The other day I ran into the mother of my son’s former girlfriend. Our kids, who started dating in high school and are now in college, broke up fairly recently. Our encounter was not awkward and I was glad to see her and hear how her daughter was doing; when she was my son’s girlfriend, I had enjoyed her company.
I have a friend who told me that until a ring is offered and accepted, I shouldn’t get too attached to the young women my boys are dating. I had heard this advice from other people as well. While that may be good advice, it’s much harder to do than say — at least it is for me.
Perhaps it’s because I don’t have any daughters that I love when my boys bring home their girlfriends. The entire atmosphere in the house changes when there are girls here. I get to hear about the new fads and fashions in which my boys have no interest or clue. I hear details about what the girls have been up to, what’s new among their friends, as well as information about my boys I might otherwise never know.
When my oldest son’s girlfriend visited us shortly after they had attended a wedding, she told me about a website where you can rent dresses. Who knew? (I am guessing all you moms of daughters knew but I certainly did not.) I asked my son how the wedding was and he said “fine.” I asked his girlfriend the same question and she gave me a litany of specifics like how many people attended and how the food was. I don’t think my boys are withholding information on purpose; they just don’t see the relevance in relaying such trivialities.
When my son first started dating his girlfriend he told me, “you’re going to like her too much and it’s going to be a problem.” I am not entirely sure what he meant but I am guessing he knew I would get attached.
When my sons’ girlfriends are around I get to see a side of my boys I don’t normally see. The “young and in love” thing is really sweet—it is good to know my boys can be considerate and silly and tender, different from the rougher versions I typically observe. I have been fortunate because I like the girls my boys have chosen to date thus far. They have been smart, kind, caring, family oriented and unspoiled. They are young women with excellent characters and I am happy to know my boys have such good taste.
I have also been gratified to see that my sons’ girlfriends are amenable to spending time with us. They have been particularly good about including my youngest son when they go out to places like dinner and the movies and have even attended his school concerts and soccer games. My middle son’s former girlfriend often helped my youngest with his homework and projects. I once walked in to find her doing his homework while he was nowhere to be found. (I was like “um, no.”)
My sons’ girlfriends have been present at holiday meals, celebratory dinners, and spent more than one New Year’s Eve with us. They remembered to text me on my birthday and offered me comfort when my father died, attending his funeral and Shiva.
So how in the world am I supposed to NOT get attached? How do other people not get attached? How do they distance themselves from these terrific young women who become (perhaps, temporarily) part of the family? Is there some sort of guidebook or manual for this that I don’t know about? (After all, I didn’t know about the dress rental thing.) Do I really have to wait until they are engaged or married before I get attached? What if they do get married and later get divorced? Isn’t it all just a moment in time?
[More about what to do when your college kid or young adult BREAKS UP with a significant other here.]
After my middle son and his girlfriend broke up, even though I knew that the reasons for their breakup were sound ones and they parted as friends, I found myself missing her. I know that I only had myself to blame because I had broken the cardinal rule by getting attached. To make matter worse, even though I would like to say I’ve learned my lesson, I could definitely see it happening again. I’m just not good at keeping people I like at arm’s length.
Another friend of mine is fond of saying “you are who you are.” (as you can see, my friends offer a lot of advice) and maybe she is right. I guess what matters most is that my sons want me to know their girlfriends and they feel comfortable bringing them home. And if getting, at least somewhat, attached is the price I pay then I’m ok with that.
Marlene Kern Fischer is a wife, mother of three sons, food shopper extraordinaire and blogger. She is a regular contributor to Better After 50 and her work has also been featured in Ten To Twenty Parenting, Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop and will appear in Beyond Your Blog.