Yesterday evening we had a couple over for dinner. The young man has been involved with the campus ministry that Joel leads for a few years, and his girlfriend was visiting from out of town. He wanted us to meet her. They seem serious.
Before they arrived, I prepped the girls to be on their best behavior. This instruction mostly goes out the window, and par for the course, as soon as they crossed the threshold Reese launched into a demonstration of how loudly she can blow the whistle she received as a birthday party favor (side note: never do this to other parents), and Brooke crisscrossed the hallway and kitchen on her trike.
Chaos, as usual.
This morning as we ran errands, Reese had some questions. "So, are they boyfriend and girlfriend?"
She tilted her head to the side. "How old do you need to be to have a boyfriend? A lot older, like twelve?"
Before responding, I reminded myself that the age of twelve would seem a lot older to Reese. It's two years past the elusive leap into double-digits. It's doubling her life span. It's the equivalent of me turning 66.
"Even older than twelve, honey."
"Okay." She looked out the window, content with my answer, but something in me wasn't ready to let the conversation drop. Not yet.
"You know, Reese, there are going to be some girls who have boyfriends when they're twelve, probably even earlier. You aren't going to, though. Our family does things differently than some families, and that's okay."
She's heard me say it before. We do things differently. We do things differently with the type of music we listen to, with the type of television we watch, and with the type of clothes that will be appropriate. I'm teaching them now that these are protective measures, not restrictive ones.
I want the girls to realize this from a young age. We play by different rules than some people they'll meet. As followers of Christ, we might say no to certain requests that other parents say yes to.
Christianity is an upside-down faith. The first will be last, and the last will be first. It's better to give than to receive. Humble yourself, and you will be lifted up. Whoever loses his life will find it. These are paradoxes that may baffle the mind, but they resound in the spirit.
How could this not impact our day-to-day lifestyle and decisions?
So, when I steal a few seconds to tell my six-year-old that boyfriends aren't necessary, I'm priming the pump, setting the expectations in advance, and reminding -- as gently as possible -- to get used to it, kiddo. You'll understand our rationale someday, even if you may not when you turn twelve.
We do things differently, and that's okay.