I’m pretty sure that we can all relate to the phenomena of “wanting” and “liking” when it comes to evaluating and relating to prospective partners (perhaps informed by a lifetime of trial-and-error attempts at meaningful connection). The differences between the two are, perhaps, well-defined on the surface, but the nuances that inhabit the real-world ‘relational space’ that lies between our attractions, preferences, and desires seems like it would guide the bulk of our filters, reactions, and responses. In an attempt to avoid becoming too esoteric from the start, the term “wanting” may be thought of as more motivation-oriented. “Liking” may be characterized as grounded primarily in affect or emotion (e.g., Dai, Dong, & Jia, 2014). When one factors in one of the most well-known dating strategies out there—the “hard-to-get” strategy—I imagine many of us would rather instantly come up with a handful of working hypotheses as to this strategy’s effectiveness. Two studies confirmed a few suspicions many of us likely hold ourselves about dating.
 Those that are perceived as more “easy-to-get” tended to be more likable and more desirable when there was not a psychological investment by that partner already in place. Alternatively,  the more “hard-to-get” prospective partners were viewed as less likable (surprise, surprise) but more desirable by partners who already had a psychological investment in them.
In my mind, these findings further confirm many of our real-world suspicions (perhaps even fears) when it comes to the dating scene. Personally, I don’t find the “hard-to-get” strategy particularly charming, but I nevertheless feel that little itch of motivation in the back of my mind, which invariably yells out, “engage, engage, go for it!” Accordingly, I cannot deny the potential implications of research findings like these. In some ways, those with a desire to enhance already established relational closeness and “take the next step” might profit from a hard(er)-to-get approach. While this hard-to-get strategy may be ever so desire provoking, I can’t help but think it can also engender annoyance, resentment, or—in a world of endless options—immediately foreclose the whole connection. Here, I am tempted to risk the analogy of that aging car you’ve likely kept a year or two beyond its usefulness. While one may have a great deal of “sunk costs” already invested in the car (in endless repairs and service costs), there eventually comes a fairly clear tipping point in which the scales tip sides and a rational choice point emerges. While speaking in financial metaphors may seem a bit detached, I’d venture to guess that most of us have at least one story from our personal histories in which the ‘preponderance of the circumstances’ tipped the scale to 51% and…well…a decision had to be made. Stay or leave? Fight or flight? Invest some more or cash out?
According to Jonason and Morgan (2012), playing hard-to-get, “is a mating tactic in which people give the impression that they are ostensibly uninterested to get others to desire them more” (pp. 458).
Keeping in mind that no relationship is “one way” or another, I can’t help but think that most of us fall into a certain middle-ground. In such a place, looking at the real world effects of “hard-to-get” or “easy-to-get” dating strategies quickly outstrips any real consensus as to their predictive powers. Just like in psychotherapy sessions with clients, there are various “extra-therapeutic” factors which are thought to guide therapy outcomes significantly (e.g., events going on in the client’s life, health-related concerns, the loss of a relative, winning the lottery, etc.). Translated to dating, one could easily argue that there are equally moderating “extras” which guide our experiences in profound ways. A factor which seems to stare us in the face each day—and, for many of us, from minute to minute—is the sheer availability of potential partners who may be “looking”, “seeing what’s out there”, or ready to engage “right now”. Very popular dating apps like Tinder and Grindr have made the prospect of going on a (de facto) “blind date” something that can, in many cases, be achieved in as little as a few minutes and a couple taps on a screen. How, then, can a meaningful psychological commitment between two partners be effected in ways that ever rise to the level of being worth further pursuit?
As a graduate student, I know from experience, that having a day or two of free time can pretty quickly grow into a group of “interested” prospects knocking at your door, eager to see if sparks will fly. Add in the fact that you work a full-time job and go to school, and the additional “costs” required to establish a solid investment in any one of these people appear understandably daunting. As a fairly Type A person who wants to be reasonably efficient and effective in all the things I do, any research that might guide the selection of the most effective dating strategies seems almost too appealing. Unfortunately, from what the research tells us on this question, we may not yet be ready to rely on any conclusions.
