When You Gonna Let That Girl Date?

May 10, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

This is a post where the scope of audience is limited.  Not a lot of Cloften readers out there with pre-teen or teenage daughters.  However, I know that there are some out there with a curiosity about our dating philosophy as parents.  I know this, because you have asked me.  Regardless, it doesn’t matter if you are interested.  I am compiling all my thoughts on parenting into a future book called “The Daddy Your Daughter Needs.”  This will go in the teenage section.  Anywho…

Do you let Maylee (13 yrs old) date?


When will you let her start dating?

Short answer: TBD

Not quite as short answer: When it makes sense for her to start dating.

“Come on Cloften, give us a break.  What we need from you is some arbitrary selected date that is not based at all on the individual girl or her circumstances.  We need you to make dating a carrot that dangles in front of her until you finally relent and let her do it.” (I deleted a sentence in that rant. It was tasty.)

Before I go too far, there a couple of things we have done that way–earrings (10) and make-up (13).  However, those are relatively small things compared to dating.  Those are, in part, tasks that need a level of maturity to manage.  Dating is another level.

Dating is exposing my daughter to the opportunity to have her heart broken by a kid without the maturity or hormone balance to have any clue as to what he is doing.  This is entrusting the heart of my fragile teenage girl to a boy.  (I just deleted an adjective in front of boy. You could probably guess it, if you tried.)

Dating doesn’t make sense for a 13 yr old girl.  “Jim and Tina are going out.” “Going where?”  “Nowhere.  It means they’re dating.”  “Do they go on dates?” “No.” “Do they sit together at lunch?” “No” “Then what does it mean?” “It means they like each other.”  “If they don’t sit together, or really even talk to each other or go places together then why call it dating or going out?” “…” (Based on a real conversation.  Only the names have been changed to protect the ridiculous.)

“Ted broke up with me, and I cried for, like, forever,” said the 12 yr old girl, in my car.  “Really? Forever, that’s a long time,” said the snarky dad of another girl in my car.  “Well, just a few hours, but the next day I started going with Fred so I’m OK now.”

Do you see now what I mean by “it doesn’t make sense?”  I would only be exposing my daughter to unhealthy thinking and perspectives on “love” and “dating” by doing it when it doesn’t have the capacity to be love or dating.

She is completely free to like boys, even particular boys.  She doesn’t tell them. Why should she?  She would tell you there is freedom in that.  That’s right. She would tell you that.  When that boy acts like a boy, it disappoints her. It doesn’t crush her.  She moves on and learns what she likes and doesn’t like in a boy.

Her heart is God’s first and mine next, and I will not let someone I cannot trust have access to it.  Seriously, she is more happy and content than any of the boy-crazy girls I have ever met–by far.

Surely Cloften, you have a date in mind.  I really don’t.  I can imagine that in the next couple of years girls and boys in a group going to the movies together, not paired off.  You can call that group dating, I guess.

But if you are asking when I would let a boy take my daughter somewhere alone for an extended period of time at night without supervision?  The answer is some time after I would let that same boy take my car out under the same circumstances.  You see, the worst thing you can do to my car can be fixed with money.  The worst thing you can do to my daughter’s heart and innocence cannot be.

The True Measure of Character

This post initially started out in my mind as a straight-up anti-Laker rant.  Hopefully (for you), this post will be more subdued.  For those who don’t know why I would be ranting about it at all, let me briefly explain.  Yesterday, the 2-time defending NBA champions were eliminated from the playoffs.  They got swept out, which means they lost their best of 7 series 4-0, without winning a game.

In that final game yesterday, they were down by 20+ points most of the game.  Late in the game, 2 of the Lakers best 4 players (Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom) intentionally knocked someone to the ground for no reason.  One of them was especially bad, because the fouler had about 100 pounds on the foulee and said foulee was airborne at the time when he received the forearm to his ribcage.  Those 2 fouls were cheap shots and dirty plays, and they will most likely be fined and suspended.

Before I continue the mini-rant, a couple of disclaimers:

1) I root against the Lakers.  I always root against teams that win all the time, especially if I’m told repeatedly by sports media that I’m supposed to like them.  Many teams and individuals fall into this category.  Lakers are near the top. (They can thank the Duke Blue Devils and Tiger Woods from keeping them off the top of the list)

2) I don’t follow the NBA too closely.  Most of what I know comes from Sportscenter and PTI (best show on television).  I start watching during the 2nd round of the playoffs.

What I do know from watching ESPN is that the Lakers are great champions with great leaders in their coaches and players.  I was disinclined to believe these things (see disclaimer 1), but what do I know (see disclaimer 2)?

Before we go too far down this road, I do not want to judge their character.  I don’t even know them.  Athletes are barely any different than cartoon characters to us.  If my worst moments were caught on national TV, I would hope that people would give me grace and that I would not be defined by them.  I will separate silly sports rants from bigger picture questions of specific individual people’s character.

However (you knew something was coming), people who put themselves in the public eye do give us opportunity to reflect and analyze issues of character, not based on their character (which we don’t know) but their behavior (which we can see).

