The very words used to make my stomach turn. Will you go with me? Check the box: yes...no...maybe. What to do, what to do. How could there be so many big decisions in 4th grade!
26 years later not much has changed, has it? Except, it's my daughter's turn this time, and Momma thought for sure she had this one figured out. Been there, done that... It really caught me by surprise, though, to tell the truth. How could she be old enough to be asked that? How can I remember feeling that way? Are those really white hairs I see in the mirror?...... A boy in her class had asked her right in front of her classmates. She politely declined as she had no interest in the boy anyway, but was largely embarrassed by the attention and the questions that followed from all those who saw the interaction. As she told me about it after school that day, my initial response and advice was focused on how to let the boy down nicely, how to handle these things with the help of friends, how not to worry about what others think, etc. The bigger picture never occurred to me.
How is there a bigger picture? This is only 4th grade after all. What's the big deal? They're just trying out relationships, right? Practice dating, crushes, going steady....isn't it all o.k.? Didn't we do that?
I have been telling my daughter for the past year or so to guard her heart. Sure, she "likes" some boys more than others, and whenever we talk about those feelings I encourage her to guard her heart, don't spend too much time thinking about it, enjoy being a kid. I tell her that she will spend so many days, weeks, months and years of her life wanting to have a boyfriend, be in a relationship, and get married that the wait can seem so very long at times. The sooner that road starts, the longer the trip. Yet, when it came to "checking the going-out-with-me box", I thought it was cute. I mean, they weren't going to go on an actual "date", right? I totally missed the point.
Later on that week I was talking to a new friend of mine with daughters around the same age as mine. I was asking her what they are doing with the going out topic in their household. She shared that their girls won't be "going with" anyone until they are old enough to individual date. We talked about how children are forced and sometimes encouraged to grow up faster and faster these days. Almost as if the moms are living vicariously through their children. Her sister works in an E.R. in a large city. Within the past year, this sister has helped deliver babies of two different 9 yr. old mothers!! What?!?!
She challenged me to think about how encouraging a 4th grader to have a boyfriend really didn't help to guard her heart, even if it appeared harmless. We both agreed that our children are and will continue to do activities with groups of friends that have guys and girls. I know that I have great memories of that!!! And I want that for my children as well, and for as long as possible, without the pressure to pair off.
I am so grateful for friends who challenge me to think beyond my own experience. My life, and that of my children, is so much richer for it!
Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. (Prov. 4:23 NLT)