For those who are extremely busy (or those who are not the best at managing many things at once), it seems possible that the current dating climate may foster a type of avoidance response in many. In the past, it may have been common to be intimately involved with one person and pursue numerous dates with that person. Today, one can still go this route (assuming others are willing and available to take the same route), but one can also go on a date with one person, then go on a date with another person, and another, and another. Granted, I could see either scenario being “fulfilling” for certain people. For others, however, it could quickly lead to an ever-reductive (and exhausting) practice of searching for the “Perfect” someone (a practice that is much like trying to polish a diamond in total darkness).
If my intuition is correct, the current dating culture runs the fairly sharp risk of meaningful commitments to a single partner becoming much like trying to lock onto a moving target. Perhaps we can hone our skills to the point of being able to strike these quick-moving, more engagement-resistant, and oftentimes finicky targets. Perhaps not. Perhaps some of us won’t even want to try. For these folks, it likely seems terrifying (or, at best, depressing) that the fundamental notion that dating could be reduced to the phenomenon of simply “wanting”. For those of us who experience the greatest promise and stability through working toward balance, the task of integrating “liking” back into a dating culture currently so overwhelmed by short-term wanting may seem like a type of solution. In my mind, it seems that we can still have both. It could be that the advent of social technologies and online partner availability has only injected our traditional mate-seeking behaviors with a shot of adrenaline. This apparent referential index shift in the ways that we view the current cultural climate may prove hopeful in that a greater focus on the “extra” dating factors may be the key to catching the right moving target.
Blog written by Michael McRill
Student Intern, KU School of Social Welfare
Dai, X., Dong, P., & Jia, J.S. (2014). When does playing hard to get increase romantic attraction? Journal of Experimental Social Psychology: General, 143, 521-526.
Jonason, P., & Norman, P. (2012). Playing hard-to-get: Manipulating one’s perceived availability as a mate. European Journal of Personality, 27(5), 458-469.
Monday, October 12, 2015
Sunday, May 10, 2015
Mother/Daughter Book Review of “It’s Perfectly Normal” by Robie H. Harris and our personal reflections on approachable parenting.
I was in 4th grade when my parents gave me the book “Where Did I Come From” by Peter Mayle. I think it was about the time my mom was pregnant with my brother. It was about a year late, but still helped guide my learning about sex and sexuality. Truth is I learned about reproduction from a dirty song my friends taught me in 2nd grade on the playground. It still left a lot of questions of course, questions my friends couldn’t answer.
Over the past few months I have been preaching the idea of talking to your kids about changing bodies, growing up, sex, and sexual health. So today, I am bringing in an expert on the issue…my 12 year old daughter, Avry. She will share her perspective on all things puberty and the pros and cons of a parent who talks about it!
Together we read “It’s Perfectly Normal” and are taking time out to check in with each other on all things boys, puberty, and middle school. This book review and interview will share a little bit about our journey together.
Brief Book Review by Mom:
This book is loaded with information on all the hard topics. Puberty and reproduction just scratch the surface to the even bigger more sensitive subjects like masturbation, responsible choices, sexual orientation, desire, abstinence, birth control, abortion, sexually transmitted disease, and HIV/AIDS. The content is presented in developmentally appropriate terms. The author takes great care to relate to the young mind with a comedic brilliance that is appropriate and entertaining. The illustrations were probably my favorite. Honest and well-intended to show how bodies look inside and out and all shapes and sizes. A bird and a bee, the narrators, bring a lightheartedness to a serious subject allowing you and your child to giggle at every page turn. My favorite part of the book is the casual flow of content. Allow the book to guide you through the natural stages your child is or will be going through. Your child will be validated and encouraged to explore their sexuality in the most natural process. Parents I guarantee you will learn something too. I am comfortable with my 12 year old reading every last page of this book if she was interested. I have also used a few different chapters and some of the illustrations with my younger kids who are 8 and 9. While the text is above their reading level, I would suggest the book “It’s Not the Stork” for this age group written by the same author.
