Wide Awake: The Big Deal About Boyfriends
When your daughters are in their 20s, things change

All of a sudden, I’ve started noticing a young guy appearing in one of my daughter’s social media posts. And when she talks with me about going out with friends, he’s always listed among the friends. Same guy. Every time.

Then they went out for dessert on Valentine’s Day, just the two of them.

I asked if he was her boyfriend, and she smiled a little and said no, explaining that they are good friends and spend a lot of time together. She also said the next time Joe and I come to visit her at school, we’ll meet him.

“So what’s the criteria for him to be a boyfriend?” I asked.

She just smiled a little again.

Joe and I had all kinds of experiences with boyfriends when the girls were in high school. Some were fleeting, some were not so great and most weren’t all that significant. Except for one, and he has stuck around going on 8 years now.

The good news is it’s been a great 8 years – for all of us.

I remember our first experience years ago with a preteen “date.” It was lunch at a pizza place on a Saturday afternoon. It was nerve-wracking, numbing and shocking – and I’m talking about me and Joe. We understood we were entering a new phase where a young daughter would be sitting across the table from someone else, not us. We wouldn’t know what she would talk about or what this boy would say to her. We wouldn’t know what she would eat, how much she would eat, if she would be having a good time, if she’d be so nervous she wouldn’t say much. She’d be eating pizza without us, which is OK, but it was definitely a little jolting at the time.

As the years pass, you adjust to not knowing everything your kids say or do and it becomes completely normal, sometimes even preferred. But maybe the last adjustment we have to make – or, at least, the next adjustment – is recognizing that someone else will become their key person, the one who does know everything they say and do.

Once when my oldest daughter Klein was in fourth grade, parents were asked to write what their wish was for their child, and our answers were hung in the school’s hallway. Most parents wrote about good health or a fulfilling career.

I wrote I hoped she would have a happy marriage. It was the first thing that came to my mind, because if you have a happy marriage you can get through anything. If you have a happy marriage, most of your days are happy – at least a little.

So now that our girls are in their 20s, we see boyfriends as a big deal. They’re game changers, and the game they can change is our family. The five of us have a groove. We have a way of doing things that is enjoyable. We have a family dynamic that works for us. One boyfriend has come into that, and he fits. He even makes it better sometimes. That’s nice. Actually, it’s a relief, because I can’t imagine what would happen if he didn’t fit.

So the question is: can it fit three times? And what happens if it doesn’t?

These are questions I try not to think about a lot, because the answers are out of my control. I have to leave it up to the girls, who grew up amidst many good relationships. My parents were married for 58 years. And both myself, my sister and my brother have each been married for over 30 years. Let’s hope the girls were watching and caught a glimpse of what they should expect from a partner and what they should give in return.

In a few weeks we’ll go to visit this daughter and meet her “friend” or whatever she decides to call him. The decision is all hers, and that makes it a big deal.


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March 2018
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