While our door has always been open to an assortment of friends and family–including during the holidays–this past Thanksgiving was the first time one of my high-schoolers wanted to invite the current “boyfriend” to share our feast. Having mastered the serene smile and nod that becomes a main tool of the mom of teenagers, I took a deep breath and said, “Sure, we’ll be eating at 3.” There was the brief moment where I felt as if I must be trapped in a situation comedy–since I was preparing dinner for my three teens, my ex-in-laws, and now, this new boyfriend, but then I realized it was just an other inevitable milestone in the evolution of my family.
By now, I’ve seen dozens (if not hundreds, times three) of friends and boyfriends and girlfriends come and go across the threshold of my house. Some have come to be like auxiliary kids, knowing their way around my house as well as they do their own, others disappeared from the social circulation as soon as I’d finally mastered their names. But, this meeting and welcoming a boyfriend/girlfriend feels a little differently–for both myself and my kids.
I treat the boyfriend/girlfriend just as I would any other friend or peer that my child may bring home. I am not so old that I don’t remember my own anxiety and expectations of bringing friends and “more” home to meet my parents so I try to offer my kids the courtesy I craved. I do not bring out the baby pictures, or offer up embarrassing stories, and I try to avoid calling my child by pet names while the “one” is around (I try, sometimes things just spill out!). I remember taking dating and my social life rather seriously when I was sixteen and seventeen, so I resist the urge to comment on the “cuteness” of the bumbling couple. The fact is, it feels like a positive privilege that my otherwise snarky teenager wants to bring this person home to meet me and I am interested in preserving our connection–not doing things that may cause her to stop including me in her life.
Do I like everyone my children bring home? No. But I believe that unless there is a severe safety concern, I keep my mouth shut. Not only do I exhibit politeness and respect, I expect my other children to do the same when one of their siblings brings somebody home. That can be a little more challenging to enforce, but as my children age, they just have more social skills and “get it.” I know that by expressing any negative opinions or concerns that may be bubbling within me, I will likely only create distance between my child and myself and, possibly, give the relationship more power than it needs to have.
This brings me to my final lesson of experience–avoid getting involved in the drama. As many of you know, teenagers are all about changeability and drama. By taking the position of pleasant, polite, removed mom, I’m not going to let myself get sucked into the middle or drawn up into the drama of teenage romance. If the last couple years are any indication, I’m sure I will be meeting plenty of boyfriends/girlfriends and if I let myself get either attached, or embroiled things will get messy and my relationship with my child could be at risk. My rule is to treat this person exactly as I would any other friend my child includes in his or her social life and keep a healthy distance, while staying open and interested. All that said, I just hope I can continue to keep the names straight!