I asked Avry to help on the blog and she agreed to an interview to discuss her experience as a tween, her response to the book, and our interactions together as we both explore puberty together.
Tell us a little about yourself.
“My name is Avry Asby. I am turning 12 in a few days and I am in the 6th grade”
What are girls preoccupied with or into at your age? How about boys, what do you think boys your age are most preoccupied with?
“Social media like Instagram, clothes, and how they look. Different types of music too. I think boys are mostly into sports and the type of shoes they wear. Both girls and boys think a lot about fashion and what they wear. I don’t really know much about the boy perspective.”
What have you learned about puberty or reproduction at school?
“In health class we just learned about our internal organs. The body parts and what they do. How to use pads and tampons, where to buy them, and that kinda stuff. We won’t learn about what boys go through til 8th grade.”
Did you read “It’s Perfectly Normal?” Did you think it was age appropriate?
“Not all of it, yet. I have been busy so I picked out a few chapters. I think it was appropriate for my age group because I could understand the text. I read chapter 3 about puberty because I wanted to know more information about that since I know it’s coming! We learned it in health class, but I needed more information. I am interested in the families and babies chapter too because it talks about taking care of babies, the birthing process; like going through labor. My aunts are having babies so this will be helpful to understand what they are going through.”
What parts of the book were most interesting?
“How they explain puberty and the pictures that show specifically what is happening in your body, and on the outside of your body. I like that I can mentally picture the changes I will go through. This book was really helpful and fun to read. I could read the text then look at the illustrations to further understand everything. The little bird and bee are funny, so you will probably laugh.”
Do you feel like it is important for parents to talk to their kids about sex, puberty, and sexual health?
“I think parents should talk more about it with their child. It will allow for good bonding time. They went through it themselves, and I personally feel more comfortable asking my parent questions, and also because I trust them more. I don’t really want to ask my teacher those kinds of questions plus it is hard to ask in front of your friends in class if you don’t understand something. I think it is also better because our parents can help guide us to making the right decisions. I am glad my mom talks to me about it.”
It is hard to be open and honest with your parents?
“Sometimes. I get nervous, and I like having my privacy. I know I have to tell them something at some point, and I know I will need someone to go to when I am confused and to discuss my personal feelings.”
If you had a friend who was telling friends inaccurate information about sex and puberty, what would you tell them?
“I would tell them that I was told something different, and they should really ask their parent if that is correct. I would share what my parent told me because I know my mom knows this stuff, she studies it in grad school. I would also go tell them to buy or check out the book, It’s Perfectly Normal, and read it.”
Have you ever used the internet to learn about any of these subjects? Was the internet helpful? Was it dangerous?
“Sometimes, but people put things on the internet that are not true, and even inappropriate for our age. Also things change so much you might get misinformation. I would be very careful what you search online, it can lead to things you don’t need to see”
What do you think would be the best way for a parent to teach reproduction and puberty?
“I like using the book. The pictures are really helpful, and you can do it at your own pace. Being 12 this book has so much information it is almost overwhelming. I like having the book so I can take it one step at a time. Just sharing personal experience is helpful too. It helps to hear what other people went through.”
Nine years ago, on Mother’s Day weekend, I lost my one and only pregnancy. May 13, 2006. Approximately 30 days after finding out I was pregnant, I lost it, due to an ectopic pregnancy that ruptured. I like to believe it would have been a girl. I always wanted a daughter. So Mother’s Day weekend is always hard now.
When I realized that having children was not in the plan for me, I told my husband I was going back to school. I half-joked that my PhD was going to be my baby. This week, on May 15, 2015, that pursuit comes to completion. Nine years later, almost to the date of that horrible miscarriage, I will graduate with my PhD in Human Sexuality. I will become the first doctor in my family.
