A Dating Manifesto--Part 1 of 3 (Why)

7:01 AMHeather

I kissed dating good-bye.  Nope.  Not just because I'm married now and no longer looking for a prince among frogs or have a need to play the field.  Nope.  Actually, for me, I am still all about dating.  It's just that dating now means that marriage building type of dating that needs to happen continually in order to keep our relationship strong.  So, while dating has changed for me these last 23 years, I haven't kissed it good-bye.

But, I have kissed dating good-bye for my kids.  Um, yeah.  Not such a popular statement around here either.  The kids are not fans.  And I don't mean to step on any toes of you parents of dating teens.  Or pre-teens.  

Allow me to explain exactly what I mean.  Then, I think you might actually be more on the same page with me than you'd think.  

Things have changed.  A lot.  Since I was in the "dating years."  When I was growing up, I wasn't allowed to date until I was 15.  And, anyone who wanted to take me out had to come meet with my dad before they asked me out. Not just prior to the date.  NO. My dad meant ahead of time.  He had to put his stamp on approval on any potential date before there was ever a plan.

I hated it.  I'm sure THAT is the only reason I didn't get asked out much.  Ha ha.

As far as specifics on dating, I just gave you all the wisdom and insight I was given.  Period.  End of story.  Nothing more detailed than that.  Besides a general understanding that I was to maintain my purity until marriage.  That was just how it was when I was a teen.  Back in the 80's.

It's a different era.  We live in a drama culture.  Where our kids are seeing the drama of intense relationships and exclusive relationships and well, rather grown up relationships, from an early age, at places like the Disney Channel.  Yep.  Shows like The Suite Life of Zac and Cody.  Portraying fourth graders in dating relationships that were reserved for at least high school age characters back in my day.  And all this media and such makes our kids believe that these grown-up relationships are the norm.  

But they aren't.  Nor should they be.  And it's not really something I thought too much about until I read Dannah Gresh's Six Ways to Keep the Little in Your Girl.  Which happened at about the same time as I chaperoned my son's fifth grade Christmas party at school.  Where boys and girls were posing together, as the "it" couples they were, for the photo station.  When I asked my oldest what he thought about this, his response was, "I think it's dumb.  I mean, who wants to couple up and have to spend your money on a gift for a GIRL for Christmas?"  Yes, Collin.  Preach it.  It's all about the economics.  He obviously had yet to fully appreciate girls.  

Here's what I first began to consider about dating for my children.  Maybe, just maybe, dating wasn't a given.  At least in the traditional sense.  Maybe my kids needed dating to be redefined for them.  Maybe I needed to think carefully about how to coach my kids through the mine field of dating.  In a day and age where social media brings the dating drama to an all new high.  We no longer pass notes that might be confiscated which ask, "Do you like me? Check yes or no."  Nope.  We can all now have a front row seat to all types of "dating" drama where interference has reached an all time high.  Where impulsive youngsters might speak, or type, without thinking.

Kids speaking or typing without thinking.  Who am I kidding?  Anyone else noticed a recent trend of GROWN UPs and celebrities who have tweeted on impulse, drawn all sorts of attention, and are now trying to dig out of the hole they've dug?

Yet, kids are hung out there to dry without so much as a coaching session on navigating these waters when it comes to dating and friendships?   This ain't their mother's dating game.  Not at all.

Which means we can't leave anything to chance.  It means we have to have long conversations as parents to iron out our family policy on dating.  Prayerfully consider what seems right for our children--each of them--according to our family values.  Because we have to have a plan.  And a united front as we present it to our offspring.  

Here's the truth of it, bloggy friends.  These are the "voices" being heard by this generation on things such as dating and relationships.  The Bachelor or The Bachelorette.  Where a quest toward marriage involves an unrealistic, artificial, oversexed, glamorous and voyeuristic approach to the process.  Drama galore!  All the fluff and glitz and none of the meat that matters.  Or, how about celeb couplings such as Kim and Kanye.  Don't. Even. Get. Me. Started.  Wanna bring it down to their age level?  There's Justin and Selena.  Traveling the world.  Hitting the red carpet.  Breaking up.  Back together.  And, of course, there's Taylor Swift...and her crush of the week.  The substance of her relationships seems on the surface to be nothing more than fodder for her next hit record.  

NONE of these voices being heard by our teens and preteens present a realistic picture of what dating and relationships should be about.  Really getting to know each other.  Honest communication.  Healthy conflict resolution.  Building on a strong spiritual foundation so that the relationship not only draws you closer to each other but closer to God.  Is that not the Biblical picture of marriage?  Loving and serving one another in order to bring glory and fame to His name?

We can sit idly by with our heads in the sand.  Or, we can match the noise of music and media and social media and be sure we are heard above all that nonsense.  Be intentional about involving our kids in our values when it comes to relationships with the opposite sex.  Not just the "true love waits" speech.  But something more substantial and specific and applicable.  Because a ring on the finger of our teens does not instruct them on how to avoid difficult moments or how to date within perimeters that will lead to the ability to let true love wait.

Listen.  Our children's virginity is not the only thing at risk here.  No. Their emotional and spiritual well being and wholeness are up for grabs, too.

Which means we must start a dialog with our spouse.  Iron out a few things. 

It's time we work out our own brand of a dating manifesto to be declared and shouted from the roof tops of our homes.  For our children to hear and understand and then follow.

A dating manifesto?  What does that look like?  I challenge you to chew on this yourself.  Then, let's get back together tomorrow.  I'll see you here for part two.    

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