If you read last week’s column with several of my favorite parenting tips, welcome back for more.
In addition to limiting our kids’ screen-time and spending, Tony and I also established some guidelines with regard to dating. Our rule was, no dating until you’re 16.
Josy, our firstborn, didn’t care. Early on in life, she decided to focus on her studies, music, family and friends. Which was absolutely fine by Tony and me.
The delayed-dating rule peeved our middle child, Cody Brook. Each school year she had her eye on a cute boy or two. Starting in middle school, she often asked us to modify our minimum age for dating. We always answered no.
A few months before Cody turned 16, she met a boy she felt was destined to be her forever honey. The two talked on the phone. They texted. At school they ate lunch together. She begged us daily at that point to bend the romance rule, but we held firm.
On the day Cody turned 16, the boy stopped by to ask our permission to date her. He was tall, blonde and handsome and quite polite. Still, I knew in my mother’s heart, he wasn’t the one for her. Even so, she’d reached the Tarantini legal age of dating, so Tony and I said yes.
Cody and her sweet blonde boy dated a few years, then he moved to New York City in search of fame on the stage. In time, their love affair fizzled out.
Our son Tre was much like Cody. By the time his 16th birthday rolled around, he was ready to start looking for love. He had a few nice girlfriends, mostly for short periods of time, but here lately, he’s gone without a gal for quite a while. Like his sister Josy, he’s focusing on his studies, his friends and his future. For now, at least.
As I think back to the drama our kids’ friends experienced as they dated, broke up, repeat, over and over — starting in grade school, no less — I have no regrets regarding our dating rule. Sometimes I actually think we could’ve gotten away with setting the minimum age at 18. Oh, well.
We were also careful about who our kids hung out with. For the most part, our kids’ friends have been great. There were a few exceptions, like the girl whose snarkiness and disrespect for elders tended to rub off on Cody. Thankfully, the two girls grew apart after a few years.
Our oldest child also had a friend I wasn’t crazy about. Josy thought me mean for not giving the girl my stamp of approval, but something in my mother’s gut knew: That one’s not quite right.
When the girl went wild, with boys and drugs, my daughter said, “Mom, you were right!” Imagine that.
Because Tony’s parents never allowed sleepovers, and because slumber parties are often loud, annoying and messy, Tony has never been a fan. Now me, I have many fond memories of pajama parties. Still, because of my experience with childhood abuse, we were very careful with who and where our kids spent the night.
In the interest of safety, our family rule was: You can’t sleep over at a friend’s house until you’ve had at least one, two-hour playdate there. This gave Tony and me a chance to meet the parents and see the home situation. And, our kids could determine if they’d feel comfortable staying overnight. This rule served us well through the years, allowing us to know not just our kids’ friends, but also their parents.
There you have it — some of the top secrets of our parenting success. I recently posted a lot of additional great parenting tips on my blog: dianetarantini.com