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February 21, 2000 e-mail e-mail to a friend in need

February really is BG -- and crew's -- busiest month! Spot the new goodies!

Haiku winners!

BG Adventure: "Valentine Saint!"

New BG book!

Anyway, so? Have you followed in BG's -- and Lyssa's -- hurried footsteps and made each day of the past week Valentine's Day? Superb, especially since we've already rushed headlong into the holiday whose proximity to the 14th is thankfully not -- at least for the time being -- a dirty joke:

Happy Presidents' Day! In due observance of the pertinent government conspiracy, however, I will focus my attention not so much on the (love) lives of the Presidents themselves. Rather, I'll also honor the equal partnership of the first ladies in all of our lives. With that, I bring you

Our Founding Parents

How do parents affect their kids' romantic relationships, other than directly, Freudianly, pattern-repeatingly, and curfewdally?

Well, okay.

So how do we handle that?

(Huuuuuuuge topic; let's narrow it down to Dating Interference.)

1. For teens still living at Casa Parent(s).

Anyone ever have a parent not like whom you're dating? Anyone ever wish you had a parent not like whom you're dating, since that would at least mean your parents allow you to date? I understand. And I promise you that Breakup Girl is completely on your side.

But here's the thing. Just for a sec, put yourselves in their shoes like those cutesy pix of little kids trying on grownup clothes. Consider -- just as an exercise -- that they love you more intensely than any romantic love you could ever, ever imagine. (Whoa!) Try to conceive that they want "what's best" for you, even in their own parenty "I'm cold...you put on a sweater!" kind of way. Think about how weird and dangerous the world seems to have gotten since they were kids. Picture how little, except when you're being annoying, they ever want to let you out of their sight. Especially with someone -- like a date or a boy/girlfriend -- with whom, at least symbolically, you start the stirrings of relatively adult things. Makes them feel anxious. (Also, old.)

No, parents don't always get it, and they're not always right. (Breakup Mom said it was okay to say that.) But rather than cutting them off in mid-sentence, cut them some slack. Hey, I'm still on your side! But negotiating reasonably with them -- like, being, the grownup whose shoes you're trying to fit -- is the only way to have a prayer of getting what you want.

So before you climb out the window (or start growing your hair so that your cutie can climb up), consider putting on your diplomat hat and attempting a three-way truce. If they don't like your date(s) -- or your dating -- sit them down and ask why. Don't argue that'll tank just listen; then tell them what you do like about this person, about the promise of an expanding social life (and the responsibility that comes with it). (Consider hauling out this humdinger: "I'd just ask you to trust that you raised me to make wise choices." Oooohh!) Try to seal the deal with some middle-ground suggestions. How about: you can hang with this hottie, but only at home? Or between certain times -- chauffeured both ways by chaperones -- at the mall? It's a dorky start, but a start nonetheless.

But also be honest with BG, or at least with yourself: if there's someone your folks aren't wild about, could they be onto something? Is this person -- or his/her crowd -- not quite a fit for you? Are these folks really there for you or really there for you to freak out your parents? Don't run with the rebels just to be one yourself. (It actually, no kidding, could be dangerous.) Choose your companions well, and -- ideally -- your folks will have no choice but to like them.

2. Grown kids.

See above, except the part where you have to sit down and talk to them. As I told the teens -- and as I told Sunclytie (whose mom tended to veto her boyfriends) and Abigail (whose parents would have gladly set her up with Sunclytie's veto-ees) -- when your folks seem to barge into your romantic space, they may really be saying (for instance), "I want to make sure my child and her spouse aren't struggling.... I want to make sure -- in so far as money can buy this -- that they are comfortable, fed, able to give me grandchildren without borrowing money or, God forbid, having to purchase some sort of used crib. I want to make sure the two of them can tuck away some savings, never mind some shirttails." You know? Whatever your version is, take it all with a grain of Grownup. Your job now is to not bother to do what you've been dying to do all these years and prove to them -- and the world -- why they're wrong.

Believe me, I know what it's like to watch a parent give great advice to others and then feel like a Big Bad Daughter/Dork for not taking it yourself. But remember: when it comes to parental input, you can listen and disregard, respect and choose not to follow. Or eventually decide to follow and pretend it was your idea all along.

Further Resources:

I'm Not Mad, I Just Hate You: A New Understanding of Mother-Daughter Conflict (I read it 'cause Breakup Mom told me not to.)

Teen Advice Online (for grownups too)

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