Monday, May 4, 2015

Young Love

My ten year old daughter recently let me know that she had her first crush on a boy.  The crush only lasted three days, after which, she returned to being her old “pre-crush” self, which means she continued pretending to be a cat, reading some of her favorite books, and generally acting like boys have cooties again. While the crush was short-lived, it was a very clear indication that my little girl is growing up.  I have to say that I didn’t think this moment would come for another few years, as she is a very immature ten (if that makes any sense).  But when I thought back to my own childhood, I had my first kiss (not full on making out) in the fourth grade, at ten years old.  So, with that in perspective, I guess she is not as far advanced in that area as I was, and I am a bit relieved.

My daughter has been taught that having a boyfriend is not allowed until she is much older.  Her father definitely holds a much more stringent position on this topic than I do, although I’m not far behind him when it comes to how he feels about it.  The recent “crush” became an issue to an extent, not because my daughter knew that she wasn’t at a dateable age yet, but because she thought her feelings were inappropriate.  When she initially broke the news, she said that she had a “bad thought” about a boy in class.  When she finally revealed that she had a crush, I was a little sad that she thought her feelings were “bad”.  While I had conflicting feelings about telling her that things like dating and kissing should be reserved for a boy in the very far future, I wanted her to know that having feelings about someone is okay.  The fact that she thought it was scary and bad to “like” a boy made me reconsider how to approach bigger topics that come up along these lines.  My point is that I don’t think that projecting my own fears onto my children by telling them of all the scary things about love or sex is doing anyone any good.  At the end of the day, she will feel whatever it is she feels for someone, whether I like it or not.  And because of that, I prefer that she feel confident in her feelings, rather than fearful of my reaction to them.

Young love is often overlooked by adults.  It is brushed off as, “oh, you’re young and have no idea what love is.”  But is that really true?  I remember really being in love in high school.  And that love was pure.  It didn’t have anything to do with what kind of job he had, what kind of car he drove or how much money he made.  Young couples don’t have the responsibilities that come with adult mates.  Young love doesn’t calculate things like whether or not the partner in question will be a good husband or father.  Young love doesn’t judge someone based on anything other than “I like you.  You get me.  Let’s hang out.”  So, in looking at all of the ways adults pick apart the relationships they are in, isn’t young love the purest form of love there is between couples?  Shouldn’t we, as adults, try harder not to diminish the love a young person feels simply because “they are young” and therefore, aren’t mature enough to know what love is?  Somewhere along the way, I think a lot of us lose that ability to truly see a person, and instead, take into account what the person has to offer us or what value the person will have in our future.  As we grow older, we start making lists of the qualities we look for in a partner, and by the time that list is done, we’ve created a version of a Disney prince who will forever exist only in our minds.  It probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to try to remember our first loves and take a deeper look at them before judging our daughters and telling them what’s wrong, what’s right, or what’s utterly ridiculous in their teen love lives.

In particular, high school is a time when a lot of teens are feeling insecure.  It’s a time of awkwardness and wanting to fit in. Maybe I was lucky, but my love interests in high school made me feel comfortable, loved and accepted, which are very rare feelings for teenagers.  And all of that was provided by, yep, you guessed it-a boy!  Sexual encounters are bound to happen, even though we, as parents, have instructed our children otherwise.  I don’t want to have fear-induced lectures with my children about sex.  Rather, I hope to have talks with my children that are educational, but most of all, honest.  Do I want my girls to have sex at 16 (or GASP- younger)?  No, not at all.  But if they happen to be in love and make the choice to have sex, I don’t want them to be scared, or feel that they are doing something bad.  I don’t want them to feel “wrong”, like my ten year old did when she had her 3-day crush. 

Will they get their hearts broken?  Probably.  I did.  But I wouldn’t trade my early relationships for anything.  Did I give a piece of myself to certain boys?  Absolutely.  Did I get some crazy STD?  No, because I was properly educated.  I made my sexual decisions based on comfort and love-not on peer pressure or reputation.  I truly hope I can instill that same decision making ability in my girls so that they can make choices that THEY feel good about, regardless of what anyone else, including myself, thinks.

I know my opinion on this matter is most likely not a popular one.  I’ve heard women say that their children aren’t going to have sex until they reach their twenties.  Some women believe their children will follow what their religion teaches and stay virgins until married.  And while I applaud that thought, and hope my children wait to make these types of decisions, I think it’s more important to be a realist and consider the idea that our children’s love lives may not follow our wishes.  I think it’s more important to educate them in a healthy way, rather than a scary way, and hope for the best. 
Of course, my opinion on this may change as my daughters get older.  But I am going to try to make a vow to myself to not dismiss my daughters’ feelings if they happen to have crushes or fall in love at a young age.  I will try to remind myself that young love is pure and simple.  And I will try to remember that the simplicity of high school relationships is something to be valued, because as we all know, relationships only get more complicated with age.  I will also try to take into account that their love interests when they are young may actually be helping them find security and acceptance that is on a completely different level than what I can offer them as a parent.  And maybe that young love will eventually help them find what they want or don’t want in a future relationship. 

Every relationship our children enter, good or bad, will teach them something.  I just want to give them enough information so that they feel good about their choices and will be able to gracefully accept the outcomes.