I find myself asking “So now what?” Being a student was a way to channel my energy into a goal, and ignore feelings about motherhood that still bubble up now and then. This is a terminating degree. So I wonder what the next distraction will be, to take the place of feeling the emotions, when they bubble up again, which they will. They always do. Especially on Mother’s Day weekends.
My friend, Dr. Jill McDevitt, wrote the piece below. I read it mid-day. It was the first time amid all the social media Mother’s Day greetings and salutations that I saw myself, and my mother experience, reflected in the day’s celebrations. These four words, “experienced a devastating miscarriage”, allowed me to be seen, and acknowledged. She created the space for me, and I felt compelled after sitting in that space, to share my experience. I know I am not alone and that miscarriage is a common part of the human experience. For others who share my experience, I want you to know that I hold space for you, and I acknowledge you as mothers too.
TW: miscarriage, losing a child
When I was a kid, I made my mom breakfast on Mother's Day. As an adult I send her a card, and I've mostly had the privilege of not having to think about Mother's Day beyond that, and as per the nature of privilege, I've had the privilege of not realizing that for so many people, it's not that simple. But being Facebook friends with such a diverse group of folks, I've come to understand from scrolling my feed every year on this day that for so many people, Mother's Day is fraught.
There are people who have lost their mother. There are people who are estranged from their mother, were abused by their mother, or otherwise have a painful complicated relationship with her.
There are also people who have lost a child, experienced a devastating miscarriage, or very much want to be a mother but can't conceive.
There are people who are struggling with motherhood; financially, emotionally as a single mother feeling isolated, as a mother of a sick child or child with special needs, frustrated by the lack of support they receive from a society that claims it values mothers but clearly doesn't.
There are people who lament how far we've moved away from the origin of Mother's Day as an anti-war, Feminist, and devoutly anti-consumerist holiday honoring the thankless role of women in society, and bringing together women whose families were destroyed when their sons went off to war. There are people who express their sadness that we "celebrate" motherhood today while we still allow pregnant people to be fired from their jobs, remain the only country on earth without paid maternity leave, and continue to deny access to affordable birth control so people can choose if and when they want to become a mother.
All of this was in my newsfeed today.
For everyone for whom this day opens wounds, I'm sending love and compassion your way.
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
The majority of my blog posts focus on how I infuse my professional passion for counseling and sexual health in my personal experience as a parent. Today I shift gears, and I give you a glimpse of some of the work I am doing with older adults on the topic of sexual health.
In 2007, I embarked on a career that would forever change my life. I began working with older adults in low income housing. My work focused on case management, advocacy, increasing self-sufficiency, and reducing early institutionalization (long term nursing care) of older adults. It was love at first sight! How did I not know how incredibly amazing our older adult generation was until now? Working with older adults was the best decision I ever made. I learned older adults are vibrant, energetic, empowered to learn, and full of wisdom. I wanted to fuse my passion for working with adults throughout my career with my practicum placement at Turner Professional Group, therefor I created a graduate project around these two themes.
Throughout this past year I have developed a psycho-educational group entitled, Sexuality and Aging. It’s like Sex Ed 101 for adults 65+. The intent of this assignment was twofold. The first was to empower older adults to start a conversation, and begin communicating thoughts and concerns about sexuality in a safe environment. The second was to provide educational information on sexually transmitted infections, HIV, and AIDS. It wasn’t easy convincing people to let me, a student, come in and discuss the issue of sexuality and aging. I found a fair amount of resistance, further convincing me that SEX is a dirty word (but shouldn’t be!) and the idea that older adults don’t need to learn about sexuality (but they do!). So, after begging and pleading to some extent, I managed to get my program out into the community through a few trusted colleagues. Together we learned that those in attendance really enjoyed talking about sexuality! With my sex positive attitude, I managed bring comprehensive sex ed to three housing communities for older adults.
