What's appropriate at 13?

dreamhouse1June 24, 2008

My 13 year old daughter is 'going-out' with a boy from school. Apparently 'going-out' is the new term for 'I have a boyfriend' because they don't actually go any where - they are 13. However, they spend a lot of time talking on the phone and texting each other. He did come to her dance recital and she wants to go see his baseball games, though I haven't taken her yet. The only time that they are together is when I allow her to have friends over, usually a mixture of boys & girls, for the day - swimming & movies. Sometimes she is invited to one of the others' house for the same, sometimes he is there, sometimes he isn't.

Don't get me wrong, he is a wonderful kid, as is she. This isn't about me wanting to keep THEM apart, it's about what exactly is APPROPRIATE at this age? My husband and I grew up in different scenerios, so we are not exactly sure what is okay and was is a bit much - of course we feel it's ALL a bit much! We want her in her room playing Barbies! But in reality, she isn't and we can't make her. She is a very social person, we just moved to a new area last year and she is developing friendships with a group of kids that we really like and feel are appropriate company for her, and the 'boyfriend' is among them.

Any opinions on what has worked or NOT worked for you?

Thanks in advance for any in-put and advice.

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First, I think how things are sound OK for now.

Second, Oh, sheesh, I wish I knew what was right!

Third, I'll tell you a long story.;o)
My oldest is my son, he'll be 15 next month. He had a girlfriend just like that in 8th grade, when he was 13. They were "going out," saw each other at school and talked on the phone, notes, emailed. No texting, b/c DS doesn't have a cell phone. I was OK with all that. They also went to a middle school dance "together," they just met there when we parents dropped them off/picked them up. (Actually, I volunteered to serve snacks at that dance, so they weren't even there unchaperoned by a parent. I'm one of those parents.)

Then Christmas came and he wanted to give her a gift. Something in my gut was uncomfortable, but at first I decided it was just me being freaked out by my child growing up. He had his own money, so I just took him to the department store and waited at the front, he knew what he had in mind. He came back with a very pretty bracelet, about $30. Again, that little voice was whispering in my ear "this is skipping a step."

Later I talked to DH about what was going on and my doubts. DH cracked me up! His biggest concern: this girl is going to take him on a ride for gifts! First Christmas, then Valentines Day, a birthday. How male is that? I laughed hard at him. Then I said no, seriously, I'm just not sure jewelry is appropriate from one 13 y/o to another. Now, I know it wasn't an expensive item, (though that's relative, if $30 is all a kid has it's a lot). But I asked DH to imagine what he would think when our DD is 13 and a boy gives her jewelry. We both said we'd tell her to give it back. I said think about what this girl's parents are going to think when they see a gift a jewelry, are they going to ask their DD "Exactly what is happening here?" It just sounds more serious than 13 y/o's should be, ya know? I kept thinking this boy/girl dating stuff is supposed to happen in steps and I felt like it was skipping a step.

But I also felt like DS had no idea that it could cause so much questioning. LOL. Finally DH and I both sat down with him and said he needed to choose a different gift. We wanted him to think about what the girl would think, if she'd feel like he was too serious, what she'd tell her parents, their friends, etc. And, on DH's line of thinking, how will you feel if you give her this and in 2 weeks she breaks up with you and still has it? He was upset w/us, said "How can a little present make anyone mad?" He wanted to know why I let him get it, then changed my mind. I told him honestly, I had doubts all along but I didn't want to overreact. Now that I'd thought and discussed it with Dad, I knew we were going in the wrong directions and it wasn't too late to take a different path. I kind of wanted him to understand changing your mind about a choice is OK when your gut is telling you something different, follow your gut before it's too late.

I told him I'd return it, get his money back and he could pick something else. Something consumable. Finally we all felt better and he ended up getting her a funny card and some candy. Turns out, she got him the same, and he said he was relieved it happened the way it did afterall.

