I’m 26, single, and pretty cool with my kids, if I may say so. I’m not THAT old yet. It still comes as a shock to me when my youth consider me to be in a different “generation” than them. I now regret the words I spoke to my 23 year old high school Biology teacher when he referred to Phil Collins and asked if we knew who he was. I promptly told him, “Yeah, he was a lead singer for some band back in YOUR day!” Ouch.
A few weeks ago, I was sitting at Starbucks with one of my youth and a few of her friends. I was asking typical questions like, “What’s in your iPod’s most played list?” “What is your biggest excitement about our summer mission trip?” and “What’s the deal with this boy you’re talking about?” Uh-oh! Mind you, these were all junior high school girls. The “BOY” topic came up!
All of a sudden, these girls were counting how many boys they “went out with” and telling me the stories of their (literally) five minute relationships. After a minute and a half of listening, I had to stop them. Wow, did I have questions!
I do vaguely remember my junior high years, by the way. I recall a certain boy leaving notes in my desk “anonymously” asking me out. Of course, I was very excited, but I remember wondering what the point was of going out with someone if you didn’t even know who he was!
Back to the girls. I am enthralled.
“This boy asked me out, and I felt bad for him, so I said yes. Then, I didn’t really want to go out with him just cause I felt bad, so I texted him to say it was over with us.”
“I’ve been sorta going out with this boy for a long time. Since we were two, actually. But it’s not really serious.”
“Technically I’ve been out with 3 boys. The other two don’t count. No, really–they don’t count.”
This conversation has really opened my eyes. Being a single girl, I know the adult dating world. I’ve been very saddened by the reality of today’s dating culture, but I’ve never made the connection between the junior high dating culture and the adult dating culture. As I processed the conversation with these girls, I noticed that the attitude that the girls carried about dating is very similar to those in the high school and young adult worlds. My question is: Does the casual nature of dating in junior high teach our students to be casual about relationships later in life?
So what is the church to do? Do we lightly dismiss the junior high dating if it’s not what we consider serious? Do we go to the opposite extreme and say our students shouldn’t date? Or if we choose to broach the subject, how do we know it’s the right thing to do?
Over the last few weeks, I’ve spoken to quite a few parents who are just as confused by this whole drama as I am. In general, most of today’s parents have chosen to take the attitude that it’s just innocent fun. They sit back and listen to stories that their children come home with about who is dating who and who was dumped for someone else. Some parents do say that their children can’t date, as well. But, who sits down with them to really find out what’s going on?
Because of my slight culture shock, I really missed an opportunity to talk with these girls about the gift of relationships that God has given us. But, since then, I’ve really taken the time to learn about the dating world of my youth! I now know what each of my students considers a “serious” relationship. I know why some boys “count” and others don’t. But most importantly, I have opened the door for my girls to really talk to me about dating. I don’t want to be shocked by what they have to say, so I make sure they feel comfortable telling me their dating stories. While I know that they won’t always tell me the whole story, I can still share with them God’s plan for their relationships. I really hope that starting this conversation early will lead to healthier, more God pleasing relationships down the road.