Monday, August 5, 2013

When You Don’t Like Your Daughter’s Boyfriend

When I was 14, I came home from the county fair convinced I had found my “soul mate.”  He was 19, had blonde hair, blue eyes, and a bad boy image.  Needless to say, my mother was less than happy.  When she was 15, she ran off and married a boy just like him, my father.  It didn’t turn out too well.  They were married for 30 years, had eight kids, and a life of turmoil.  My father was a mean alcoholic, but my mother loved him until the day she died even though he caused her great heartache during those 30 years.  Why did she stay with him for so long?  Because that is what women of her time period did.  They sucked it up and didn’t sully the family by getting a divorce.  She did finally leave him a few months after I was born in the mid 60’s, though, and she paid dearly in our small town of judgmental people.  She was an outcast amongst her peers.

You would have thought I had learned from her example.  Heck NO, I was only 14.  Maybe growing up without a dad made me crave a male model.  Since my dad was 5 years older than my mom and also had the bad boy image, I chose someone very close to what he was.  I used this information against my mother, but I did not take into account the toll it took on her to live with her bad boy.  At the same time, she never talked to me about the details of that horrible life.  My older brothers and sisters filled me in as I was going through my teen years.

At 14 I was determined to get what I wanted, and she fought me every step of the way.  She was right, of course, but her approach was wrong.  She only made me want to be with this boy more by telling me to stay away from him. 

I had the typical “I know everything” teenage attitude.  I dated him for 2 ½ years thinking I could change him.  He was a high school dropout.  I thought I had convinced him to get his GED, but he never did work on it.  He sniffed glue when I met him.  I told him I would break up with him if he didn’t stop.  Thankfully, he did stop.  He was good to me: flowers, dinners, and, except for the GED, jumped through hoops to please me.  Neither one of us had a clue about future or life.  Our plan was to get married when I turned 16.  My mother didn’t know that, and thankfully, that didn’t happen.

During the time we dated, my mother eventually started liking him.  He was a good guy, and he would do anything for me and my mother.  Around the time I turned 16, my mother had given up the fight and I was becoming curious about the world around me.  I wanted to hang out with friends, and I began to have ambitions that went beyond what I shared with this boy.  It was hard, but I broke up with him. 

Oh, Youth…

A few months later, I did meet the love of my life, whom I am still married to today.  My mother loved him!  His father was an upstanding citizen who was a deacon at the First Baptist Church.  She didn't take into account that a deacon's kid is one of those exciting, dangerous boys that teenage girls can't resist. She never stood in our way.  He, too, had a bad boy image that she didn’t know about.  He was popular and had ambitions for the future.  

We got married three days after I turned 18 and he was 20.  Do we regret getting married, no; but we wish we had been wiser and waited a few more years.  Again, at 18, I fell back on my mother’s example of getting married young.  Since she liked him, she didn’t fight me on it. 

Now We Have a Daughter

My husband and I knowing the history and remembering our own rebellious natures have tried to apply what we learned with our daughter. 

When she was in high school and brought home a boy we didn’t like: 
  1. We saw it for what it was – teenage emotion that changes with the wind.
  2. We shared with her all we missed out on because we jumped in and got married too soon.
  3. We NEVER told her when we didn’t like a boy – that was TOUGH!  She figured it out on her own.  We knew she would, so we didn’t push it.
  4. My husband took a picture of the boy, his car, and his license plate before they left the house.  My husband is a big guy, and his mere presence intimidated boys.  I think if you are a single mom, like my mom, you could still get away with this because the boy knows you are looking out for your daughter.  The boy knows if she doesn’t turn up at curfew, you have the information you need to call the police.  Yes, it embarrassed my daughter, but she knew she was our world and understood why he did it. 
  5. As her mother, I left the lines of communication open to her.  She knew she could talk to me about anything.  It is hard not to show your judgmental feelings, but you have to constrain them or your daughter will possibly rebel. 
  6. We tried to share real world advice, not emotional “I’m your mother and because I said so.”  Nope, she is too much like both of us, so we knew emotional outburst wouldn’t work.
  7. We have used our past to remember how we were: rebellious, wanting to have fun, stupidly wanting to grow up too fast… We used our past as reference before she could use it against us, as I did with my mother.
  8. Whether we have liked the boy or not, we made him feel welcome in our home. Sometimes that was hard to do. 
  9. We have stressed the importance of education and career with our daughter so she will want to do her best and not let the wrong boy drag her down.
  10. We always made sure she knew she was our top priority and that we loved her unconditionally.  I think this caused her to respect us more.

The Result

Our daughter is working her way through college.  She lives on her own, and she, like her parents then and now, loves to have a good time but knows where to draw the line.  She balances her work, school, money, and social life in order to be independent.  She still comes home to a family she knows she can depend on at any time for anything.

I think we did all right.