Date Your Kids.

frederick douglass quote

 

If something ever happens to Matt, that’s it for me. I will probably be single for the rest of my life.

I absolutely DETESTED dating as a young woman. Obviously before Matt nothing ever panned out, but that wasn’t why I hated it. I wasted so much time on losers who weren’t up front with their intentions (for obvious reasons, of course). One could say I just picked the wrong guys, and perhaps “one” would be right. Either way it goes, I had little patience for bland conversations, arrogance, having a guy ask ME out and then expecting something because he paid, as if I was incapable of paying for myself or even cared to entertain his company in the first place had he not ASKED, and the hidden motives. I would have just preferred if a guy befriended me and told me right up front he wanted to sleep with me so he could get rebuffed BEFORE wasting both our time and making me angry.

Side note: That is one of the reasons I hated my early twenties and would never want to do them over again.

But I digress.

The very thought of dating romantically makes my skin crawl, but let’s just say my experiences had been more positive. Or, let me go back to when Matt and I first got together, and how excited I was whenever we were going to meet up. I remember taking extra time to ready myself. I remember being excited when we first got to our destination, whether it was dinner, the movies or the mall, and how even if there were a thousand people around, it didn’t matter–I was focused on him. (And vice versa, I suppose). What did we accomplish during those dates? We became aware of our chemistry, learned a great deal about each other, and fell in love somewhere along the way. Over a decade in, I have discovered that the “dating” needs to continue, as people change, there is always more to learn about your partner, and as your understanding of your partner grows, your relationship matures right along with it.

My son is going into the 7th grade tomorrow. He is almost 12. My oldest daughter, who is 6, will be a first-grader, yet I can still remember the exact moment each of them made their earthly debut with fondness and much nostalgia. Every now and then I remind myself that there is only six short years before Jayden is technically an adult, and that as he gets older and becomes more aware of the world around him, I have an even bigger role to play in making sure he is comfortable in it. I want to make sure he does not fall prey to the societal norms that embrace toxic masculinity; that he is aware of what contributed to the rape culture that unfortunately made me a rape survivor; and that he becomes a good husband who treats his wife equitably and his children tenderly. As for my girls, I want them to be strong and understand that they don’t need a man or marriage to define them or their womanhood; and to have pride in going boldly out into the world and eking out their own existence.

In order for me to teach them what I need to, I need to have a good approach, and my approach is dependent upon their personality and level of awareness and understanding. Their personalities are all different. Even with my daughters I do not foresee many circumstances where I can gather them into a group and have a serious discussion with them and expect that they all have understood equally. Over the summer, I carved out time with Jayden after all the girls had gone to bed to discuss certain issues, and he definitely retained everything I told him. So that’s what I have to make a habit of moving forward–“dating” my kids: Making special time with them individually, in an atmosphere where they are comfortable in which we can just completely focus on each other and our interaction.

Not only did I learn a lot about my son during these conversations–he is a lot more intuitive and sensitive to the needs and feelings of others than I’d thought, which was a welcomed surprise–but he expressed his appreciation for me taking the time to talk to him “like a grown-up”. It made him feel special, especially since he knew I was tired and would have loved nothing more than to have gone to sleep while I had the chance, but instead decided to stay up for a little while and talk to him over a late-night snack or a virtual treadmill walk on YouTube.

I tend to think all kids crave that alone time with their parents, and we as parents need to make sure we are not playing favorites with our children–that can have long-lasting, detrimental effects. But overall, we have to make the most of the little time we have to influence them. They’re not kids for long. And while dating romantically can have its drawbacks, there are no negatives associated with spending time with your kids.

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