I cannot bring this subject up without people yelling their opinions at my face before I finish my sentence. Don’t get me wrong, I use to be one of the crazy-I-can-do-anything rebellious teenagers. People who know me now probably couldn’t imagine some of the insane things I did when I was a teenager. You see, that is the beauty of life. Each day you grow…older, wiser…and with that comes the opportunity to change past thoughts and beliefs.
If you would have asked me 15 years ago what I thought about the idea of waiting until 18 to date, I would have told you that you were crazy. Straight up. Fast forward to present day Mother of five, I believe in it whole heartedly. This revelation did not come from how I was raised, family member opinions or even my husband. No. This came from years of self-evaluation and regret. Period. I do not want our children to suffer the cost that I have paid. So, I started talking to other parents, researching data, etc. It wasn’t a simple google on dating stats or teenage pregnancies. It was a beautiful marriage of all studies that I have pursued over the last decade and the new-found knowledge on the impact of teenage dating.
Just tonight I was doing further research on the subject. One article claimed that not dating until adulthood was unhealthy. Really? Pray tell? Does avoiding keggers and random sex with multiple partners cause some sort of disorder that I am unaware of? Does being crushed by immature partners or contracting a STD make you a better person? I’m confused…How does honoring your body, your parents and your future spouse make you less of a person or bring about some sort of unhealthy after shock?
At this point you may be thinking, well if you are worried about STDs and pregnancy, just put your kid on birth control. Sure, that seems like a great idea right? Wrong. I see nothing but DANGER written all over it. First of all, they are teenagers. Hormone driven monkeys that cannot comprehend consequences five minutes from now let alone 9 months in the future. I cannot tell you how many teenage girls has made some sort of comment on how having a baby would be so neat because they would have someone who loves them no matter what. HA! I’m sorry, reality check please. Even your baby can hate you when the mood is right. Motherhood is not a walk in the part and isn’t as simple as those 15 and Pregnant movies on Lifetime make it out to be. Teen Mom, give me a break. I cannot stand that show. It makes me want to slap the teenagers and throw things at my television. Where do they find these people? Motherhood starts the moment you conceive and ends the moment you die. Not a minute sooner. You don’t get to have the baby and then trot off to prom and hang out with your friend every weekend. You don’t get to go shopping at the mall and get your nails done. Would you like to know how often I get my hair cut? About every two years. Yes, I said years…and my hair dresser even comes to my house!
To look at birth control from a medical view-point, here is something to chew on. It has been proven that birth control affect the natural ability to choose a mate. This is true for both females and males. So does perfume if you are interested in the matter. You see, humans naturally give off an odor cause by hormones. Males are attracted to females and vis versa. Females are wired to seek out a mate that will be the best provider. That doesn’t mean he drives a BMW and make six figures a year. It means raw animal qualities. Females seek a male that will produce strong healthy offspring and are physically able to provide and protect their family (which is why woman are so attracted to the hunky guys with 6 packs). True story. Males are attracted to the woman by their scent. It has nothing to do with their physical appearance or intelligence, these are just icing on the cake. In studies men were shown images of woman at random and asked to rate their level of attraction. Then researches pumped pheromones into the room through the air ducts and asked the men to rate the women again. The stronger the pheromone level, the greater the attraction. Starting to get the idea here? Birth control alters the hormone levels in the body and therefore changes your natural odor. Change in odor means that you will attract the wrong mate. Don’t believe me? Do a little experiment sometime. Ask random co-workers and friends about past relationships. If you know anyone who had been divorced ask them if they were taking birth control when they met their ex-partner. See what kind of results you get.
