DEAR AMY: I have a lovely daughter who just turned 13. She’s happy, smart, kind and caring. During the last school year (seventh grade) she asked if she could date a boy. At first I said “no.” Then she insisted that it would only be a simple silly “kid dating” thing, and I then allowed it. Fast-forward to six months later, and things have changed. Over the summer break this boy has done what many kids of this age might do — play video games and sleep. He’s made little effort to see her, which is fine by me. But when she gets in touch with him, he tells her all the things a girl loves to hear and then goes back to doing the same things. She’s smitten and committed to their relationship. But she’s also sad, which breaks my heart. As a mother I want to tell her to run. I want to pull the parent card and tell her she can’t date anymore, but I also know that this is the fastest way to send her 100 percent to the opposite direction. How can I stop her from heading into this doormat-style career of dating?
DEAR HEARTBROKEN: Your daughter is adopting the cultural relationship tropes she sees around her — the concepts of dating, emotional (and probably some physical) intimacy, and exclusivity.
The only hitch is that Cary Grant is dead, George Clooney is too old, and your daughter is stuck “dating” a 13-year-old boy. From your description, this boy is simply being himself, doing what he feels like doing, and quite oblivious to the impact on her. Plus, if he wanted to see her, he would.
Her current behavior does not consign her to life as a doormat. But you should gently lead her toward her own power, not in relation to boys, but in relation to herself.
Ask her to grab some girlfriends and take them to see the movie “Wonder Woman” at the multiplex. Afterward, ask what’s different about that movie, and how they feel about it. Tell them that this superhero movie was directed by a woman, because she didn’t see enough examples of how strong, smart and brave women are. Follow up with a home viewing of “Hidden Figures” (or read the wonderful book).
Encourage her to be busy and active, and to develop a new skill (like playing poker, or the ukulele).
Let her know, “He is putting himself first, and that’s what 13-year-olds are supposed to do. You should put yourself first, too. I don’t like to see you this way, because you are giving your power to someone else.”
This all started when your daughter was 12. Yes, she was too young to “date,” and she still is too young. If you played the parent card now, she might (secretly) be quite relieved.
The hidden figure in this situation is the girl’s father or another adult male who loves her. He should talk to her tenderly, listen to her lovingly, and let her know that it is vital that she be with people who respect her.
Obviously, scan your daughter’s social media, and act immediately if you detect signs of obsession or depression.
DEAR AMY: I am a father of two children (ages 8 and 3) and a happily married husband. When I was 20, I was at the point of signing on with the military. My fiancee (now wife) convinced me not to enlist. I am now 30 years old with a job that pays the bills. I am big on honor and find myself empty inside. My wife and I have spoken about this and at this point she is clearly against the idea of enlisting. I feel that enlisting will not only provide for my family, but fill that void inside of me. Please help.
A Father, Torn
DEAR TORN: You should look into joining the military reserves. Reservists go to boot camp and receive further military training (typically over one weekend a month), while maintaining their civilian careers. Reservists are an important part of our nation’s military.
You have a duty to yourself to try to meet your own personal goals, but understand that your choice has a huge impact on your wife and children.
DEAR AMY: “Non-smoker” wondered what to do about smokers at an outdoor event. Go to his/her city council and ask that the city restrict smoking at outdoor events. Some communities have done this. Get help and ideas from Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights at nosmoke.org.
Happy and Healthy
DEAR HAPPY: Great suggestion.