Now, like I said he's almost 15, and has a new girlfriend as of a couple months ago. Since summer break started, they've been on the phone or IMing a lot on line. There were a couple marathon sessions when I said enough phone/IMing, time's up. He asked the first week if I would take them somewhere. So we sat down right then and set the ground rules. 1) I don't pay for any of it. LOL. 2) Twice a week is the limit on getting together. 3) Public places, or with a parent present. So I took them to the skating rink, dropped off, came back 2 hours later. Her mom has taken them to the youth group activities at her church (it's HUGE, it's a very big thing, 100s of kids, many of his friends are there, too). Last week she came to our house for a few hours, went to the neighborhood pool, then stayed for a block party with our neighbors. She was also here yesterday, more swimming and we all watched a rented movie (by all, I mean them, me and his 3 younger siblings LOL, now that's chaperoned!).

I am OK with this now. I picked the brains of some parents with grown kids to feel OK with this. I've also talked to her mom, who specifically asked me to not leave them in my house without a parent. I told her rest assured, we're on the same page! It wouldn't matter if the friends were boy or girl, there is always an adult here; no parent, no friends. I did not know her parents before this, but I have made sure to speak to them every time we drop off/pick up. I don't know where this relationship will go, but I figure it's best to get to know the parents right off, be friendly and open with each other.

It's OK to laugh at this: When my friends ask about how my kids are, I always mention DS has a new girlfriend, her name is Jane Doe. It's bait. ;o) I want to see if they'll say they know the family. I got a bite once! Someone I was working with subbing said she used to work with her mother, and that the whole family was "just the nicest people." I felt so much better! LOL.

DS gets annoyed w/me. I trick him into being alone w/me (offer food on an errand, works every time) and ask questions I think of, just one or two at time. What does she do in her free time? What do you think of her friends? What do you like about her? How did you meet her at school? What's her best subject? I'm trying to accomplish two things, 1) learn about DS and the girl, and 2) make talking about the topic more comfortable until it comes more naturally.

When she's here, I treat her like a special guest and make sure to have conversations with her. And sometimes, when they are out back on the deck for a while, I send a younger sibling to "play" in the backyard, just to make privacy is not too easy to get.

I don't know if any of that helped. I am still so new to this I don't really have good answers for you. I'm just sharing. ;o) You wanna know something really funny? I never did make it back to the store to return that bracelet, just an errand that never got done at a busy time of year. I gave DS the amount of the receipt, though, so he thought I did. Actually, it's still in the box on the top shelf in my closet. ;o)

    Bookmark   June 24, 2008 at 9:54PM
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I can't offer advice, as I have an almost 3 year old. But, 18 years ago when I was her age, we were 'going out,' too. It isn't a new term, it's along the lines of 'going steady.' Anyhow, I remember those days of butterflies in the stomach and watching your boyfriend play ball. Fun times for her, and stress for you!! Good luck to you :) Christy

    Bookmark   June 24, 2008 at 9:56PM
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My daughter had her first boyfried at 15, although we told her that she was not allowed to date until she was 16.

She was only allowed to be with him in public too - school dances, movies, skating, shopping, etc. He always kept asking her to go to his house while he was babysitting his little sister... nope, not allowed.

She said she didn't like the "going out" idea at all. He was too pushy to always get together. She felt pressured, plus the fact that she was his 14th girlfriend didn't sit too well with her. He was a nice boy with good manners and very respectful. After a month, they both decided to break up cuz they had nothing in common.

She's been asked out a few times since by other guys (to be a girlfriend) but she tells them that she'd rather just be friends. Why? Cuz she says they think they're in love right off the bat when they don't even know what love is! LOL One of the things that she liked about her first and only boyfriend was the fact that he was "real"... knowing that they were both too young to know what love really is.

A lot of her boy friends who have girlfriends think they're in love. And when the girls breaks off with them, they're devasted! I was amazed at how serious most of these young boys take their relationships. They think they're in love! A few of the girls have "used" a boy too!
(How do I know? Daughter tells me and shows me some of their conversations on MSN. She asks me questions so she could offer them advice, coupled with her own opinions. LOL)

When she goes to a "get together/party", she is not allowed to go unless there are more girls there and I call the parents and ask if it's supervised with how many kids, etc. I told my daughter that by doing this, the other kid's parents will respect her for the way she is being raised. If the other parents don't have "rules" then it tells me that their kid is allowed to do whatever he/she wants to do... which is not a good thing with me!

