A bit hesitantly, I threw it out there: "What are you going to do when someone asks you out on a date?"
She'll admit even today that the question sort of stopped her in her tracks. Indeed, it was a new thing she had not yet considered. In fact, I really don't think she thought it would happen anytime soon and she tried to brush it off as unlikely.
I tried to point out the obvious: "But, you're beautiful. You're kind and compassionate. You're fun. You're creative and intelligent. It's going to happen, and you need to be prepared for that moment."
She tucked it away, and I was vindicated when a stranger walked up to her at the Central Market sushi case and asked her out not too long afterward. A complete stranger. Maybe one of his criteria for soul mate was "must love sushi," but my guess is that she could have been in line at Taco Bell and the same thing would have happened.
Fast forward a few years from that moment to this month. This time we weren't in a new kitchen, we were at an away track meet. This time it wasn't my sister, it was my daughter. And this time my foresight in asking preparatory, probing questions was missing. Or maybe I've just been in denial.
We noticed the guys from the other high school hanging around our daughter and some of the girls on her relay team at the meet a couple of weeks ago. Actually, Robert noticed it sooner than I did. When I saw them, I simply thought "What nice, friendly boys. How refreshing." I think I might have even chalked it up to good sportsmanship. You know, congratulating the other team and stuff.
Those were not my husband's thoughts, of course. And honestly, I don't know what happened to my "shrewd as a snake" instincts, because typically, I am the suspicious one, the discerning one, the skeptical one. I can usually size up a person or a situation in moments, and know exactly what's up, but not this time.
I didn't think about it another minute, until we picked Kayla up back at the high school, and took her to eat at her favorite downtown burger restaurant. She had gotten a PR in the 100 meter dash and qualified for the Western Mass meet, so a celebration seemed appropriate. While enjoying our burgers and bottomless fries, she casually mentioned that one of those guys had asked for her number. Others had overheard and she received some friendly teasing from her teammates on the bus ride back to town.
"What did you say to him?" we asked.
She had given him a smile and a polite "no." And then lied and said she didn't even have a phone, which he knew wasn't true, which then probably landed him some friendly teasing.
We sort of laughed about it for a few minutes, but I didn't sleep much that night.
We have spent a TON of time talking to our kids or reading books about sex, dating, male/female relationships, marriage, etc. Just ask them. They will probably roll their eyes in acknowledgment. So, it's not like we weren't expecting this or preparing them for this, but somehow I was caught off guard, and the incident had me awake grieving something like a loss of innocence in my little girl. My little girl who will be 16 in two short months.
Physical beauty. The attention of men - good and bad. Attraction. Romance. All these things swirling through my head and dreams all night long. Why hadn't I thought to ask my teenaged daughter the same question I'd asked my grown-up sister: What would she do if someone asked her out, or asked for her number? She's almost 16. She's beautiful. She's kind and compassionate. She's a ton of fun. She's creative and intelligent. It's bound to happen and she needs to be ready for it.
The problem was that I wasn't ready for it.
I mean, she's homeschooled and she has limited exposure to guys her age. (Running for the high school track team has brought plenty of exposure to all kinds of sexual things though, believe me.) But that's the thing. The quantity of exposure doesn't matter. Men are men. They are created to be attracted to feminine beauty. It's a gift of the Creator Himself, and it's a very good one. Unfortunately, the fall of man and the entry of sin into the world make this a very complicated thing. So, how do I help her navigate this very good thing that can possibly turn into a very bad thing in a heartbeat?
Just a few days ago she was on a walk with a friend and two guys in a truck passed by shouting their approval and a hearty hello. It's just inevitable, and I know it from her experiences, from mine, and from the tell-tale coffee dates with hundreds of young women throughout the years. My denial can no longer be an excuse for putting these conversations off with my own little girl. She is still my little girl though she hovers over me by about 4 inches now.
What do I want my daughter to know so that she will be well-equipped to handle herself in future situations which may not be as easy or friendly? How can I encourage her to maintain the humble confidence which is already in her? An ability to receive attention or compliments, but to keep focused on Christ and wait patiently for His perfect timing and for the right man? How can I help her enjoy friendships and relationships with young men, but protect both her heart and her body?
I truly think she's fairly well-equipped and mature already. She amazes me with her wisdom and understanding many days. But even the best of us fall into traps again and again. And it's not always the end of the world, but sometimes it's close.
The biblical gender role dance is so exciting and beautiful, and illustrates the gospel itself. Christ and His bride. The strong and sacrificial lover and the chosen and cherished beloved. This is what I want for her even though I know it will never be perfect.
So, I've thought of a few things to say to her since the track meet incident, and I'm hoping to write them down here in the next day or so. Stay tuned. And feel free to send me your own thoughts and ideas in the mean time.