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COLUMN: Dating from a different angle

I thought I was out of the dating scene.

Being a married mom of four, I am not talking about dating for myself. Since I can count on one hand the number of guys I dated other than my husband, I admit I'm a little naïve when it comes to this area.

I also have a single sister who has been in the dating arena for several years now. After listening to her exploits, I don't really envy her.

No, I am actually talking about my kids, specifically, my oldest kid. Ever since she was a youngster, she acted like a 5-year-old going on 25. I didn't mind so much, but now that she is on the cusp of entering high school, I've found myself needing to set some boundaries.

For example: when is she old enough to date?

My husband and I like to think of ourselves as open-minded people. We have invested years in raising an intelligent, caring young lady who will go on to support us in our old age.

Can anyone blame us for wanting to keep things that way?

I remember when I had my first "date." I was in high school and a guy in my art class asked me out to the movies. Since neither of us could drive, his mom picked me up at my house, chatted with my mom for a while, and drove us to the theater. I don't remember what movie we saw, or even if she stayed there with us. Come to think of it, nothing memorable happened that day. Good thing too, because he turned out to be quite a strange fellow.

I've talked with several people about when kids should be allowed to date. It seems that those adults who don't have kids, or have kids who aren't older than toddlers, are still too close to their own dating days that they have fond memories. They get all exasperated that I would even THINK of putting restrictions on my kids' social life.

"You aren't really going to do that are you?" they ask, wide-eyed. "OMG, she will hate you for that!"

Now, those adults who have had teenagers, or have witnessed the mental breakdowns of friends who have had teenagers, are a bit more cautious.

"I wouldn't let my daughter go on a date until she was 16," they said proudly. I thought I noticed a slight twitch in the left eye, but that could have been my imagination.

Since we have three daughters right in a row, my husband has been joking that he will have so much fun when they start dating. By "fun," he means tormenting the prospective beaus. When I first met my husband, he looked like a football player. Standing over 6 feet, he still has the same barrel chest and massive arms. He had sown a few wild oats in his single days, so he said he knows some things to look for when a guy comes a -courtin'.

When a boy came to our house the other day to give our daughter a ride to a youth meeting, my husband answered the door, sized up the guy and yelled up the staircase for our daughter. I noticed that his voice was about an octave deeper than normal.

I'm surprised he didn't have his hunting rifles out on the pretext of "cleaning" them.

He stood there in silence with the boy, who was nervously shuffling his feet in our foyer, until she came down and broke the tension. After he confirmed when the boy would be returning our daughter, they left and he gave me a self-satisfied smile.

Heaven help the next beaus who knock on our door.

In all fairness, I can be a little "protective" as well. When my daughter informed me that a boy asked her out to the movies, the hair stood on the back of my neck and I stopped in my tracks.

After asking the usual questions (Who is he? What movie are you going to see? When will it be showing? What is the correct spelling of his name so I can check his Facebook account?), I told her that I would be accompanying her.

"MOM!" she said, quite loudly, I might add, "That is absurd! Don't you trust me?"

"Of course I trust you," I countered. "Now HIM - well, that is another story."

This was confirmed the other day when she said a guy friend of hers objected to chaperoned dates since it made him feel restricted, like he couldn't do anything but hold the girl's hand.

To put in the teenage vernacular: "DUH!"

My husband and I agreed that they can start dating on their own when they reach 16, but until then, they are going to have to put up with parents.

We had even joked about volunteering to chaperone the dances, but my daughter didn't find that as amusing as we did.

So here we are, re-entering the dating scene - as parents this time.

Guess I better update my wardrobe a bit and my husband needs to get some more gun cleaning rags.