So let’s do a recap, shall we. So far we have hormone driven monkeys who can’t think straight, engaging in risky behaviors. Add in the fact that birth control isn’t always effective and alters the natural selection of partners. Lets throw in partying and multiple partners for a realistic examination of American teenagers. You have to assume that drinking and drugs have been introduced into the equation. Lets not fool ourselves, we know what we did as teenagers. Our kids will be out doing the same things, probably at younger ages than we did and most likely are less supervised due to overtasked family schedules and access to cell phones, internet, etc. If you really want to have a positive effect on how your child treats relationships, you must have one with them. Fathers, please do not under-estimate what 15 minutes or unadulterated time with your child can do to shape their future. This is especially true with daughters. If her emotional needs are not met at home, she WILL go looking for it elsewhere. More often than not, she will only find heart-break and abuse. Please take a moment to truly think about that…
Now lets talk about the after shock of these behaviors. How is your son/daughter going to feel about themselves one, two, ten years down the road. How will their future partner feel about their past behaviors. Will their actions affect possible unions? When you daughter get married and goes off on her honey moon will it be a sacred time between husband and wife or just another night of sex? Take a moment to consider how the actions they make today will affect their self-worth tomorrow. Teenagers don’t think about this. A friend of mine put it so beautifully. She said that they asked their children not to date until 18 because every time you are with someone you give them a piece of your heart. Well, if you are will several people before you find your spouce, how much of your heart will you have left to give them? Will you judge them based on past relationships? Will they pay the consequences of your insecurities due to past heart-break? Will it effect the over all marriage? Probably.
As a parent I cannot imagine anyone wanting that for their child. I use to think that you should date and “test the waters” so you know what to look for in a mate. I remember having discussion with girlfriends about waiting until marriage to have sex. I used to be against the idea. If you would have asked teenager me what I thought about premarital sex I would have said it was a good thing. That you wouldn’t want to get ‘stuck” with someone who couldn’t please you sexually. Well, here is a crazy thought. If you have never been with anyone, what do you have to compare it to? Wouldn’t it be better to be able to learn and explore each others bodies as a couple, being committed to serving each others needs. I can’t imagine that too many teenagers are thinking about serving their partners needs (really serving them) in the heat of the moment. No, it is all physical. There is no emotional or spiritual. That comes later…and if you have already experienced the physical without the emotional and spiritual then wasn’t it an empty act? The idea that causal sex is normal and expected is a deep socialogical failure. We have, as a people, allowed this message to be broadcast to our youth. If you buy into it yourself, would you expect your child to think differently?
Teenagers shouldn’t be spending their weekends getting drunk and having meaningless sex. Teenagers are suppose to be focusing on school and developing themselves for adulthood. School is a full-time job. Being a kid is a full-time job. Sex and partying doesn’t really fit into the equation. When you think about it, the first 18 years is less than 25% of their entire life. It flys by before you know it. One minute they are stumbling around in a pair of Mommy high heels and the next minute they are sneaking out of the house with a mini skirt and way too much makeup. Isn’t it our job as parents to help them hold onto that innocence for as long as possible?
As I said at the beginning of this post, I’ve tried discussing this topic before. It was quick to gain reactions. Most people said that by forcing your children to wait until 18 would just increase their rebellion and they would sneak around and date anyway. Here is my thought. If you assume they will do the worst, they will. If you do not respect them, they will not respect themselves. If you do not educate them, they will be ignorant. Dating is so much more than sex. It is a meant to be a deep connection. It is a sacred act. If you make light of it and hand them birth control pills, what do you expect to happen? Are you prepared to become a grandparent at 35, because you’ve given them permission to do so. Look, I was a stupid teenager and did a lot of really stupid things. I won’t deny that for a moment. I can tell you that I wish someone would have really sat down with me and had a serious talk about what dating really means, and what the consequences are. Sure I had the whole “do you want to be the town whore” talk and the “look at so and so they are 16 and pregnant and their life is ruined” talk. Guess what, that didn’t work. Those are not open discussions. Those are do what I say, not what I do one-sided discussions. That is what makes teenagers go out and get drunk and do drugs and have sex. Its called spite and teenagers are REALLY good at it.
No. I’m talking about having an honest to goodness discussion with your children. Getting to know their hearts. Learning their hopes and dreams and figuring out how to help them accomplish those goals with as little damage as possible. I’m not saying they won’t make mistakes, everyone does, that is how we learn. What I do know is that I’ve made enough mistakes to make up for all five of our children and I’d rather not see them go through what I did. I’m not going to forbid dating. I’m simply asking them to respect themselves as much as we respect them and to make smart choices. I’m going to ask them to guard their hearts and bodies so that when they do find that person they want to spend the rest of their life with, they can enter into that relationship with no regrets, no self loathing, no negative past. As parents we want more for our children than what we had. I had the heartache, the mistakes and the life changing ignorant decisions. I want more for them, don’t you?
Do you think it is okay for parent to ask their children to wait until 18 to date? Why or why not?