A conversation about dating...
Nobody has the corner on dating.
This became abundantly clear last night when our family was talking through the "rules of engagement" (no, not that engagement) as it relates to "becoming official" or "going out". This is really our first need for an extended sit down to process our values and vision when it comes to being in a relationship with a boy in high school.
We've brushed up against the topic here and there, but nothing was ever serious enough to actually force us to state our personal opinions and, dare I say, conclusions. Opinions didn't seem to ruffle any feathers last night; conslusions on the other hand, well let's just say they were met with a cold countenance. As a verbal processer, I love talking things out and putting words to feelings and beliefs, but in this case it seemed that when I would state my case for whatever my position was, it was met with altnerate stances and interpretations and ideas about what was happening and what was to be done next.
It kinda caught me by surprise. I thought we were on the same page, which could actually mean I thought everyone was on my page.
Aly had a conversation with this young man that is very interested in her and after talking earlier today in person and part of the evening on FaceTime, she was relaying how the conversation went and what parts brought clarity and what parts were surprising and left her to wonder about the next steps. She was trying to capsulize her conversationin and was struggling to translate it into words...at least I wasn't able to string together the gaps between what she was saying, feeling, and wanting. This is where I usually step in to add my own color commentary and see if I can help prime the pump.
When I would share my take on the situation, I could see from Heidi and Aly's faces that they weren't necessarily enthused with my interpretation of the situation. In fact, when Heidi would share her thoughts, I felt at odds with her conclusions and suggestions making me feel like I needed to communicate my feelings more clearly. It seemed like the more I talked, the more my daughters withdrew from my opinions and suggestions seeming more adrift with every minute the conversation went on. Heidi and I were approaching things from different angles, not necessarily disagreeing, but taking a different posture which felt like a different position. It's funny how the two can seem the same and cause friction if you don't see that one is an approach, the other is an opinion. In the heat of the moment, I was frustrated that we seemed to be running in place which made me feel like we weren't helping Aly at all and weren't communicating our hearts effectively. I, frankly, wanted to just go to bed and see if sleep could help cleanse our palets and enable us wake with more unity of thought. But the suggestion of that just left everyone sitting there waiting for the first person to head upstairs...no one moved. So we stumbled into another line of reasoning attempting to find clarity and give Aly some guidance drawing out her heart to see what she was feeling and thinking as we talked.
Can I just say that I felt completely incompetent by this point? I was racking my brain to connect to my daughters heart while tryin to figure out what bedrock beliefs I wasn't willing to compromise. Some things I had put into the catagory of non-negotiables very clearly were put on the negotiating table and it was diconcerting for me. Other feelings that I had I thought were shared by all of the girls in my family and it seemed like they were falling on another side of the conversation, not "the other" side, just another side.
At a couple points Heidi was sharing something and it triggered a knee jerk reaction in me and I would interject my thoughts cutting her off causing her to be visably and verbally frustrated...she said so out loud in the moment. That only added another layer of dicontinuity to the conversation and I'm sure felt awkward for our dauthers as they watched us flip and flop around trying to give voice to our values and vision. I don't know what it looked, sounded, or felt like on the outside, but on the inside I felt completely inadequate. I felt like a failure...both at understanding the others in the conversation and in communicating my heart in a clear and compelling way. The moments together were messy to say the least and though we were making progress, we were stumbling forward at best.
Put it this way, what I thought was going to be a walk in the park where we all held hands and spoke in one accord turned into a goat rodeo of ideas and perspectives colliding together into a heap of humans who were "works in process". I say works in process because it became evident that this was everyone's first 'go around' in this dating conversation and that we were 'making things up' together in conversation trying to take creeds, backgrounds, fears, desires, beliefs, perspectives, thresholds, convictions, preferences, discernments, questions, and perferred pictures turning them all into an easy talk about dating and what to do in this present situation. As my dad used to say, "There's many a slip between the cup and the lip." I always took that to mean that somewhere between what's in the cup and the space between getting that bad boy up to your mouth for a sip. alot can happen, "many a slip" as the saying goes.
Parenting is slippery. Heidi even said at the end of the conversation in a moment of frustration and confusion, "We as parents are processing this for the first time, too, so it's not like we've done this before." It seemed to be the moment a shaft of light burst throught the clouds and Aly's eyes lit up with hope. She nodded and acknowledged that no one had the silver bullet, the perfet elixir leading to an easy fix. This was going to take more tough talk and more mutual patience. This was going to take both parties going back to the drawing board and figuring out better ways forward. What looked easy, wasn't. What appeared clear, wasn't. Where I felt confident, I now wonder.
Maybe this is the way it goes with humans, these walking variables with free wills that have to get in the same room and fight for truth. It's easy to see why so many people just "live and let live". It's hard to give up control and to find a way forward through uncertainty and insecurity with other vulnerable and volitile human beings. It's easier to just bark out orders and say something like, "As long as your feet are under my table you will live by my rules. When you're out of this house, you can make your own decisions, but until then what I say goes." If your not aggresive in your disposition, the passive approach is just as damaging and damning. "I'm don't want to hurt your feelings or take the risk of sharing mine and them not be said right or heard correctly. I'll just let you make your bed and sleep in it. I'm uncomforable with discomfort so I would just as soon stay out of your space and let you learn from your own mistakes. I just don't do feelings and I'm not good at relationships." Both of these styles of parenting create distance and cause damage to the relationship. But man, are both of these options seductive when you're neck deep in the swamp of relational dissonance. It actaully feels like the best escape hatch.
So, yeah, we failed forward. Stumbling and stammering toward quasi-understanding. Getting ready for bed, we hugged and said, "I love you." even though this conversation was really just the beginning. The other girls sat there and took it all in. Toward the end, Aly softened and felt like she understood where we were coming from and we acknowledged that we better understood where she was coming from. I'm not always good at this...listening when I already feel like I know what should happen, like I already know where this is going, like I already have the right answers. But this is not how healthy relationships take place...one person running traffic control from the tower. Nope. This is not an airport, it's a home. And homes are filled with humans, not computers and inanimate objects. These humans have thoughts, ideas, emotions, beliefs, and opinions. And the older they get, the more these things matter and must be valued. Parenting moves from teaching to facilitating. A dicing transition, indeed.
This is just one conversation about the concept of dating and it stirred up all this.
Lord, give us grace, wisdom, and truth. Lord, give our kids understanding, discernment, and trust. We are in this together as a family...as messy as family can be at times.