We are talking about dating and courtship. This is going to be interesting, because I do not actually know what the other three moms believe and practice in this area. I have a really safe guess that at least one of them is like us, because this topic showed up on our shared list of topics, and I am not the one who put it there. I have a reasonably strong guess about a second mom, but it actually is just a guess, but absolutely no clue about the third.
Anyway, this is a big topic, so I should stop beating around the bush and get to it.
We have seven progeny. That’s kids, children, offspring, fruit of the womb.
Six girls, one boy. The oldest is 29, the youngest is now (drum roll, please, FOURTEEN YEARS OLD).
Two of our daughters are married, they each have two children. Their first kiss was at their wedding when their respective grooms heard those lovely words “You may kiss the bride.”
We have one ‘failed’ courtship with one of our daughters and a young man who is the cousin of one of our sons-in-laws. That is sad.
My husband and I did not grow up this way. We were both promiscuous daters, addicted to serial romance. I frequently was ‘going steady’ with two boys at a time, I never broke up with one until I had the next one all nicely lined up, and one exhausting season I was ‘going with’ three boys at the same time and trying to keep two of them in the dark about the others (one of them knew, which made my task a bit easier as he helped me keep the secret). I have had a couple of men I knew as teen-aged boys contact me via my real name Facebook and tell me they were old boyfriends,that we had dated for a few months when we were fifteen, or seventeen, or fourteen (I wasn’t allowed to date before 16, but I did). I remembered their names and knew we went to high school together. I don’t remember going out with them at all, but it’s all too possible that I did and I forgot. This is not an experience I enjoy. I once ended up living next door to a young man, I had supposedly known when we were in high school- we both were married and had kids, we lived in Japan on a military base. I did not remember him at all. He most definitely remembered me. That was….. awkward, a word which here means so humiliating I wanted to die. He thought it was hilarious. The thing is, we’d lived next door for a year and his wife and I were best friends before it came out that we’d spent our high school years about five miles apart. We were all playing cards together and talking about where we’d grown up, and he said Gila Bend, and I said “Wow, really? I was in Yuma,” and he did a double take and said ‘wait a minute…. cruise nights… Burger King…. you are _____________, and he gave my full first, middle, and maiden name. It’s not like I could click a button and cut him out of my life. We babysat each other’s kids for date nights. For the rest of the year he would look at me and shake his head just to watch me cringe and blush. I hated that.
So the whole idea of courtship was utterly foreign to us and more than a little, well, terrifying.
On the other hand, the thought of our beloved children going through even half of what we had gone through, or putting somebody else through what we put others through, or just repeating the mistakes of a single week of my high school career- well, that was even more terrifying. We spent about 8 years being terrified of that possible future, because it felt inevitable, like a train wreck that we could see coming but could not escape, and then we heard of courtship, and while it was definitely odd, it was even more like a life preserver thrown to drowning parents on stormy seas. I do love me my mixed metaphors.
We do know many, many people who did the dating thing and it all went just fine. This is not the ONLY way to handle this stage in life. It’s just the way we’ve chosen.
I have blogged about this before, and you should really read that post if you want to know more about it. I’ll share some links to those other posts at the end of this one. Meanwhile, for this post, I solicited questions via Facebook. Here they are:
Q. Hmm…. how do we promote a way for young adults to meet?
A. Pray about it. Visit other churches. Attend church functions and activities (we don’t like the strictly for young people ones, but we do like ones with a wide range of ages and are inclusive of families.) Be hospitable. Trust God.
Many, many years ago we lived in a tiny town in Nebraska and babysat the two boys of a single mom. One of the boys was 13. Our oldest girls were 12 and 10. Somebody asked me once what I thought of that 13 year old boy as a potential son in law. I laughed. And then I said, “No. Way.” We moved. we moved again, and again, and again. He grew up, dated other girls, moved, left his faith, was a bit of a mess, joined the Army, went to Iraq and got at shot at and buried some friends, came back to the states, began to straighten out his life, and he came to see us a few times because my husband was a mentor to him. And then he came a few more times and I told my husband, “he’s coming for one of the girls, and if this is not okay, you need to stop it now,” and it was okay and now he is our Shasta, and the father of two of our grandbabies- the Dread Pirate Grasshopper and his sister the Ladybug.
Q. I hear a lot about courtship on the girls’ end of things. What about sons? What is their role in the process? How involved are his parents? How can we help prepare them? (And I know you are not there yet, but I’d like to hear your thoughts.)
