5 Things I Want My Son To Know About Dating

mother's day tea. (2)Dear Beagle,

When you were in preschool we had a special date called “Mother’s Day Tea.  You and your classmates worked for a week to create invitations, place settings, and snacks.  On the day of the event, dressed up in your Sunday best and wearing a necktie for the first time, you sat patiently waiting at a pint-sized table for two.  I was outside the classroom waiting anxiously for my name to be called.  “Mrs. Dunham,” the teacher announced, which prompted you to stand up, push your chair in gracefully, and walk to the door to take my arm.  You led me to my place as if on official business, and asked me to join you for a bite.  I graciously accepted the tiny chair you pulled out as I fought back tears of joy.

My heart gushed with emotion that day.  Watching you learn the timeless lessons of hospitality thrust my mind toward the day you would be taller than me, dressing in man clothes and shaving in preparation for your date – which wouldn’t include me.

You had perfect manners that day, Beagle.  Any girl would have been proud to be sitting across from you.  My hope, now that you’re dating, is that you retain the sense of importance in this ritual.  You’ve got the basics, but there is so much more about relationships that I want you to know.  Here are the top five:

  1. Don’t be careless with another person’s heart and don’t let them be careless with yours.  You are playing with two hearts.  Protect them both with gratitude, for the risk of incurring hurt is high when you take each other for granted.  Be kind, be gentle, be aware.  Honor the validity of your partner’s feelings even when they differ from your own.  Love is a two-way street.  It’s not about taking and using, it’s about giving and receiving.  Listen to what your own heart is telling you and act on it with a mix of caution and abandon.  And most of all, be brave.  Because at some point your heart will be broken.  But it will heal and find the capacity to love again.  That’s what the heart does so well.  And if it’s you that departs first, let her down with dignity and you will preserve your own.
  2.  Love the one you’re with.  We all want to feel special to someone.  We want to know that the person we’re with has hand-picked us from the pack of possibilities.  At first we are fixated on the other, blinded by love.  But as time wears on, eyes may wander and observations may surface.  If you find yourself distracted by the ‘greener grass,’ it’s time to re-evaluate.  Take stock of your feelings and sort them out so you can make clear decisions.  Perhaps it’s time to move on, perhaps not.  But if you decide to stay, put your whole self into it.  Intimate relationships require and deserve focus.
  3. Don’t kiss and tell.  This is a no-brainer.  If you want your relationships to succeed, you must honor sacred ground.  No matter how much your ‘Boyz’ pressure you for information, keep it to yourself, even after the relationship has ended.  Back away from the desire to brag about your progress with a girl.  Respect the secrets you discover about each other and, dare I say, with each other.  You will never regret the practice of becoming trustworthy.
  4. Be yourself.  Partners in relationship have a way of highlighting each other’s warts, especially when the shine of newness has worn off.  When one chews too loudly or the other does that thing she always does, it’s easy to be critical.  We start to snip away at each other like tailors trimming and binding to make a perfect fit.  Sometimes we agree to give up parts of ourselves and we become altered versions of the whole person we were born to be.  True, we all have some ‘fat’ to trim; we could give up some bad habits that serve no one.  But each of us is perfect and valuable and worthy as is.   Better to find a person that fits the clothes than alter the clothes to fit a person.
  5. Take responsibility.  Relationships possess a level of risk, both physical and emotional.  Don’t let those risks run away with you.  Think before you speak.  Think even harder before you act.  Know what I’m sayin’?  Let me spell it out…If you don’t want to become a teen parent, protect yourself.  Don’t assume your partner is taking care of business.  Or better yet, abstain.  Enough said.                                                                                                                               The most important piece of wisdom to remember about relationships is this: YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR OWN HAPPINESS.  Don’t try to blame your witchy girlfriend, or her angry mother, or her crazy friends.  No one makes you unhappy.  Happiness is a matter of choice and perspective.  If you love, respect, and care for yourself, happiness will not outrun you.

Beagle, you know how much I adore you.  You’ve long outgrown my cuddles, but I hope you’ll never outgrow my love.  I want the best for you and for all the people who are lucky enough to meet you in this lifetime.  So listen to your wise mother.  And bend down and kiss her once in a while.  She will always be your first love.

“So there’s this boy who stole my heart.  He calls me Mom.”  -anonymous

City Girl In The (Cold) Country

wood-stoveWe’ve had the coldest and snowiest winter in recent memory which brings the threat of higher heating bills and the motivation to implement supplementary measures.  Visions of thousand dollar bills flying out the door every time we opened it scared husband and I into some long overdue changes.

Thus, we set about on our mission to cold-proof ourselves and our home; each of us trying to out-do the other in heat-saving measures.  To start, every family member, minus the dog, was gifted with a set of wool socks, a fluffy blanket, and a thick sweatshirt.  In lieu of warm clothing, the dog – who has his own natural fur coat – did benefit from an upgrade in sleeping quarters.  At the request of my son, he happily surrendered his place on the cozy wool rug for a previously restricted spot on the foot of my son’s bed.  A “two-for-one”, son declared.   “The dog is warmer and so are my feet!”  Who am I to argue?

A family trip to the hardware store was productive and satisfying.  We discovered sweeps for the doors, plastic to cover windows, and caulking to fill cracks around both.  We filled up our cart with abandon, convinced that spending a little now saves a lot later.  Not a flinch could be detected as the total of our purchases soared through triple digits.   Chalk it up for the heat miser.

Our self-satisfaction seemed to grow with every step.  But the real peak was reached when we fired up the wood-burning stove, and hauled in some wood from trees that were felled in our own backyard.  “Free heat!” husband exclaimed.  We were positively giddy about our dominance over Old Man Winter.

Day and night, husband can be found holding vigil at the woodstove.  He’s got it down to a science: position of the flue vent, configuration of wood, placement of fans for heat circulation.  So many details, but oh, so much heat.  Like a spoiled cat, I curl up in front of the stove, basking in the 74 degree temperature; a luxury never afforded by traditional heating.

And then it happened.  Husband left for 3 of the coldest days this season.  And I was left to tend the fire.  It was time for this cat to get off the rug and learn a thing or two.  My crash course was brief, but adequate I thought.  How hard could it be?  Humans have been tending fires for millions of years.  If un-evolved cave people could do it, surely a seasoned city girl-turned-country could too!

Within just a few hours of husband’s departure, my lofty assumptions crumbled.    Facing a rapidly dwindling heat source, and equally diminished confidence, I knelt before the wood stove, praying to the god of fire to save me from disaster.  Then I cried aloud, as if the stove had a life of its own, “I raked the coals; I gave you wood; I even smiled at you!  What more do you need?”   And why is my house filling with smoke instead of heat?  Somebody help me.  I need heat!”

Suddenly, through  smoke-induced tears, I saw a light.  Not the light of a fire, but the light of awareness.  I DO have heat.  Without hesitation, I rose from my knees and walked  defiantly  across the room to the thermostat.  Pushing guilt aside, I raised my finger and pressed the button.  Hearing the familiar click of the furnace as it turned on brought a smile to my face.  I leaned in a little closer, and whispered, “I love you.”

I might have relished that moment longer, had I not spotted my children staring at me, wide-eyed and incredulous.  Realizing that excuses would not suffice, I gave one simple instruction that would be repeated many times in the next few days, “Don’t tell Dad I turned on the heat.”

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