Loves me. Loves me not.

He loves her, she loves him not. She loves him, he loves her not.  And so it goes with teen romance all the way through young adulthood.  There are crushes, dates, and actually sometimes love but there’s never been a time that one of these relationships didn’t produce character and gained maturity and understanding.

I was criticized behind my back and surprisingly to my face about the freedom with which we allowed our teenagers to date.  The boyfriends and girlfriends came and went at a pretty regular pace.  The permissive approach to dating didn’t come without rules and a lot more discussion than our kids would have probably wanted. I’m not na├»ve enough to believe the rules were always obeyed or the truth was always told but enough of it got through to provide them with a foundation to weigh their options when they faced making good decisions on the fly.

With each relationship, however superficial or heartfelt, they learned more about themselves and other families than if they had not been allowed to explore their role with other people.  Every boy my daughters dated, in some way helped them form their standards.  They learned behaviors and attitudes that were real deal-breakers, they saw qualities that they looked for in their future relationships and ultimately their husbands. Every girl my son dated allowed him to see the value of a good mate and in contrast, to see the pitfalls to avoid.  He too, will know what character qualities he’s looking for when he reaches the place in his life that he will choose to be in a relationship.

I’ve been criticized, or at the very least raised a few eyebrows, at how we welcomed each boyfriend or girlfriend into the family.  I can show photos of Christmases, birthdays, graduations, and even vacations where one or another of these extras were present.  We included them in order to know them, in order to be able to give guidance and know when our intervention might be necessary.  We also wanted to know what it was in these young people that captured our kid’s hearts and it often captured ours, too.

Every now and then there was a real conflict. On occasion we did a lot of agonizing over one of them and that’s when we played the parental trump card and put a stop to it. Everything is not always a negotiation, especially when as parents we could see the disaster ahead.  Our kids were no worse for wear from these teenaged dating experiences; only wiser and more aware.

I don’t believe they were wounded, scarred,or that they created any sinful “soul ties” that bound them to that ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend.  Rather, they’re stronger and more secure in who they are in Christ and how grace works in their lives.

I’m happy they love to love. And I’m really, really happy that all that experience lead them to their very best loves as our two daughters grew into confident women and have added two amazing young men to the family. Ultimately, they chose well.