In the fading twilight, the headlights of an approaching car reminded Bill to reach for the dashboard and turn on his lights. As the horde of rush-hour cars streamed by, jack reminisced about the teenage daughter he had just picked up from band practice.
He smiled as he thought about all those after-school trips over the last few years: dance classes, piano practices, the unending cycle of softball games and tournaments. He glanced at her in the seat next to him and thought, “She’s starting to look like her mom. Her childhood has passed so quickly”
Usually, Jack and his daughter made small talk on their brief ride home. Not tonight. Jack was concerned about the growing emotional distance between them. Sure, he knew this gap was normal for teenagers and their parents. But he wasn’t ready yet to surrender his role as a parent. He hoped the conversation he was about to initiate would help close that gap. He had prayed for an opportunity to talk to her alone—without her three brothers around. This was it.
“Julie, how are you doing with the guys?” he asked, struggling to disguise the wobble he felt in his voice.
“Oh, okay,” Julie replied, in a cryptic teenage fashion. She looked nonchalantly out her window as their car crossed a small bridge.
Bill smiled and probed: “You know, your mom and I have been talking about you and all those boys who call on the phone.”
Julie squirmed uncomfortably in her seat. Realizing now where this conversation was headed, she rolled her eyes.
“Your mom and I just want to make sure you know what you stand for as you get old enough to date. You know what I mean, Pudd’n?”
Pudd’n was Bill’s pet name for his daughter. He hoped it might soften her heart.
She smiled faintly.
“I would like to ask you a very personal question and give you the freedom not to answer if you don’t want to.” He paused, waiting for her reply.
“Sure, Dad. Why not?” she said flatly.
Bill gripped the steering wheel and shot a glance into her eyes. “Have you thought through how far you are going to go, physically, with the opposite sex?”
Whew. There—he’d done it! Bill and his wife had talked before with Julie about God’s standards about sex, but soon she would be dating and making moral choices on her own. They wanted to encourage her to make the right ones.
“Uh, well, I guess,” she replied. She was obviously feeling even more ill at ease.
They were just a block from home, so gently but firmly, Bill pressed the final question: “Well then, would you mind telling me how far you intend to go? Where are you going to draw your boundaries?”
He stopped the car a few feet short of the driveway and feigned a look into the mailbox. He knew his wife always got the mail, but Julie was acting like a basketball team ahead by one point in the fourth quarter, hoping the clock would run out. She was stalling.
Jack faced Julie and waited for her response. If he had waited for a month, he wouldn’t have been ready for what she said.
“No, I don’t want to tell you” she said firmly.
Decision time for this dad. He deliberated, What if I press the issue and she gets angry? Do I probe further now or double back later?
“Okay,” he replied, “I’ll take that for an answer . . . for now.”
A tense silence filled the car as it eased forward and stopped in the driveway.
Jack is definitely a courageous dad, pressing into a relational hot spot where most parents fear to tread. Although it’s uncomfortable, he’s definitely on the right track.
Just what role should parents play to steer a child away from the traps in the most popular sport for many teens—the dating game?
For us, dating or courting is a small part of the overall process of determining God’s will for discovering your life partner in marriage. In our family the focus has not been on dating, but more on training our teens in their character and in how to develop a relationship with the opposite sex.
Parents really have a great role to play in their teenagers and relationships with the opposite sex.