Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Shock and Awe

Last week, Jacob went on his first date, something I think is wonderful. But for some reason, each time I mentioned it to one of my mom friends (who have children the same age as Jacob), I got the same reaction: "Oh my god!"

The first time it happened, I laughed. Wow, can you believe that we're old enough to have children who date? Our babies, who brought us together at the new mothers' group at the local library, are no longer babies. How time flies, I figured she was thinking.

But then it happened again. And again. And suddenly, I was wondering, what the heck? Why do these mothers sound so afraid, aghast, shocked? I didn't say Jacob got arrested. I didn't say I'd found a crack pipe in his backpack. So why all the horror?

Could it be that, since they don't know the kids involved as well as I do, their minds go down the stereotypical "teen dating" track? Dating leads to kissing leads to petting leads to--agh!--sex. It's understandable.  As parents, none of us want to think about our kids being old enough for that. 

But just because I (and the kids) called it a date, we must not forget that the interested parties are kids. So they are starting off with baby steps, as they would with any new endeavor. Dinner at a restaurant, dessert at the ice cream stand, then hanging out and drawing at the house afterwards. Sweet. By the book. Like when I was a kid.

They worked out the details of restaurant, finances and timing. I just did the driving. They have been good friends for a few years because they have a lot in common. And they are both new to the whole "dating" thing, likely influenced by hearing all of their peers talk about it. But the reality? It's just a play date by another name.

There are a lot of scary things in the world, and I need to prepare my boys to face them. And maybe it's just my own naivete, but I don't see dating as one of them.

To me, dating is the beginning of a years-long journey in emotional maturity and self-discovery. Jacob's going to have to go through it eventually; we all do. It's part of growing up. Now I'm seeing him start the journey with someone he cares about, someone with whom he's shared a strong friendship, lots of laughter and mutual respect for years already. Aren't those the very things that all lasting relationships are based on?

Like any parent, I want my kids to be happy. It's my hope that one day Jacob will begin his married life the same way--with a good and trusted friend by his side. So although that's still many years down the road, shock and awe aside, I'm pretty confident he's off to a great start.

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