Monday, February 22, 2010
Training our Kids for Marriage
Marriage intrigues me. The concept and complexity of marriage is too big to contemplate at times. I have been fascinated with the intricacies of relationships since I was a little girl, and most likely because the first adult relationship I knew intimately, my parents', was a marriage that couldn't work. I realized, before I could even verbalize it, that there is a lot about relationships that is out of our control, and that is a scary proposition. I wanted to take control of what I could, so I became an avid student of relationships and marriage, well before I did "real" research for my book.
I know that in my first grade journals, I talked about how much I "loved" one of the boys in my class, and there were games we played on the playground that simulated being married. As I got older, and into high school, I studied the way my friends' parents would interact and I started to catalog some of those traits I hoped to emulate. I am sensing relationship curiosity for all three of our children, and I am thrilled that they are comfortable enough to talk to me while still at the age that they might listen. That is why I am actively promoting "Marriage Training" for our kids. My definition of "Marriage Training" is a fostering and encouraging age-appropriate relationships with members of the opposite sex.
Humans are selfish, Anyone who has raised children knows how naturally selfish people can be. Strong relationships are grounded in selflessness and I am challenged to prepare our children for the sacrifices that will be necessary for a healthy, sustainable marriage.
That starts now. So when my nine-year old hints at the fact that he likes a girl in his class, and he knows that she likes him back, I don't discourage the relationship, I just try to positively guide it toward health.
"She asked you to go watch her dance recital?" I ask excitedly.
"Yes," he coyly responds.
"Oh, would you humor me please! I have been married to the same man for twelve years, and I don't get those fun butterflies anymore. Can you just lay the scene for me so that I can live vicariously through you?"
"Okay," he laughs, because he and I have always had fun with dramatic presentation.
He dims the lights (literally, I'm not kidding)
"So, we were in math," he somberly begins.
"Oh, I can picture it now," I lovingly mock.
"We were playing a game," he continues.
"Oh, wait, so did you ask her to play the game or did she ask you?" I interrupt with enthusiasm.
"The teacher assigned us," he said. "Anyway, we were playing the game and she told me that she danced."
"Wait, hon, you already knew that she was a dancer," I interject.
"Well, I forgot," he admitted.
"Oh, hold on there bubs! I enthusiastically wave my arms. "That is cardinal sin number one when you are into a girl! You have to know what she is into. Never, ever forget what she's into!" I beg dramatically as I lean over our breakfast bar.
He laughs, and nods in agreement.
We continue talking about how he might actually want to go watch her dance, and I agree to take him if he gets all the information.
The next day, by chance, I have an opportunity to talk with his "friend who is a girl" and her mom at a school lunch. My son had pointed them out, and before I could go up to introduce myself, the girl had approached with her mom to do it first. I am pleased with the quality kid and family with whom he wants to start a relationship, and I will do what I can to help him. For instance, I will follow him sprinting out of church so that I can catch up to her mom. My son had noticed that the entire family was at church, without his "friend who is a girl", and he wanted to find out where she was. (she was at girl scouts)
There are twinges of excitement coming from the other camp in our house too. There must be something in the air. My seven and four-year-old daughters are also interested in talking about love interests and relationships. The other night we spent some time telling "secrets" in the pop-up tent in my daughter's room. I told them that "what is said in the tent, stays in the tent" so I can't reveal all the gory details, but I will say that I am hoping to positively guide them through relationship minefields too.
I am not sure that we are ever too young to learn about healthy and appropriate relationships. I was surprised by the comment of a friend of mine who overheard my oldest talking about his dating rules (group dates seventh grade, double-dates eighth grade, parent driven dates from 9th grade until he gets his license).
She told me that she asked him, "Are you really excited about all of that?"
I am not sure how he responded, but I hope he'd say yes. The most significant relationship we will ever have in our lives is our marital relationship. We spend so much time investing in academic training, career training, and athletic training, why would we neglect the training necessary to be highly successful at marriage?