No One Told Me About This

0706141318-00 This last week my wife and I have been alternately lamenting and rejoicing in the fact that our oldest three children are gone for a week. They are off camping with their boy scout troop. Oddly enough the oldest one was gone the week before to special camp to help him get his Eagle. In Short we have been short at least one of the kids for almost two weeks now.

Don’t get me wrong, we love having our older kids around. In fact, that is kind of the point here. The title comes from something that was said a couple days before or right after my wife and I got married. One of her younger brother’s friends said something about missing your kids when they move out. My Father-in-law replied, “That is what happens, kids grow up, get married and move out of the house.”

100_4923That statement has been in the back of my head since that day. But I will be honest, it is one of those things that sneaks up on you. I remember only oldest being a tiny baby and holding him my arms. While, it does not exactly feel like yesterday, it does not feel that long ago. This year he is starting his senior year in high school. Our kids are about every two years after that, and sometimes I look at my oldest son, and I can suddenly see the parade of children who will be growing up, getting married or religious life, and moving out of the house.

I do look forward seeing them grow up and seeing the people that they will become. They are all incredible kids. And I am so proud of the people they are becoming. But I am not in a hurry for them to get there.100_2961

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Rules For Dating, A Guide For Teenage Boys. – A Response of Sorts – With Updates

After some serious thought, I have updated this article a bit.  I think you will like some of the changes, and all of the important things are still here.
Today I read an article that I really liked. Teenage Dating for Girls Part I “Teen Dating for Girls- Part II.” Having girls that are not yet teens I was interested, and I wanted to see what the author had to say.  One of my favorite things was that she openly said,  These are our rules, they might be different for other families, but these are some basics.  I really liked that.  Too many people kind of say, hey these are our rules and should be everyone else’s as well. I am going to say right up front that I am following the same line. These are our rules. They might work for you, they might not, but they are our rules, you don’t have to like them. (See the warning message on the side —–> )
However, it struck me as I was reading this, that while this was a list of the rules for girls it should also be at least a starting point for a list for boys.  After all, the boys that are taking our daughters out are just as much in need of guidance as our daughters.  More importantly, our sons need guidance on what is expected of them if they want to date.

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The great thing about a list like this is that many of the rules apply in both directions:

You need to be at least 18  display a certain level of  maturity before you can start dating.

     While this is not a hard and fast rule, it should be a good rule of thumb.  But, why wait so long?  Well the answer is simple.  Dating (courting) is really about trying to find a mate.  Since this is a list for boys, they are looking for someone to be their wife.  If you are not serious about being ready to get married you should not really be dating.  
I have had some time to think about this rule.  While is still mostly stand behind it, I think putting an arbitrary age on it is a bit problematic.  My wife and I started dating early and at that point in time I really was looking for someone to marry.  I think the age limit really needs to be more of a maturity limit.  So I have reworded the title. 
     Let me clarify here, dating is not the same as going out with a mixed group of boys and girls, even if there is some obvious pairing.  The more obvious the pairing the more likely it is that a chaperon is necessary, but this is not the same thing as dating.  This is the time when young men and women should learn to be around each other.  See how the other reacts without all the other social pressures of actually dating and the need for “romantic interests.”

Getting to know the Family; being friends first

    Just like the list for girls the list for boys should include that if a boy wants to date a girl, he should be willing to spend time meeting her family and spend some time with them.  This is also true of the girl.  She should have a good idea of what kind of family he comes from.  Mom, Dad, brothers and sisters might also be able to see things that our starry eyed young man can’t.
    To that end, being friends first is a huge deal.  It is not always true that you will build a friendship before a romantic interest begins because some times they happen at the same time.  Again remembering that dating is about finding the right person to spend the rest of your life with, and that while you are young it is very easy to be blinded by those romantic feelings.  If you have time to get to know the person first it makes that “happily ever after” that much easier.   Besides it is a lot easier to get to know someone’s family when you aren’t under the pressure of trying to impress them because you are romantically interested in one of them.  If you have spent time hanging out working in their garden, playing with their brothers and sisters, talking with their parents you will have a much better idea of who it is you are getting involved with.

