Tennyson’s young man may have found his thoughts turning to love in the spring, but summer seems to be when people start thinking romance around here.
It’s simultaneously hilarious and heart-rending to watch those first anxious forays into the land of Coupledom. Sure, most of the kids have “boyfriends” or “girlfriends” starting as early as preschool and a few of the more precocious may even have dabbled in a semi-serious relationship or two before they’re out of middle school. Still, the fever starts in earnest during the mid-teen years.
Both sexes have highly romanticized – not to mention unrealistic – expectations from romance at this age. There’s a lot of pressure these days to pair off, at least where we live; a couple goes from being virtual strangers to dating (what we used to call “going steady”) with virtually no in-between stage. There doesn’t seem to be any getting-to-know-each-other phase; or rather, they date to get to know each other.
If it’s a girl, she’ll be a little shocked (though she’ll never admit it) at how he wants to kiss her ALL. THE. TIME.
If it’s a boy, he’ll be very alarmed (and he’ll admit it freely) at how she wants to talk on the phone ALL. THE. TIME.
Young moms, be warned: If you don’t start the sex talks with your young’un before he’s out of grade school, you’ll have missed the boat. We all knew a couple of girls who took a “couple of months off school” when we were in our early teens – and that was before movies like Juno made it an acceptable mainstream occurrence. It may be a difficult subject for you to discuss when they’re young but – BELIEVE me – it’s a lot more difficult when hormones are riding your teenagers bareback.
Because frankly, Gentle Reader, at that point there’s not much you can do. Oh sure, while your child is a minor you provide 100% supervision 100% of the time; know where/when/why they are and who with; offer lots of family time and invite the Significant Other along on an outing or two. Other than that, your job is to lend a sympathetic ear – and to remember to order flowers for the prom.
It can be difficult to bite your tongue if you don’t approve of their choice – and ooooo, sometimes the “choice” is a real clinker. Trust in your child and in the bond between the two of you; keep the communication lines open, because odds are good your child will need your support sooner rather than later. Bite back the “I told you so” and never bad-mouth the ex – because sometimes they won’t stay “the ex” and then where will you be?
Rejoice. This too is a milestone: your child is becoming an adult who can give and receive love. I would like to see a study, though, on the effects on younger children of seeing older siblings get married two summers in a row; I’m a little worried my high-school junior may be picking out a china pattern.