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A  few years ago, a boy stood in my kitchen scrolling through the songs Joe had on his phone. “Wow,” he said to Maura. “If your dad was younger, I think we’d be friends.” I can’t express how much that appalled Maura. There was no way her dad – and her boyfriend – would ever be friends.

We’ve always been a family of five, but that is slowly changing. The hard part is Joe and I know it’s a permanent change. Boyfriends have entered the scene. When we go out to dinner, they sit with us; sometimes they even sit at our kitchen table having dinner. They watch TV with us when we’re in the family room. If we plan a special occasion, we’re asked if they can come. What we once knew as family time now has visitors on a pretty regular basis.

Joe and I knew the time would come, but we didn’t realize how stunning it would be to see someone else move into what has always been our spot. Someone else becomes her confidant. Someone else becomes the person who makes her smile the most. Recently, we were discussing whether to give one of the girls permission to go on an outing with her boyfriend and his family. Joe explained his reasoning for not wanting her to go: “I don’t want her having fun with any other family.” He knew it was wrong. I knew exactly what he meant.

The hardest part was this year when Marirose, our youngest, asked if a boy could come over one Saturday afternoon. That was it – that marked our full entrance into boyfriend season. Someday, we will be a party of eight. It’s inevitable; we just didn’t realize it would be here so soon.

The good news is: we’ve liked the boyfriends. The really good news is: we see the benefit of boyfriends. The boys our daughters have chosen have made them happy. They make their life exciting. They bring them many of the joys that go with being young. Sometimes, these boys make our daughters better people, and that’s an impressive quality. There have been times I’ve been grateful for a boyfriend who said just the right thing that calmed or comforted one of the girls. I’ve actually been grateful to someone else – a teen, no less – for doing what’s always been my job.

Last month, Joe and I celebrated our wedding anniversary, and I realized that I have lived with Joe longer than I lived with my parents. I then realized the same will one day be true for our girls. One of these boys entering our home will someday become enormously important in all of our lives. If we are lucky, these boys will take on our daughters’ happiness. They will make our daughters the focus of their lives, support their career choices, parent as their partner and just simply work with them to build a wonderful, happy life. I’m starting to realize I have no greater wish for my daughters than they marry a person who will make them happy – even happier than Joe and I have tried to make them.

If I think about that enough, my heart starts to ache, but I stop myself from going down that path. I think instead of how good it will be if each of them finds an awesome boyfriend who will stay with them forever. Then one day, after their kids are grown, they will go back to spending time with just that awesome boyfriend. That’s what I’m planning to do.

March 2013
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