This week we had an interesting conversation in the office and that was to do with how girls and guys date, what’s expected and what the general norm is.
It all started out when I shared about how in our family there’s a certain way we do things:
1. No boyfriends before 18
This went down like a lead balloon. Kids are too much in a hurry to grow up. They need to enjoy some of the most challenging years of their lives without the complication of ‘going out’. We always told our girls that you don’t have to be attached at the hip of a guy to be someone.
2. The guy asks permission to ‘court’ our daughter
We don’t believe in the try and buy scenario of dating. A relationship with the potential new family member is really important and if they respect you enough to ask permission, then they hopefully will respect your best investment – your child.
3. If one of our girls are in another town or country (as what we have now) they have to be sussed out and approved by a family member.
In line with our Pacific Island upbringing, Aunty is a pretty powerful person in the family. In New Zealand we have a cousin who has ‘Aunty’ status who keeps an eye on things. In Australia we had a friend who was an ex SAS member and he (okay he was a guy but you get the drift) would ask the hard questions on our behalf, it was great. I am sure they were scared of Jeff!
4. As a couple who profess to the Christian faith, they are encouraged to meet with their pastors and be accountable to them.
It takes a brave couple to tell their pastors that they are going to the next level in their friendship because it gives the pastors authority to speak into their lives and they may not like what they hear.
5. The couple set boundaries to keep themselves out of situations they may regret.
If it really doesn’t go anywhere, they can remain friends and still look each other in the eye.
6. Both parties take their ‘friend’ to their families homes.
This means involved in family activities such as dinners, going out to movies, church and special events. When you marry someone, you marry into their family as well.
Of course it all has to be in context. We have always encouraged our girls to make friends both boys and girls and if they are to go out, do it in a group.
We’ve openly talked about sex since they were 9 &10 years old (they’re 22 & 23 now) – in an appropriate manner of course. Both our parents never talked about ‘the birds and the bees’ so we decided to, bringing in a Biblical viewpoint. They were homeschooled till they were around 11 & 12 and then put into a public system when we moved to Australia.
We’ve always made a point of being involved in our girls lives. Even now we take them out of dates and a good catch up time. While we never had a lot materially we made this investment. When Hannah had finished secondary school we insisted that the whole family go on a two month tour of East Africa. At first she wasn’t happy about it (insisting she wanted to work, I pointed out that she had the rest of her life to work), but it changed her world forever. Both of our girls are global travellers and have experienced many cultures, which has broadened their personal worlds.
Here in Kenya I’ve discovered things are quite different.
- The only time the family sees the new ‘friend’ is just before the engagement happens.
- If the parents don’t like the potential addition to the family and the girl really wants him, she has to choose between her family or his if things get really bad.
- When the two families meet they sit formally opposite each other. This is when the dowry is discussed. It goes through stages of friends who can vouch for you (at the serious stage), then the uncles go.
- Parents don’t talk to their kids about sex. That happens in school (apparently).
- If a girl gets pregnant out of wedlock, she will most likely be beaten badly and kicked out of home. Some parents are more supportive but the guy involved has to front up to them.
- If you’re not married by your late 20’s you’re over the hill.
Of course, within the Kenyan culture there are lots of ways of doing things but above is what has been a long held tradition. I have a Kenyan friend who said when she got pregnant her mother accepted her and supported her.
I have another one who is not allowed to get married to the father of her child, but they can live together, because they don’t have the money for a huge wedding (the father knows some high ranking people who HAVE to be invited). When they go to her family in the country her partner is not allowed to sleep in the same house as everyone else.
Even if my girls were raised in Africa, I still would keep to how we as a family do things.
As our kids grow into adulthood they have to make their own choices and live with the consequences. As a parent all you can do is your best and support your kids in the same manner.
– Do you talk to your kids about dating, sex, relationships or leave it up to others (school, friends, social media)?
– When was the last time you took one of your kids out on a date by themselves, just for the sake of it?
– What values do you hold as a family?
– What memories are you building that your kids will take into adulthood?