Given that mega-disclaimer, here is what we all need to understand–our true character is tested and measured by adversity.

Here is a list of things you shouldn’t say:

“I’m really nice, unless you make me mad.”

“I love people when they aren’t annoying me.”

“I’m incredibly patient until something stressful happens.”

“I’m very gracious unless you cross me.”

“They are great champions unless they lose and start knocking people around the court with uncalled for forearms (sorry, had to throw that in there)”

It is easy to be patient when there is no cause to be impatient.  It’s easy to be gracious when people are being nice.  It’s easy to be a “winner” or a “champion” when you are winning.  But what are we like when we are “losing” and when life is stressful and painful and hard?  Are we truly allowing God to refine deep character into us? Are we allowing adversity to make us more like Jesus?  Or are we simply surviving bad times with mediocre (or worse) character and waiting to be the “real me” again?

The “real me” is not the me when everything is going just my way, but the person that is on display in adversity.  My hope is that, whether or not there are television cameras on or not, when those times hit me that the love and light of God would shine.

James 1:2-4
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Matthew 5:43-48
Love for Enemies

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Your Kids Won’t Become Something Your Not

May 6, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

We are in Branson at “The City” last weekend (that’s what regulars such as us call Silver Dollar City. You can only use it if you go at least 10 times a year.  “Wait? Do you go 10 times a year?”  Yes, is that weird? “…” Yes and we know all the words to the dialogue at Fire in the Hole and Powderkeg.  Is that weird? “…”  #LongestParentheticalRamble to date).

It was Worldfest which is a festival where different shows/acts/performers from different countries come and put on shows in the various small theaters scattered throughout the City.  We are watching one (I won’t say which one, because my Mom really liked it) and the two kids were with me start leaning over and making snide comments, cheering in mildly facetious ways, etc.  As always, the rhetorical question comes up, “Where did they learn to be like this?”

I will answer the rhetorical question for you, which by definition, makes it not a rhetorical question.  Their whole lives they have been listening to their two parents watch various reality shows, newscasts, live Branson shows like they were Statler and Waldorf (Boom! Dated reference!)

The aforementioned Statler and Waldorf

This is what happens at their house quite often, and occasionally leaks onto social media.  We make fun of things that we find to be cheesy or over the top–generally things that are entertaining in ways that they didn’t intend.

While this is a somewhat humorous example, it leads to a more serious issue.  Our kids are becoming what they see.  They are becoming their parents, and there really aren’t any other options than that.

“But Cloften, my kid is smarter than me, plays the piano, is good at sports.  Neither one of us were like that.”  Sure, they can have different interests, skills and hobbies.  They can even be better at certain activities than you.  However, they will not have better character.

Have you ever yelled at your kid about them yelling at someone else?  Have you ever overreacted in anger to them overreacting in anger?  Have you ever had a rough night’s sleep worrying about the fact that your kid has a lot of anxiety at school?

They are watching and learning.  They are taking their cues about how to talk to other people based on the way you talk to their mother/father even if you aren’t married.  They are taking their cues based on how you talk to them, on the way you handle adversity and the relationships they see that you have.

Do you want them to stop fighting? Stop fighting with your spouse.  Do you want them to not be angry?  Stop getting angry with them.  Are “shut up” and “crap” bad words?  Don’t use them, even when you think they aren’t listening.  Do you want them to conduct themselves in a sophisticated manner at a Branson show?  Don’t…you get the idea.

One of the keys to having kids with good character is to become a person of character yourself.

One final piece of advice.  If you are ever the primary performer at a Branson show and you say, “Feel free to cheer and whoop however you feel.  Be as loud as you like,” watch out.  We might be there and do just that.

Family Tag Month

May is Family Tag Month.  Wait.  You didn’t know?  Well, that could be because we just invented that a couple of days ago.  This was Lauren’s (of course) idea, though the rules were a collaborative effort.

Assuming that we all understand the basic concept of tag.  Here are the rules:

1) Person who is initially “it” is picked by a random drawing.  No discussion is allowed as to who is it.

2) You can only tag someone when it is just you and that person in the room/area. (to protect the anonymity of who is it)

3) You have to wait 1 hour after you are tagged to tag someone else, this allows for “tag backs” but not immediate tag backs.  However, even after the hour, tag backs are discouraged, because you want everyone getting tagged.

4) At the girls’ bedtime, whoever is it gets a point.  (Like golf, points are bad)

5) At the end of the month, the person with the fewest points wins.

So, go for it.  Make May Family Tag Month.  Between this and the Toenail Ogre, you now have some great (?) ideas for having some ridiculous fun with your kids.  But, as always, my encouragement is to make your own ridiculous games.

UPDATE:  It is May 2nd, 8:30 at the time of this writing.  Heidi got May 1st’s point, and I’m currently it. I was tagged at 7:20.  Very well-timed, since school starts at 8:00.  My plan is to tag Heidi this afternoon at around 2:05, because she will leave the meeting we are at around 2:45 (can’t tag me back) and will be picking up the girls at 3:05.  I considered popping in at school and tagging one of the girls.  I’ve got all month for that trick though. I threatened both of them, just so they’re thinking about it.

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