not from our extended circle of elementary school friends or extracurriculars, as parents, we didn’t know how exactly to approach it. On one hand, I knew this was going to happen at some point and it was natural for her to want to start to date, but on the other hand, this is not exactly how I thought it might happen. But like every generation, we too started relationships through our social circles—only today’s teens are often meeting others online, even if they attend the same school. So we agreed to her meeting the boy-in-question at our home, so at least we could somewhat supervise and know that she was safe.
The boy started coming over regularly, on weekends mostly, since they didn’t share a school schedule. Despite our initial misgivings about the age difference, he turned out to be a delight. Positive and interesting, he had no problem sitting up to the dinner table and engaging in conversation, and laughing at our family jokes. Mature and confident, he and my husband bonded over their love of soccer and I loved that he enjoyed my cooking.
I started to feel a kinship with this kid, thinking about the upcoming summer and perhaps including him some summer plans like a road trip or family excursions. I didn’t expect to feel so motherly towards him, but he naturally became an extension of our family in a short timeframe. For a first boyfriend for my daughter, I couldn’t have asked for a better kid. He was obviously smitten with her, and I felt like they were a good match.
And then as quickly as it started, it fell apart.
My daughter confessed to me that she felt like it was too much too soon – and while she liked him, she felt pressure to spend time together when she had homework and dance – she just didn’t know how to handle it all. I know that she liked him, but the timing was off. While I supported her decision, I felt a little heartbreak inside.
The fact that he was older, which seemed intriguing at first, ultimately meant that they just didn’t have enough in common. He was finished high school, and she was just getting into the groove. They didn’t share the same friend group and it wasn’t easy to casually hang out and be boyfriend and girlfriend at school—only on the weekends. She broke it off with him, and I think he took it well.
But oddly enough, I felt a sense of loss. Here I had been making phantom plans and including him, thinking of their future together. I thought of he and my husband watching soccer together and sharing a beer or two…
I didn’t expect to be so upset. But like many things that our kids have experienced, we buy into an idea, and then they change direction. As a parent, you have to be agile. What we want for them isn’t always what they wish for themselves.
Our kids are going to have missteps and heartbreak and through it all we feel their pain—and sometimes, we feel our own pain too.