I know, I know, I’m old as dirt. Over the hill. Practically ancient when it comes to you and your hip ways. Tweens and teens everywhere snicker madly when the old people offer advice because what the hell would we know about actual life.
What this means, of course, is that I sometimes find myself wandering into strange waters. When you have the babies you think about sleep schedules and potty training, learning to read and riding a bike. Yes, I knew eventually we’d hit the puberty/sex talk stage, but I never imagined I’d be offering dating etiquette advice for my youngsters.
And tiptoeing cautiously through a minefield to do it.
Too interested? They shut down. Too aloof? They don’t engage. Too emphatic? You run smack dab into the selective deafness kids have for old people. “Dating” (what the hell does that even mean in sixth grade?) advice is a balancing act at best among friends, but between parent and child? Shoot, give me a high wire and giant pole just to make it fun.
Wisdom I’ve tried to pass along to my semi-amenable offspring:
** You have to like yourself as you are. If you don’t like you, it doesn’t make sense to question why other people don’t like you. Everything starts within.
** If you’re trying to get someone a gift, think about their hobbies or something you’d really like for yourself. Oh, and less is always better. No one needs a fifty dollar gift in middle school.
** Don’t let other people run your relationship. Not sure what someone is thinking? Ask. Has someone told lies about you? Speak up. Nobody ever maintained a successful relationship through smoke signals and charades.
Sure, my kids think I’m socially challenged. Modern day tips I offer anyway:
** You never, ever, ever know who’s on the other end of a FaceTime call. Just because you only see your friend on screen, it doesn’t mean there aren’t four girlfriends in the room with her. Be smart.
** Avoid the drama. Her best friend’s talking trash about you? Stay out of it. Her ex-boyfriend’s giving you grief in the hallways? Stay out of it. Nothing good comes of the drama.
** Yes, it’s okay to think someone else is cute. Anyone who says they’ve never thought someone else was cute is lying. Your actions are what matter, so keep them above reproach. Don’t flirt, don’t gossip, don’t text anything you wouldn’t want your girl/boyfriend to see. Be smart.
** Keeping this in mind, be you. Don’t stay with someone just because you’re with them – that’s not fair to either of you. Be alone, be with somebody, but be true to your choice. People your age aren’t designed for forever choices, and that’s okay.
Who knows how much of it’s sticking, but parenting is about the long game. Advise. Pause. Give time to sink in. Repeat.