I know that kids all develop at different rates and am trying to help guide all three of ours through the teenage years as best I can. The problem comes when I am not quite sure how I feel about what I'm trying to guide them through. In this instance, it's dating.
Stephen transferred into public school in 8th grade. He had his first girlfriend soon after being surrounded with all of these new kids. It was short lived and cute. Then he entered an all boys high school and didn't worry himself over girls, which was fine with us. By his junior year, he was widening his circle of girl friends and more easily able to date since he was driving. So he had a few girlfriends and we didn't think much about it. We knew he'd go off to college and hopefully someday find the girl of his dreams.
With Nikki, it's been a little different. A boy asked her to "go out" in 6th grade. She'd said yes, but then the kids at that point we're into holding hands or hugging each other goodbye. She wasn't comfortable with that, so I told her it was always okay to blame me and say that she wasn't allowed to have a boyfriend. That day, she went to school and took care of business and wrote off boys for awhile. Now that she's sixteen, I've pondered the thought of her dating again. I mean, I'd really be fine if she wasn't ready to date until she went to college. The problem comes in when you haven't had any experience dating, and then are thrown into a pool of sharks. Not that all guys are sharks but I feel like it'd be like going from 0-100 in the blink of an eye and I think I'd rather her start now and learn slowly. I think this thought has been coming up for me because I have a few friends that are LDS. They have a tradition (and I'm not exactly sure on the specifics) that they are not allowed to date until they are sixteen. But at sixteen, they start dating. From what I understand, the boys have to call up one of the girls from their ward and take them out on a date. In my opinion, you date someone to help you figure out what you're looking for in a spouse someday. If you don't date many different types of people, you won't have anything to base your choice on. Now these dates they go on are very casual, but they are getting great practice. From asking the girl out and the girl accepting, to learning how to converse with the opposite sex. I absolutely love this idea. Problem is, we aren't LDS. I think it would be weird for me to call up one of my friends with a son and ask them to have their son take my daughter out on a date. Who knows maybe I could start a new trend.
After sitting here writing this, it has become more clear to me. I don't want any of my kids having that boyfriend/girlfriend that is all encompassing at this point. I don't want them to forget their friends, or spend every waking moment together. I do want them to appreciate the opposite sex, feel comfortable and learn slowly what they are looking for in the future. Now just to figure out how to get that for them?