In honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought we’d revisit the purest of all the love stories- The Middle School Dating Scene. This timeless phenomenon has made millions of parents the world over wonder why they are not paying for single-gender private school through the ninth grade. I listen to the stories Lindsey tells me every single day about the boyfriends and girlfriends of the seventh grade, and I wonder anew, Were the romantic endeavors this ridiculous when I was in middle school? Well, of course they were, I’ve just invested a lot of time, life experience, and self-help books in an effort to mitigate the awkwardness of my middle school experience.
Lindsey does not have a boyfriend. We’ve been pretty clear with her that it’s completely unnecessary at her age, and she agrees. I periodically check her texts and she’s not on social media, so I’m pretty confident that there are no smoochie shenanigans going on that I am unaware of. Just because she is not engaged in these soap operas, does not mean that she isn’t privy to them playing out around her. I am blessed everyday by the tales of love and loss that occur among her peers.
Every story sounds something like this: 6 thirteen-year-old girls text Tyler because their friend Suzie likes him. Tyler just wants to be friends with Suzie because he actually likes Kylie, one of the 6 girls on the group chat. Tyler finds out that Kylie likes his best friend Jake so he decides to ask Suzie out via text (because any girlfriend is better than none). They agree to officially start dating the next morning (the Official Start Date is a real thing, it’s like establishing an anniversary before the relationship- please don’t spend a lot of time trying to understand this) only she gets to school and dumps him, via text, before first period.
As the mother of a 13-year-old girl, my job is to listen to this and take it somewhat seriously so she will trust and confide in me when the bigger deal stuff comes down the pike. My listening strategy is to be the Empathetic Mom Who Gives Relationship Advice. In reality and from the overflow of my heart, I want to say, “This is all bananas and you aren’t allowed to date until you are married,” but that doesn’t foster a strong Mother-Daughter bond in these turbulent teen years.
We recently had a talk about liking boys and as she talked her way around the whole scenario, she told me, “I think I like the idea of liking a boy, but I don’t want to be anyone’s girlfriend, does that sound crazy?” Nope. You sound like a sane teenage girl confirming what biology has long known, the frontal lobe of the brain is not formed until 25 years of age. Knowledge is power, so remember that when you enter the dating world TWELVE YEARS FROM NOW.
A lot of the power couples in middle school tend to be the same players recycled into new relationships. The boyfriends in this pool are a fascinating group. What 13-year-old boy is ready to meet the emotional needs of a thirteen-year-old girl? Or even throw his hat in the ring and WANT to give it a shot? Paul and I are the parents of a thirteen-year-old. We have a lot of education and relationship experience between us and we struggle to make sense of her emotional needs. Most days we just try and stay out of her way. Are these middle school Casanovas ahead of their time? Peaking early? Doing TED talks on relationships? WHO ARE THESE BOYS EXACTLY? I have a 15-year-old boy living in this house that I still have to remind to flush the toilet, so godpseed entrusting him with romance and emotional intelligence.
Speaking of my son, he is currently reading Romeo and Juliet in English. I am no fan of Shakespeare, but I think the bard captured one universal truth in his tale of the Capulets and Montagues that still rings true today: Adolescent romance will only end in tragedy, therefore avoid it until you are past the age of melodrama.
Or at least until you have your driver’s license.
Happy Valentine’s Day! May it be full of sweets and devoid of group chats.