“Your daughter was telling her class that she has a boyfriend” were the words that I heard from my daughter’s teacher. With those words I realized I have entered into another level of parenthood. Oh, and did I mention this was in Sunday school class and I am a pastor, yeah. I had known for a while that there was a boy in her class who liked her, who would come over to our house to ask if she could play. I knew that sooner or later this would come up, although I figured she would be 14 not 8 when it did. So what is a father to do? Here are a few things that I have, as her dad, thought about and learned from this.
I am sure there will be plenty more and some of these may be wrong, but I figured I am wanting to be more honest and vulnerable so here ya go.
Jokes are fun, and parenting is hard.
I was one who did the who “dad with a shotgun” type of jokes when she was younger. That was before there was a chance of her having a boyfriend, now that’s all changed. My first thought was not “I need a gun”, but was “How do I talk about this with her”. I could just slam down the law of “no boys”, for some reason that just seemed simplistic and would in the long run do more damage.
Words have meaning.
I realized that my little girl had feelings that she was trying to attach words to. Words like “boyfriend”, “crush” and “love”. In her declaring a boyfriend she was expressing new feelings. As I talked with her and worked through what she meant I understood that my little girl is entering a new part of growing up and working through what it all means.
Slow to dismiss.
Knowing that she was trying to describe all this new dynamics of boy/girl relationships I also knew that dismissing her feelings was unwise and unloving. My daughter had real feelings and talking to mom and dad about these feelings and letting us in is something that I need to encourage.
Make it safe to share.
The biggest concern I had was not that she had a boyfriend, or who this boy was but why she told her friends and not us, her parents. What was she worried about, what did she fear? She also knew that we had told her that she was not yet allowed to have a boyfriend so it could have been just disobedience, but I believe there is more under the surface. I strive to make our home a safe place for honest discussion and open-mindedness. In other words I never want my kids to fear coming to me with questions and doubts about life, faith or anything else. I am still working through this one and have been praying for wisdom in this too.
In the end we did have her tell this boy that we feel she is not ready to have a boyfriend yet, as in the actual title boyfriend. We did not ban him from the house or say she cannot hang with him, because again I want her to work through all this, not hide or be afraid of it. Other parents who are wiser would probably do something different but this is what we have decided to do and this is who we are, messy parents trying to figure this whole parenthood thing out.