Where did I begin you ask? A simple Google search brought me to two very important issues. As I began my research I was quickly thrilled to learn that older adults are still getting jiggy with it! Surveys by AARP and the CDC found that older adults continue to have fulfilling sex lives well into their advanced age! With (and often without) medical intervention and simple accommodations to our changing physiology we can engage and maintain a healthy sex life, almost indefinitely. This lead to equally intriguing research in the incredible spread of sexually transmitted infections with this population. So…from these two fun factoids I gave birth to a brief one hour psycho-education presentation on SEXUALITY and AGING!
I was over the moon when I walked into my first presentation and we had to bring in more chairs! I was particularly excited to have men enter the equation on my second presentation, and boy did they challenge me! Barking up and down my tree tell me a thing or two about sexuality. What is so incredible about working in the community is that you get the thrill of never know who your audience will be. I had a few very highly educated feminists, members of the LGBTQ community, and ultra conservatives, all from a variety of different cultures. Most of these folks came from a generation that did not receive comprehensive sex education and from an era where you didn’t discuss sex. Our society has created a sex-crazed culture, yet a critically silent approach on sex education. We don’t know what we don’t learn…IT’S A CONUNDRUM!
A large part of the presentation with this population was to break the silence. To empower adults to take their sexuality by the reigns and engage in it. So many of our older adults are already isolated, and silence contributes to AGEISM. Ponrat Pakpreo, the author of Medical Evaluation: Why we take a sex history, discloses low rates of sexual health assessment by physicians and other health care professionals. A variety of barriers are admittedly shared by physicals including: time constraints, underestimation of patient risk, lack of information, and embarrassment. These barriers prevent some clinicians from conducting sexual assessments (Pakpreo, 2013). I found this to be true in each of the presentations I gave with older adults. In a nonscientific experiment (show of hands), the majority shared that their primary physician doesn’t asses their sexual health. They admittedly agreed that they too as patients don’t disclose to or ask questions about their sexual needs with their primary care physicians. Empowering older adults to be their own advocate with their doctors was a crucial message to share.
Building new perspectives on tolerance and respect to gender roles and stereotypes in this population was also an important message. We dove into all the circles of sexuality…intimacy, sensuality, sexual health/reproduction, sexualization, and sexual identity (Dailey, 1981). With age, many of these can vary with intensity, however they continue to exist. My favorite part of these talks was hearing the love stories they had to share. Loving and losing was a theme that was shared each and every class. I encourage all of those reading this to engage with a parent, grandparent, or older adult about their love story. Their wisdom is worth its weight in gold.
Informing facts of STI/HIV…
The presentation sought to inform adults 55+ that they are a high at-risk group for sexuality transmitted infections as well as HIV/AIDS. Data from the Centers for Disease Control state that this age is just as at-risk as young Americans. Older adults ages 55+ make up 19% of the populations living with HIV (Centers for Disease Control, 2013). In addition, sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) are on the rise in adults age 50 and over, 50% in fact (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013).
We know that adults 80+ years are sexually active and we know sexually transmitted infections are on the rise! What is happening? I will tell you what’s happening…the baby boomers and beyond are physically active, sexually spirited, and bursting at the seams! Truth: less than 1/3 of the surveyed adults used a condom during their most recent sexual encounter (Schick et al. 2010). We are talking about 80% of sexually active older adults not using protection! Many older adults believe the myth that they are exempt from STI’s is wreaking havoc and must be stopped! A fantastic PSA from safersex4seniors.org, provides a very impactful message to free spirited sexually active older adults. See full PSA at this link: https://youtu.be/1Pfa07ijUCE.
What I learned…
It was refreshing that I was able to connect current research that tells us that older adults are sexually active, with a unanimous response from my classes that they are also very excited to talk about sex. We are breaking the silence and addressing concerns and issues related to sexuality and answering the health questions and providing resources in order for older adults to get them help them need.
