Dating took us by surprise. My husband and I were, admittedly, not ready for our fourteen year old daughter to date. Especially not a sixteen year old who drives. Especially not after they met under less than ideal circumstances.
We aren’t novice parents. She isn’t even our oldest. There are three ahead of her and one behind. We’ve graduated one from high school and another will be crossing that stage this spring.
But here we were. Surprised.
Anna has always been impulsive, determined, alive in every sense of the word, vibrant, dynamic and passionate. It’s what kept her alive as a young child, fighting every new medical crises…hard. It’s what her pulmonologist loves most about her – her feisty spirit, her spicy drive.
We used to say that what Anna lacked in size she more than made up for in personality, and we knew her teen years would challenge us. They have, but they’ve also surprised us, for Anna has grown in compassion and grace. She hears the unspoken cries of another’s heart and creates beauty in photography, with words, and strummed across the strings of her guitar. She feels deeply, loves fiercely, and has, somewhere along the way, learned to bleed silently, quietly, refusing to be vulnerable or show the pain.
Into this mix, our daughter suddenly and seemingly without warning added…dating, and my initial response at dinner that evening was most certainly not my finest. “Absolutely not!”
Her eyes grew wide. “Anna, he’s sixteen. And he drives. And, oh wow, let’s not even discuss how you two met.”
“Just meet him, Mom. Please?” she asked, tears welling in her eyes.
“OK,” I sighed, “one Sunday after church you can introduce us.”
Two days later, standing at the bottom of the stairs collecting kids, Anna walked up and said, “Hi, Mom, this is Anthony.”
Um, no, I thought. Not interested. Not now. Not ever. He’s sixteen. You’re fourteen. He drives. And we’re not even going to discuss how you two met.
But there he stood to my left. So I took a deep breath, turned my head and met…Anthony, and he was nice. Beautiful eyes. Great smile. Shook my hand. Met my eyes. Spoke in complete sentences. Nice.
Looking back, I have no idea who exactly I expected to meet that day at the bottom of the stairs, but I realize now, I do know my daughter. I’ve raised her, taught her every day of her life, nursed her through weeks at Children’s Hospital, administered many unpleasant meds, and loved her sometimes in spite of herself. She’s a good kid, positively imperfect and impulsive, and absolutely a child of divine Grace — a teen with a passionate faith burning in her soul just trying to figure out what it means to grow up in this world.
So are we ready for dating? Maybe not. But she is. And so is he. And ready or not, four parents have become friends, standing together in prayer and heart to help our kids learn to navigate these new waters a little more safely and a little more slowly than they otherwise might.