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     Girls who want to date my sons, if you come to my house it is not a test.  It is not a trial, you are not there to be judged.  You are there to make friends, to learn and understand, to see the young man that you are interested in, in situations that you might not have seen him in before.

Being a Gentleman Is a Must.

Dear my sons.  
I really hope that I don’t have to tell you this.  I really hope that you have seen me treat your mother and your sisters with a level of respect that helps you to understand what it means to be a gentleman.  I don’t always pull your mom’s chair out, and I joke about opening doors and letting them go in first (dragons) but it is incredibly important stuff.  If you are not a gentleman around your date and I see it, I will say something about it.  
Love,
Your Dad.
When the tools are put away and it is time to go out on a date there are some things that you leave behind, on the farm as it were.  This is just a short list but it should give you a good starting point:
  • Swearing (you should not be doing this anyway.)
  • Passing gas and burping.
  • Talking about your bodily functions or those of the farm animals, (Unless that is a serious part of your conversation.)
  • Chewing gum or your food like a cow (sheep.)
  • Watching the TV and not your date. (I know every place you go has one up on the wall, remember that what is on TV is never as interesting as the person sitting across from you or maybe next to you.  NEVER!)
  • Discussing where the food you are eating comes from (again if this is not a serious part of your conversation and even then, once it is on the plate this is generally considered bad form.)

There is a flip side to this of course.  The woman who you are dating should know how to act like a lady.  I won’t say that…

Ok guys, let’s make this simple. we live on a hobby farm.  We have animals, and we go and plant and pull weeds and generally get messy and gross at times.  Your sisters are not excluded from this work.  In the same way that you are not excluded from doing dishes, laundry, and general house work.  We are equal opportunity mess makers.  Your date should understand that.  See the section above about being friends first.

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What am I driving at here?  Think about your sisters.  When it is time to put the tools away and head off to church or nice dinner think of the way they act and dress and are treated. That should be a good measuring tape for your date.   If the young woman you are dating does not think enough of herself to dress appropriately for a date, what is she going to think of you?  Again, understanding what you want for each other is very important and why getting to know someone well before you start dating is important.  Some young women dress, well um let’s just say immodestly, because that is what everyone else is doing. But some young women do so because they feel that is the only way they can get and hold your attention.  Here is a hint: If that is the only thing keeping your attention on her, your relationship is in serious trouble.  Let her know that you have more respect for her than that.  If she feels that way, it is likely that what she needs is a friend and not a date.  I am not saying that you can solve her problems.  I am not saying you should even try.  I am not saying that she even has a problem.  But I think that there needs to be a level of understanding between you before you start dating.


Asking Permission Or Maybe Not

While I still stand behind this idea, I also think that it is, well, let’s just say that there are some difficulties here.  
First, thinking that asking a persons parents means that they are then going to say yes to you is a mistake.  A person, even a child does not belong to their parents.  This is particularly true in the case of romantic relationships.
Second, we are talking about a commitment for the rest of your life.  If we are talking about “The Question” this is not something that should be sprung on any one ever.  You should have some long and serious discussions about this way in advance.  Keep in mind that a person is never truly free to say yes, if they are not also truly free to say no.  Yes, a strong enough willed person will be able to make the right decisions no matter the circumstances, but very often we feel outside pressure.  If you already have the approval of their parents are they going to be worried about disappointing their parents if they say no?  
When it come to “The Question” I am a big proponent of popping the question part really being a show and tell for family and friends.  You should have already talked about this in depth, and maybe even asked the person in private, so that when they are standing there in front of their family, friends, a crowded restaurant, Yankee Stadium and you ask “The Question” you really should already know the answer.  (Hint: it helps the world at large around you if you are good actor and can act surprised, but if not, remember this is not really for them.)
In short asking permission can be a very slippery slope.  
There is also the reality that not all families are traditional. Many parents, fathers especially,  don’t respect the rights and boundaries of their daughters.  This can complicate things when or if you ask permission.  Again, these are discussion that you should have with your potential date / spouse before hand.   See my section on being friends first.  If you are already friends having this discussion with them, while it might be a little awkward won’t be totally out of left field. 
This can be a pretty scary thing to do. But remember that it is a sign of respect for both the woman you are dating and the family she is coming from.  I did not ask your Grandfather’s permission to date your mother.  I didn’t ask his permission to marry his daughter, and I am sure that to this day, that colors our relationship.  I am sure I will never measure up to what he believes his daughter deserves, but I also suspect that I would be a great deal closer to that measure if I had, had the courage to ask.  Have courage.  Be strong.  And know that once you have asked the hardest part left will be asking her.
Again I am going to point to the section on being friends first.  Getting to know her family.  This becomes important when it comes time to ask.  It is much easier to ask someone a difficult question when you have mucked out stalls with him, or whatever it is that you might do together.
So let’s sum it up here guys.  You should not start dating until you are serious about being ready to spend the rest of your life with someone.  You likely should not take someone you can’t see yourself spending the rest of your life with out on a date.  You should be a gentleman, your date should be a lady.  Remember that you want to live happily ever after.  You might date someone who you can’t live happily ever after with, and that is ok.  That is part of the dating process, but you should not go into a date, or start dating someone with the intent of not following through.
I want to thank Everyday Catholic for giving me the inspiration for this post.
I know that some people are going to  disagree with me, please feel free to let me know in the comments, but I will warn you that if you are not respectful I will not post your comment.

