Her eyes widened; the expression on her face became intense….
It was a cold wintery day. Looking outside through the window you could see all the trees and shrubs glistened in the sunlight with a fresh coating of snow from the night before. We had almost 10 inches by morning. It was the kind of day that is was nice to have nothing to do that required going out into the cold.
Later on, after dinner, I went into the family room to add more logs to the fireplace. The previous logs had now become just red-hot coals.
As I was relaxing and sitting there watching the flames dance on the newly placed logs; enjoying the peace and quiet, except for the fire causing a crackling and popping sound; something unexpected was about to take place…
One of my daughters, of which there are three, quietly came in and sat down next to me. As we both were enjoying the serenity of the moment she turned to me and said, “Daddy” (now that is a name that will melt the heart of any father). I would like to start to single date (now that is a statement that will stop the heart of a father); she was just 13; a very bright and intelligent child. However, she was overly trusting and very naïve. Her naivety was a genuine cause for concern.
Her question was not unexpected, nonetheless it was still startling; almost took my breath away. At 13 she did not have any idea concerning the hidden dangers of single dating. To her it was magical and enticing…
Many parents would just simply say “NO!” Then when asked, “why not”, would more than likely say, “Because I said so!” That kind of a reply is never a solution. Often this type of an answer leads into anger, harsh words and tears!
I decided to take a different approach…the fire had burned the previous logs down to where they were red hot coals; which radiated warmth as well as intense heat. I asked my young daughter to please pick up one of the hot coals and give it to me; I would really like to have one. The request brought an immediate response, NO Daddy! When I asked her why not, it brought an direct and intense, because they would burn me.
This opened the door of opportunity for my intended discussion…then I asked, if I told a two year old to pick up the red-hot coal, would they do so? She thought for a moment, then answered yes, they probably would. Then I asked why? Because they do not know hot coals will burn them came her reply.
That is right I told her. So what is the difference between you and a child of two? She said I know the hot coals will burn me. This led to a further discussion…we talked about “knowledge”, knowing what a fire is; we talked about “understanding” that a fire can cause severe burns, and even lead to death; we talked about “wisdom”; knowing not to touch, the hot coals or you will pay a painful price!
Her eyes widened. I could tell she was deep in thought; thinking about what I said…babies do not have the understanding or wisdom to avoid pain…she did. I made it appear as if this were her discovery; to her it was exciting …her conversation became bubbly.
Next, I guided the discussion, and we talked about “maturity”. It is a process just takes time and experience. There were no shortcuts. The conversation further discussed two basic ways to gain useful and practical insight that can lead to maturing. One is based on personal experience. Learning from both positive and negative situations, and how to handle them. The other was to learn from the experiences of others; to hear about their mistakes and what to avoid. She was already aware of some wrong choices she made, as well as positive ones. So this made a great deal of sense to her…but could she, would she apply this to dating?
I mentioned to her that she has two choices. One was to trust in the judgment of her mom and I (who dearly loved her). The other was to trust in her friends (whose motives are ones based on selfish interests). We would give her advice based on protecting her; making sure her experiences were safe and fun…on the other hand, I explained that her friends would try to talk her into grabbing one red-hot coal.
I asked her if that made sense. Her eyes widened; the expression on her face became intense. One could almost see the gears of intellect crunching out the answer as her mind processed the information.
As she was thinking, I suggested that going out with a group, for now, was a far better solution. She could have fun without the inherent dangers of single dating.
Her eyes began to sparkle; she said she thought a group environment would work well for now…
All went well for the remainder of the year…However, as expected, the following year the question of single dating came up again.
This time my approach was slightly different. I reminded her of our previous discussion about the hot coals…she replied that she was more mature now and thought she wanted to start single dating. So I told her she could, but only if her perspective date agreed to meet with me first (I knew what the outcome would be..and I was right)…she giggled a bit and said she would extend the invitation and requirement to a boy she had her eye on.
To her surprise (not to me), he refused to come. Several others asked her for a date. However as soon as they learned the condition of the predate meeting, they quickly retreated. Finally, one young man, he was two years older, agreed to meet with me…and so he did.
Now this meeting was not an inquisition. With my daughter present, I treated him with dignity and respect. I tried (it took a great deal of effort) to engage him in conversation about his interests, school; his plans for a career or college. Tried talking about current events, sports…he was nice enough but frankly, he was…
After he left, my daughter turned to me and with the strangest look on her face said, “He is brain dead isn’t he?!”…I simply smiled. She was enamored by his good looks; our conversation demonstrated there was very little more. What was important, the wisdom of the situation gave her the insight; he was not a good choice…
She learned to look beyond just good looks. She also learned how important it is to look for character and honesty before accepting any invitation for a date. She began to see we truly had her best interest at heart. We were not trying to keep her from dating; but only from situations that might prove to be harmful.
She was nearly 18 before she finally reached the point to where she began to single date. By then she had the wisdom and maturity to handle the situation with grace and tact; to have fun without putting herself in dangerous setting.
Sometimes being a parent is fun while guiding a child through the minefield of life.