A. I have realized this year that we should have been doing way more than we have been, and I am not really sure about this. I’m going to have to think some more and come back to this later.
Our son has suddenly become very popular with girls and it kind of caught me blindsided. Two years ago we went to our regular summer family camp and not a single girl paid attention to him and he did not care. Then he had that amazing growth spurt and last year at camp he went everywhere with a crowd of giggling girls following him, surrounding him, tittering over every word that fell from his lips, and drawing on his hands and arms. Some of those girls are two years older than he is. His sisters were all shocked, and kept coming up to ask us if we were watching. We were, but it was kind of a deer in the headlights look.
I discovered that we had spent much time successfully teaching our girls not to be forward, brash, and boy crazy, but we had not spent any time at all telling him how to respond to forward, brash, and boy-crazy girls. Instead of fleeing like Joseph, he came back to our cabin during the day to put on deodorant. If you have adolescent sons you understand the significance of that. So we’ve spent more time this year gently and subtly talking about little rules like, “YOU DO NOT LET GIRLS DRAW ON YOU” and “SHINY IS NOT A GOOD CRITERIA.”
Q. How do you begin introducing the idea at a young age so that it’s natural by dating age? I never grew up this way so it’s still a new/unnatural concept for me.
A. When we watched movies and somebody kissed, we talked about how we thought it was better to wait for marriage for that. When we watched movies and somebody dated, we talked about how dating should be within the family so you could get to know everybody. When others would talk about being able to date at 16, we said we would allow dating after marriage. When we shared stories about how we met and married, we would generally conclude with, “And that’s why our kids are never going to date.”
You just talk about it- a lot. Also study other cultures where arranged marriages are the norm and this helps supply some perspective. Dating is the norm for our culture and time, but it’s still a very new practice. People have done this differently other places and other times, and dating is so very, very recent and so very, very western that it obviously cannot be required, and it’s bizarre that it’s considered weird that you don’t date.
Q. This is a very foreign concept to me, but I understand it and respect it. Homeschooling helps obviously, to curb the craziness that you have no control over in public schools. But how do you deal with crushes and flirting that inevitably happen at a young age? I know a certain 9 year old who is no stranger to boys. I’d like to hear how you handle the courtship issue with boys. I have one of those too
A. personality does play a role, and you do have to respect that. But here are some of the things we did-
We talked about how it might not be possible to stop yourself from liking a boy, but that it was possible to control your eyes and your behavior, and that it was good practice to work on controlling your heart.
We watched Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility and talked about them. These are excellent documentary for proper girl/boy relationships.=)
We just told our kids that we were not going to do flirting and silliness like that until they were old enough to follow through on it with marriage. That it was a waste of time when they were young.
We did not tease them about boys (or girls). We did try to focus on traits rather than looks- If somebody else said so-and-so was cute, we would respond with things like, “I like how that boy is always so good to his mother. I like the way that boy always notices when an elderly lady needs help and jumps up to help her.”
At some point (I really don’t know when) we did talk about how flirting was a bad habit because it was not okay to flirt after marriage, but if you flirted a lot before marriage, it was hard to stop.
Q. How did you got your extended family who thought you were nuts on board?
I don’t think they ever have been on board, but we do not have a huge extended family, and we deliberately cultivate a demeanor of being stubborn and inflexible so they eventually leave us alone about these counter-cultural issues.
Q. How did you raise your children up with the idea? How did you talk about it with as small children, “big kids” and then teens? How were you able to recognize who God chose for them? (all of these questions related to Courting not dating as is typically done in today’s society)
We just did- we looked for opportunities, we talked about it just about any time an example came up.
We don’t really believe that there is only one person in the whole world that is the right person for you. We believe that two Christians of strong faith and commitment really can make almost any relationship work, given some basic compatibility issues. We did encourage lots of opportunities to just get to know a wide range of friends, and talked about what sorts of traits and ideas are most important.
Q. How did your family come to “buy in” to the idea? … my husband doesn’t like the dating model, but I think the idea of courting is too strange for him too. I’m happy to follow his lead, just don’t think he knows where to lead us to.
We knew the dating model was just not for us. We read different things about courtship, listened to some tapes, the kids listened with us, we talked about it. We realize that probably most of our kids could handle dating far better than we did, but it just was not a chance we wanted to take.
Q. Yes, please, if you can, explain how you get/keep your girls on board. Our extended family seems to have a plethera of young, unwed mothers the last couple of years. So, it seems that I really have a lot of influence to overcome.
