by Indu Partha, @InduPartha
My daughter was asked to the Prom last weekend. She was excited, we were happy for her, and then the moment passed. The sheer normalcy of the moment was not something I would have imagined when she started high school three years prior.
When she began her freshman year, we wondered how she would handle the pressures of her teenage years, and my husband and I wondered how we would navigate through heretofore uncharted waters: high school dances, dates, football games, etc. Her younger sister seemed the most curious, “ When are you going to let her date?” Neither my husband nor I had a precedent to follow. My parents handled the question of dating very easily…”no!” Having missed out on Homecoming dances, the joys of picking out Prom dresses, and the anticipation of a first date while I was in high school, I knew that I would make different choices for my child(ren) as a mother. I just knew that I’d be the cool mom who would giggle when talking about cute boys and would take my daughter shopping for heels and gowns.
As my daughters grew older, however, things weren’t quite as black and white. Talking to my young teenaged and college aged patients, I was shocked at how blase they were about physical intimacy. The mom in me would get even more freaked out with each abnormal PAP smear that I diagnosed in these young women. I took the opportunity to talk to my daughters about how an evening of fun can sometimes lead to a lifetime of regret.
During this same period, my older daughter was close to a girl I’ll call Mary. Mary was determined to always have a boyfriend, and successfully managed to date one boy and then another. However, at age 15, “relationships” are fleeting. With each breakup, Mary would dissolve into tears and wonder what was wrong with her. Again, I took the opportunity to tell my daughters why I was concerned about them having boyfriends at too early an age. Before they knew who they were, I didn’t want some random teenage boy making them feel unworthy, unattractive, and unwanted. My husband and I both realize that they will most certainly have boyfriends in time, and it would be silly of us to expect different. We aren’t expecting them to suddenly agree to an arranged marriage at the age of 25 after years of “not being allowed to date.” We do, however, feel that they would be best served to wait to get serious about a boy after high school, when they would have the maturity to handle the distraction, and truthfully, the heartbreak, that would be sure to come at some point. As my daughters have gotten older, and observed the doings and happenings in their high school, have supported brokenhearted friends, and realized that their goals were quite different from many of the “cute boys” they would have crushed on, they seemed to understand where we were coming from.
Now that our senior has successfully made it to the last semester of school with good grades and college acceptance letters in hand, we realize that this is a great time to test the waters. Easier to get over the first date jitters before heading off to the oft-intimidating college world. Her dad and I are there to help guide her, if she asks for it. Her besties and her sister are there to share the giggles.
Now, I just need to figure out how to handle this when my son grows up. I’m sure it’s going to be a whole different ballgame.
I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.
Indu Partha grew up in Southern California with roots in Tamil Nadu. She is a Stanford grad working as an internist with 3 kids, 1 husband, while trying her darndest to have an identity of her own while doing the caretaking thing…patients, hubby, kids! You can follow her on Twitter at @InduPartha