    Bookmark   June 24, 2008 at 10:36PM
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Thank you for your responses. I agree with the public places thing, however, though movies are public places, I'm still not comfortable dropping her off with a crowd for 2 hours. Yes, they are supposed to be in the movies, but are they? I have told her the mall is definetly off limits, that just seems like loitering to me - nothing specific to do. I told her I would rather they meet at a restaurant and have a meal together than just 'hang out' some where (by 'they' I mean her little crowd of friends, not just the boyfriend).

This is really hard!! I really feel for my parents now, sheesh! LOL

For now, I'm going to keep encouraging them to come over here, but I know that that will become boring after a while. I'm looking for a good alternative when they start looking for something else to do. It was so much easier when they were in school, they got their 'fix' seeing each other and were so much busier with all their after-school activities.

Thanks again, keep the advice coming!!

    Bookmark   June 24, 2008 at 10:50PM
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---It was so much easier when they were in school, they got their 'fix' seeing each other and were so much busier with all their after-school activities.

I'll second that!

    Bookmark   June 24, 2008 at 10:54PM
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I have told her the mall is definetly off limits, that just seems like loitering to me

It is loitering to me too if they're not there to actually buy something. If you want to buy her 2 tops, for example, give her the money and let her go shop with a friend or two. It's a good experience for her. You can be in the mall at the same time but just not at the same place as her.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2008 at 12:21AM
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My oldest child is 12, so I'm not a pro, either, but I will say, beware of the movies! My neighbor took her kids to a movie, and a few rows in front of them, were a couple of her son's friends and their girlfriends, engaged in some fairly heavy making out. There can be more privacy in the movies than you would think....

I think that going skating, or to a pool, or to each others' sports is fine. It's good that they are in a group, under an adults' supervision - that way they can spend time together, without the stress of what to do when alone together.

A friend of mine lets her daughter's boyfriend come over - he lives close enough to walk, and they tend to play basketball in the driveway (sometimes with her younger brother, sometimes not). She would also prefer them to be in a group, but has OK'd this one-on-one activity, because she is home with them and she's glad for her daughter to get a little off-season practice :)

    Bookmark   June 25, 2008 at 6:09AM
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Ok, now movies are totally out until she's 21! LOL

khandi, that is exactly how we have been handling the mall - we will go with a friend and I will let them shop in a couple of stores and meet back up with them for lunch or something, that I don't have a problem with. It's those 'gangs' of kids just hanging around making scenes and disrupting the entire environment that really get to me. I think they probably get dropped off at the mall for hours as entertainment, become bored, then they get out of hand. Not to mention, that it is really, really hot here and I think it's a place for them to hang-out and stay cool (no parks or outdoor activities). I just don't want her around that 'influence' - right now she is kind of 'afraid' of those gangs at the mall and I would rather keep it that way. LOL.

Still think that group activities suits us best right now, not ready for one-on-ones. Maybe closer to 16ish?

    Bookmark   June 25, 2008 at 9:14AM
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Yep, I am going through this as well. Its awful !!

I have posted here before...my son is nearing 16 now, and still with the same girlfriend.

I think something that is crucial is to have RULES of engagement. And, as parents, we state those rules.
As others have said.

I imagine all sorts of things happening, it drives me insane ! But I keep reminding myself that I must trust him.

Funniest and sweetest thing he did, GF's birthday is coming up, and he is knitting her a scarf ! Isn't that so sweet !

We get dragged along, as parents, stumbling through, not knowing what is right or wrong for our kids. We think of what we were like at that age, and cringe. But the kids grow up, and they survive. As long as they avoid, drugs, and don't bring an unplanned child into the world, then I will be happy !! LOL.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2008 at 6:34PM
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oh boy, it is tough isn't it? They are getting younger and younger, right? I started to go out at 16 and it seemed early for some. My girlfriends did not date until 18.

I was lucky DD did not date until college, at age 19. Her first dating experience turned into a full blown relationship. neither i nor she expected that to happen. At least i did not have to worry about her going out at 13. It can be a pain...

