Waiting to Date: My Mom’s Experience vs. Mine
When I was younger, my mom told me I should wait until college to date. She encouraged me to put education before anything else, especially dating, which she saw as a distraction. I felt that I would eventually have to choose between academic success and dating. This was confusing and had me questioning why I couldn’t do both if I felt ready to date as a teen.
More recently, communication between us has helped me better understand my mom’s perspective about dating and realize that we’ve had different experiences. Luckily, she’s been open to hearing my side, too.
Why Do I Have to Wait?
When I turned 13, I asked my mom, “Why do I have to wait until college to start dating?” She told me that she thought I’d be more emotionally mature and able to navigate relationships after high school. Plus, she thought I’d be better at juggling academics and dating then. But what if I didn’t want to wait until college? At the time, we had a long conversation about this. It ended with my mom’s outlook on me dating in high school unchanged, and a younger me upset.
I think what upset me most wasn’t that I was told to wait, but a fear that I would “fall behind” my peers socially. I was scared that waiting until college to date would mean that I wouldn’t have a “typical” teenagehood. This is obviously not the case, but I didn’t realize back then that one timeline does not fit everyone. I’ve now learned that it’s better for each person to figure out what’s right and comfortable for them, even it looks different from what works for others.
You Deserve to Be Happy
When I turned 16, I began dating my first partner, and I didn’t tell my mom for about a month. I was scared to tell her because I was afraid of how she would react. But, to my relief, she didn’t freak out.
It’s been over two years since then. I recently asked my mom about why she accepted this so easily. “I thought that they were nice,” she says. “They were treating you nice. You were happy with them, so I thought, Why not?”
I knew that one of my mom’s biggest concerns about me dating, aside from my emotional wellbeing, had been my academic success. We talked about this, too. “You deserve to be happy,” she says. “People who are happy normally do better in many aspects of their life, including academically.”
My Mom’s Experience
It turns out that my mom waited until college before she started dating. I asked her to share more about that. “I could not handle a relationship during high school because I would become too emotionally involved,” she says. “I didn’t want that to distract from my schoolwork, and I didn’t want to get hurt. I didn’t think that I would be able to handle the heartbreak.” Then I asked about what it felt like when she did start dating. “When I was dating in college, I was more mature and able to handle things better emotionally,” she says. “But even at that point, it was distracting to me,” she adds. This is why she wanted me to wait. But she later realized that just because something worked for her, it may not work for me.
Even though she decided not to start dating in high school, she supports me now because she knows that our experiences are different and that I’ve been thoughtful about my decisions.
I’m grateful that my mom and I have been able to talk so openly about things like dating. She’s been open-minded about how my dating experience is right for me.
It took trust and honest conversations to better understand each other’s perspectives and opinions. I believe that communication builds more trust and leads to more open dialogue about things like relationships and dating. These conversations helped me value my mom and her experiences more.
Sometimes people may forget that their parents were once their age, too. Why not ask them what it was like for them when they were teens?