I am happy to report to all my dear readers that despite your age, size, and physical ability, a person’s need for affection, desire, and pleasure extends well into advanced age…to our last breath really. There are hundreds of ways to engage in sex…please remember to increase your safety by using a condom! For help or assistance in safe contraception please contact your doctor or wellness provider.
Special thank you to Phoenix Family (www.phoenixfamily.org) for their continued support of my work with older adults and allowing me the privilege and trust to present Sexuality and Aging to the following communities: Landmark Towers, Nowlin Hall, and Cathedral Square Towers.
Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2013.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Factsheet: HIV among older adults November
2013. Retrieved at www.cdc.gov/hiv
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance 2012.
Dailey, D.M. (1981). Sexual expression and aging in F.J. Berghorn & D.E. Schafer (Eds.). The dynamics of aging: Original essays
on the process and experiences of growing old (pp. 311-330. Boulder, CO; Westview Press.
Fortenberry, J. D. (2010), Sexual Behaviors, Condom Use, and Sexual Health of Americans Over 50: Implications for Sexual
Health Promotion for Older Adults. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 7: 315–329. doi: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2010.02013.x
Pakpreo, P. (2013, October 1). Medical Education: Why do we take a sex history? Retrieved
November 10, 2014, from http://virtualmentor.ama-assn.org/2005/10/pdf/medu1-0510.pdf
Schick, V., Herbenick, D., Reece, M., Sanders, S. A., Dodge, B., Middlestadt, S. E. and
Schick, V., Herbenick, D., Reece, M., Sanders, S. A., Dodge, B., Middlestadt, S. E. and
Saturday, March 14, 2015
Teachable Moment: Approachable Parenting Part Two and my "First Kiss"
Last blog I introduced the new-cool-hip attitude to parenting called approachable parenting or also referenced as being an askable parent. My style is proving day in and day out, that yes, I am an approachable parent. Proof in the last few days, I fielded all the following questions from the humans in my household:
Female age 7: How did my little baby cousin come out? What did it feel like? Do I have a hole for that, or does it grow when I have a baby?
Male, age 9: Should I be wearing a nut cup? Maybe I can borrow dads until I can get one?
Male age 40: How can I make it through all this puberty stuff without a nervous breakdown? Female age 11: It is ok if I video chat online with boys, cause I have an online date? How old do I have to be to go on a real date? Mom, my friends are kissing already can you believe that? When was your first kiss?
I will honestly admit that I wanted to crawl in a hole and never come out. It was like a barrage of bullets, each hitting me hard where it counts: the heart, the gut, the frontal lobe. All three of those organs had a different opinion and response to each question. I was also managing some pretty lengthy graduate assignments this past week. I didn’t have time, and truth be told, I did not want to talk about this stuff!!!
I have had prouder moments as a parent; I wanted to dismiss the interrogations and run away with a very tall glass of wine. Like an esteemed politician, I put on my game face and responded confidently. It was the questions from my oldest daughter that got to me the most. Since we have already had the big talk about sex, pornography, and gay/lesbian/queer due to the Google search drama, I thought surely she needed a break. This is all really heavy stuff.
Oh no, this can of worms was officially opened. Here is how it went… It is important to know much of this was narrated in my head… and what words came out were mostly a bunch of stuttering…When my child asked me to divulge the details of my first kiss, I remembered it was not the millisecond peck on the lips kind of kiss, it was the real deal, the insert tongue-in-mouth kinda kiss. The whole adage “do as I say not as I do” came to mind. I always told myself I wouldn’t lie to my kids, but in this moment I wanted to lie. Surely a few Hail Mary’s and a half dozen Our Fathers would do get me outta this one? No, I promised I would use my experiences as ways to engage and connect intimately with my daughter. She can handle it. I told myself I don’t have to go into detail, but I will be truthful.