    Bookmark   June 25, 2008 at 7:22PM
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I do think about what I was like. While I was the classic goody-2-shoes, I met my husband when I was 15. I would never have claimed it "serious" at the time, and we didn't marry until after college. Still, I cringe at how young I was. While that worked out, I would not want my kids to get the impression that they need to make a committment to someone they start dating at 15.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2008 at 9:52PM
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Yes, trust is an issue, Popi. Not that I don't trust her, or him for that matter, it's the rest of the world!

I really don't want her to think my hesitation about her 'freedom' is about not trusting her and I have tried to explain it to her and give her examples, but sometimes I think that she thinks that is just an excuse for not trusting HER. At the same time, though the world and all its 'trappings' is a scary place, I don't want her to become terrified, just aware. It seems with all the new technology, internet, and STUFF that I feel I don't know everything about, I don't even feel well equiped to teach her! I mean it seems every day brings news of new ways kids are getting high from stuff in your house or new ways kids are intimidating/bullying/'duping' other kids into doing things they aren't even aware they are doing!

Gone are the days of worrying about cigarettes and beer...ah, the good ol' days! LOL!

How do you say, 'I trust you' and act like you don't? It's is confusing for her too, I know.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2008 at 9:34AM
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I would tell my daughter that i trust her but I do not trust other people. Other people might want to take advantage of her when there are no adults to protect her. that's why for the sake of her safety you have certain age appropriate rules.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2008 at 2:27PM
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I have had those thoughts too, Dreamhouse1, when my son says "why can't I do...." and I have said "why"...I have thought, well thats silly telling him all the horrible things that COULD happen...putting ideas in his head. I don't want to turn him into a nervous wreck who is afraid to go out in the world.

I have come to the conclusion, its little steps, with him growing up. He dressed inappropriately, so we had a little discussion about how his clothes could invite unwelcome comments from others. I asked him questions about what he thought might happen. I tried to word it so I did not introduce scarey ideas to him. Does that make sense ?? In the end I left the decision up to him about how he would dress. I think he is at an age where he needs to be in charge of himself, with me guiding him, with asking questions, like how will you deal with the situation if it arising.

Perhaps with a 13 year old girl, you could do the same. If she is home alone and the kitchen catches on fire, what would you do. If someone came to the door, what would you do, suggest opening a window and talking through the window.

Sure we dont trust the world, but I think we can do a lot to guide them into making decision that will keep them safe. It takes years of gentle "brainwashing", I think.

For instance..last night on our news, they showed some nut who had had his arm bitten off by a crocodile or alligator. He had got himself into that situation because he was drunk, his friends told him not to go into the water, and he did. So I told my son about this, with my underlying message being "see how you loose control of your senses when you are drunk". I call it positive re-inforcement.

Keeping the dialogue open is so crucial, in fact its the most useful thing you could do with your teen. We have regular discussion, because I have got him into the habit of the "walk and talk". He seems to crave it now, everyday after school, with me and my DH. It has been such a valuable time to just talk about anything.

I am rambling now, gotta get on with the day.

Ta Ta.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2008 at 6:22PM
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Dreamhouse, I have a very similar trust issue (see link to recent post). My daughter is responsible and trustworthy, but I don't want to give her too much freedom just yet. Mostly because 1. I don't want her to find herself in a situation she isn't ready to handle, and 2. I don't want to give freedom now, that I may have second thoughts about later.

"Sirens"'s advice was to say "it's a safety issue" and leave it at that, without going into long discussions of "it's not you, it's the rest of the world I don't trust...." I think she's correct that when you are setting limits, your children tend to pick apart your explanation. No matter what you say, your daughter is not likely to respond with Oh yeah, you're right - I'm probably not ready to handle an exclusive relationship with a boy just yet.

The "safety issue" explanation covers a lot - what you are trying to keep safe is: her reputation, her innocence, her self-esteem and her health.

I don't expect to have my purse stolen from my car, but I lock the doors anyway. I even think I may be helping someone who would be tempted, but won't bother trying since my doors are locked. In the same way, when you set limits for your daughter, you are protecting her, but also protecting her boyfriend and friends during a time when their emotions are a little ahead of their judgment.

Here is a link that might be useful: Working in the summer....

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 6:43AM
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