It hasn’t been hard at all. We have seen some failed relationships in extended family and friends, and that has actually helped. Our girls don’t enjoy the drama, turmoil, and hurt feelings second hand, they do not want to go through it first-hand.*
Really- you just have to talk to your kids. Explain why one thing bothers you and the alternative is better to you. Don’t talk AT them, talk with and to them.
Here are some quotes from previous related posts:
You will have certain ideas and plans, and things will happen that will change them. Relationships are more important than your pet issues.
You will make some compromises and accept some things you once thought you wouldn’t- at least, if relationships are more important to you than preferences. And it is important to distinguish that difference between preferences and convictions. It’s also important to recognize when it is necessary or at least acceptable to impose your convictions on children and when it’s necessary and important to back off and let them form and live with their own convictions. Nobody else can figure these things out for you, either. Older mothers can share specifics of our families, and we can share principles and personal details- but the details for your family will have to be worked out in, by, and with your family.
‘courtship’ isn’t the goal, it is a means to an end,and there is no planned bridge burning on the path we have laid out toward that end. If any our adult children said, “Look, we think you’re NUTS and we are NOT doing this,” well, we’d be a little sad and disappointed or greatly so, depending on the attitude and alternative choices involved, but we would maintain our relationship over our preference for Courtship, because, frankly, we prefer our kids over our philosophy.
Also, there is no single vision of courtship that is the One Right Way, just as there are other ways of dating and mating that work for other people.
Just as each of our children are individuals, so each of the young men who expresses an interest in them is an individual, and the combination is yet another incredibly unique and personal reality, and so we treat it as such.
Jonathan Lindval tends to be one of those polarizing names in homeschooling circles. People tend to love him or loathe him. We do not agree with everything he says, and we would not go quite so far as he does in his teachings on courtship, but sometimes it’s helpful to scrape the ground clean of all your reconceptions and rebuild from scratch. He will help you do that.
As you know, we are really weird:
We do consider typical North American dating to be a recipe for romantic disaster- serial romance, recreational dating (especially in your teens)- we do not find these things compatible with our family’s views. They seem to us to promote a shallow, buffet table view of romance and coupling, and produce a series of broken hearts, each break getting easier as the heart grows more protective of itself. That’s how we feel about OUR family and OUR Progeny. We do not sit around discussing the ‘failings’ of those who have a different approach.
Do not let your most fondly cherished hopes and dreams for how your child’s marriage will happen (and believe me, we are as conservative here as you could possibly imagine, and we would be heartbroken under these circumstances) come between you and your adult Progeny, whether they share those hopes and dreams or crush them under foot.
I have conservative views on mating, dating (we don’t believe in it) and courtship, views shared by my husband and our Progeny- but those views are not more important to us than our children themselves.
All my views of purity in the world will not matter a fig if I conduct a slash and burn policy towards a wayward child and use my convictions as an axe against the root of our relationship in such a way as to drive my adult son or daughter away from me and into the arms of any waiting other, nor will it impress God or anybody else if I voice those convictions, no matter how pleasing to God the convictions themselves may be, in such fashion as to poison any future relationships with unsaved in-laws and grandchildren.
Whether you follow the dating model or the courtship model or something totally different, you have to teach your kids some deeper principles. Things like:God is not their vending machine.
We need to teach our children to guard their hearts precisely because emotions are powerful, can be intoxicating, and are not the best guidelines.
And somehow we need to make it clear to them that it’s not always easy, but doing the right thing rarely is the easiest path, and that very few people are really immune from the attractions of lust, especially young people.
I feel like this is rather disjointed, but I think that’s because I know I am supposed to be writing about courtship, and I really want to tell you that what matters most is relationships with your kids. Don’t build walls, build bridges.
courtship has been a bridge for us, not a wall, at least not with the people who count. I have seen it used as a wall by others. You can do that with anything, really.
* I also want to clarify something about the drama and turmoil they’ve watched when friends and family have gone through failed relationships based on a different standard than ours- in most cases they have seen this for what it is- a waste of time. A friend of mine says she realized as an adult that no man under 30 was worth crying over. I would put it a little younger than that, but definitely, no 16 year old boy (or girl) is worth breaking your heart over unless you’re the parent.
Do they have to learn to deal with pain and sadness and heart-ache anyway? Yes, of course, but I guarantee you that dating is not the only way to be confronted with the fact that we live in a dreadfully fallen world that will break your heart, crush your soul, and drive you to your knees. If dating was that necessary to our wellbeing, well, then the world would have discovered it before 1920.