My daughter said to me recently, “I feel so much happier because I have a good boyfriend!” While I understand exactly what she’s saying, and those feelings can be true at any age, I couldn’t help but think, Yikes.
It’s human nature to measure our happiness by how another person is making us feel, especially a romantic partner but it’s hard listening to my kids talk that way.
A lot of teens have boyfriends and girlfriends, that’s an undeniable truth and I don’t discourage my kids from having romantic relationships. After all, it’s very normal and helps them figure out a lot of things about themselves, other people, and what they want out of life.
As a teenager, I liked boys very much and had a boyfriend a lot of the time. In those days people labeled it as “boy crazy.” I think a more accurate description would be to say that I thought having a boyfriend would make me happy. I was wrong, so wrong.
I mean, it was hard not to think that way. If you are a child of the ’80s and ’90s, you grew up in a time when Disney movies’ main characters were women who were saved by men. Men who rescued them. Men who made it all better. Men who swooped in and took care of everything. Having a partner meant you went from sad to happy, really fast.
And when Jerry Maguire told Dorothy Boyd she completed him, not only did every teenage girl swoon longing for someone to say those words to them, every teen was led to believe that another person could, in fact, complete them.
I fell for that one hard.
I now know I put too much focus on my love life at a very early age. I wasn’t alone. My friends and I would discuss our relationships way more than any other topic. We would blow each other off to spend time with our latest beau.
It didn’t matter how amazing the person I was dating was, they never gave me the same comfort and happiness as my friends did. Friends are people you don’t have to impress. You can be yourself with them. And when your latest boyfriend or girlfriend floats out of your life, they are the ones you need and want.
Looking back, I wish I hadn’t given my love life so much attention and I want to pass the lesson on to my children. Of course, I don’t remind them of this when they are mending from a heart-wrenching breakup. That would just be cruel and they wouldn’t absorb the message anyway, but we often have conversations about it when they are in a good place emotionally.
Sure, they think I’m old and don’t really know what it’s like, so I don’t have much to offer them (just like every other issue they are up against). But I insist on telling them how much time they have to find “the one.”
I tell them they should focus more on their friendships than on their romantic relationships because the friends you make in high school often stick. They are all going through similar thoughts, feelings, and emotions at exactly the same time and right now my kids and their friends really, really need each other. With hindsight as a guide, I can tell them that there is nothing like talking with someone you’ve known for thirty years about the crazy things you once did.
When I think of all the time I lost with my besties because I was spending time with a lover or a crush, I realize how much I missed. You can’t get those years with your friends back and I’ve heard countless adults my age talk about how they wish they’d had more fun, and had not been in a serious relationship at such a young age. I don’t want my children to have those same regrets.
Even though I can’t control their behavior, that doesn’t mean I keep my mouth closed.
It’s easy to see all the things I should have done differently. I figure the least I can do is guide my kids in a way in which I was not guided–focus on friendships first, and have fun with romance too.
Just, please don’t give it as much head and heart space as I did.
There’s a reason no one ever says, “Gee, I wish I spent more time trying to get a lover when I was in high school.”
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