I will admit it was pretty dreamy thinking back to my first kiss. I remember planning it for weeks, maybe months. It was a rite of passage that I took very seriously. “It was the summer after my 8th grade year, I was about to be in high school and desperately wanted to be kissed. He was a few years older, and I am pretty sure I was not even close to being on his radar. I will never forget I was wearing braces. It was nice, wet, and thoughtful, and I am sure it didn’t last nearly as long as I remember.”
Ok, done. I thought I handled that pretty well. Not too much, just enough to appease her, right? Regret immediately sinks in. “Do you remember this boy? Like did you ever see him again?” she asked. “Of course! That would be pretty irresponsible if I planned this great kiss with some random kid. We were friends, and as a matter of fact we are still friends to this day.” After a few more details about how this “boy” was, we were laughing and giggling together.
The boy, well he remains a constant reminder of just how giddy we gals can get at such a young age. More importantly, it is crucial for us parents to recall our experiences and what we went through in order to relate to our children.
My friends and I have a running joke about mothers with “momnesia.” That is the idea that we easily forget about the mistakes we made as youth, and our distorted sense of the past becomes “I never did anything like that”. My own parents do this more than I do, but they have many more years separating them from puberty than me. For me, recalling my past helps normalize my child’s behaviors and experiences. As I reminisced conquering my first kiss, I asked myself, is this what I want for my daughter? The pragmatic sensible parent in me was thinking, “it would be great for her to have a similar intimate moment with a boy in which she can feel proud, and furthermore recall with a sense of pleasure and fondness.” The important thing is that I can talk to her about it, and if and when she decides to engage in kissing or whatever intimate experience, she will talk to her “cool, approachable, hip” mom before it happens. And at that point, I will want to do my damnedest to talk her out of it until she is 18! Because let’s be real, the mama bear in me thinks I will have no young cavalier boy lip locking with my baby girl. Whoever this little punk is, he’s going to get a tongue lashing in more ways than one! The truth is, finding the balance on how we can influence our kiddos to make the right choices, and trust that they will do so, is hard.
I won’t lie, I had my kids watch an episode of the TLC reality show, 19 Kids and Counting, the one when Jill starts courting and they set courting rules like only side hugs, a chaperone on all dates, and no kissing til marriage. I admire the Duggar family values, I do, and I would support my child in that decision. I also know that growing up with all the temptations in this world make it difficult to adopt this philosophy. I fully embrace my child making mistakes and likely choosing to do things I prefer she not do.
Lessons Learned: How can we embrace the evolving levels of attraction our kiddos are experiencing? I talked about being an approachable parent in my last blog, and this past week continues to support my philosophy to engage with my kids especially so they can learn from my past. I have to share her response to my first kiss story:
“ehhw really, braces mom? That’s gross! Please tell me you didn’t look anything like Sara, (Jimmy Fallon) in the “EW!” videos. Do braces make you slobber like that? I am sure that was sooooo unattractive.”
The two of us have agreed to talk openly. We continued this conversation over time weighing the pros and cons to courting and dating. We are reading “Before you meet Prince Charming” a book that talks about purity, as she is already discovering that her values and morals are important to her. I think it is important that we don’t underestimate our kids’ ability weigh risk and reward especially when they have a supportive adult willing to listen. In these moments remember to give facts, and do not pass judgment. I think it is so crucial that we also don’t assume our tweens and teens are naïve. I know I am not naïve, and despite talking about purity and abstinence, I will also have conversations about contraceptives and pleasure. I struggle in times like these, and find myself responding to my fears and worries. In that struggle, it is easy to forget about the question they are seeking guidance on, so respond to your children, tween, and teenage not from a place of dread or burden, but of honesty and with factual information.
Do you consistently brush off moments when your kid asks a question you can’t answer? I know everyone who watched the World Series with their kids got asked what erectile dysfunction is. Yowsa! It isn’t too late to overcome your coyness. Start with a strong, open, honest heart. I think our kids have a pretty great chance at success in this crazy thing called life if we stand by them all the way!