The First Kiss

Poll The Princess Bride Kiss

I remember the first time I kissed a girl.

It was not what I expected. You have seen the movies I am sure, the first kiss is always perfect, and it shapes their life afterwards right? The couple always remembers that first kiss. Well we flubbed it. Missed each others lips and everything. Thank goodness for me, this was not my first kiss with my wife to be. But the funny thing was that even though the kiss was bad, it was really good.

I don’t know how many of you remember your first kiss. I remember very little about the kiss itself other than it was clumsy and the way it made me feel afterwards. I remember kissing other girls after that, but none of them made me feel like that. It was like floating. It was a wonderful feeling. And it didn’t matter after that which girl I kissed it never felt like that again.

Well, almost never. Yes, I dated other girls before I met my wife to be. But she was something special. Usually the fact that you are dating is sealed with a kiss, but not with her. With the woman who would one day be my wife things were different. We had been dating for several days maybe as long as a week before we kissed that first time. You will notice that I said, several days maybe even a week. The truth is, we don’t remember for sure. But we do remember the date of that first kiss. We silently agreed never to talk about the real date and just accept the date of the first kiss as the “official” date.

Just like my very first kiss, our first kiss was a bit of a mess. I have no excuse. I mean I had done this before. It was her first kiss, but I had done this before. I should have been able to handle it. But that was the thing. With this woman, really very much a girl still at this point, everything was like the first time, all over again. But that is the way it should be right? I mean when you meet that person who is perfect for you, the past should not matter, and everything is new.

isabel_with Mom and DadFast forward 20+ years and there are days when we manage to miss on a kiss, and it still feels like that first kiss. I am not saying things are perfect, or that we are always happy. That is not it all what I am saying. But there are enough of those good, wonderful, glorious moments that they out weigh any of the bad.

This picture in particular, is one of those low moments but it has been, at least for the past year, one of those moments that has also drawn us together. We are older now, I have grey hair, at least the hair I have left is going grey. I get injured when I run too much, and I can’t pull all nighters and still function as well the next day like I could when we first met. My wife is still perfect in my eyes, I know she has changed too but she is perfect in my eyes. The thing is that we really make a great team. We know how to compliment each other. She really knows how to make me feel better when I need it. I think I know the same things for her. I am far from a perfect husband, but I do try.

That is, if you ask me, what marriage is all about. It is not that cloud nine feeling you get when you first kiss. That should be there of course, but there is so much more than that. There is the need to support each other when you are at the bottom of the ladder and it is so far up to cloud nine that you can’t even see it, and everything in the middle. There are going to be those days when you want to throw in the towel, and there are going to be those days when you wonder why the heck you would even think about throwing in the towel.

If I had a time machine and could go back to my younger self and tell me one thing, it would be this. Life is hard, but that first kiss, no matter how goofed up it is, is going to be one of those moments you will remember for the rest of your life. Remember it when you are at those low points, it will remind you of how good it can get. Remember that it is not all going to be like that, but those moments that are like that, are totally worth all the ones that aren’t.