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Monday, September 21, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Dad Daze: Navigating the tricky world of teen dating

UPDATED: Mon., Sept. 14, 2020

Woody Allen portrays Alvy Singer in 1977's Oscar-winning
Woody Allen portrays Alvy Singer in 1977's Oscar-winning "Annie Hall." (United Artists)

It’s not easy to get in trouble during your first day of school, but I was called into a meeting nearly a decade ago due to my then 6-year-old son, Milo. His teacher told me that within the initial hour of first grade, Milo kissed a girl.

I asked Milo if it was true. “No, I didn’t kiss a girl,” Milo said. “But I tried!” What popped into my mind was the early scene from Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall,” when the protagonist, Alvy Singer, tries to plant one on a fellow first-grader. “Alvy, even Freud speaks of a latency period,” the girl shrieks. “I never had a latency period,” Singer said.

Three out of my four children weren’t attracted to the opposite sex as a pre-pubescent, but I still recall feelings for a pretty girl, Kelly, back in the Paleolithic era.

Milo had eyes for another first-grade classmate and gave her a teddy bear for Valentine’s Day, and I swear that the young lady’s mother never forgave my son for his advance.

Within a few months, girls were icky again, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

Ten years have passed, and, well, girls are on Milo’s mind. Messy Milo the kid who would expend more energy avoiding a shower – he once wet his hair and feigned taking a bath after filling up the tub – is now concerned about his appearance.

Milo, now 15, showers each night, splashes cologne across his chest and has meticulous requirements when getting a haircut.

I’m hoping Milo doesn’t turn into his brother, who spends almost as much time in the bathroom grooming as my bottle of shampoo does waiting for me. But it makes sense since I’ve never met anyone who takes as many selfies as Eddie.

Teen dating isn’t easy for me, even though I’ve had two children cross that threshold. The generation gap is cavernous since when I was a teen, kids actually dated.

My daughter Jillian, 21, and my son Eddie, 18, have dated, but the reality is that it’s a hookup culture, particularly in college.

Eddie explained that the net is wider than ever when casting for females courtesy of apps. Eddie, who is normally as covert as a CIA agent, surprisingly revealed how he goes fishing, and I was privy to what he has caught.

“This is the modern world,” Eddie explained. “You don’t understand it.” I tried to explain what the visceral thrill of meeting someone is like, and he brushed if off immediately, and followed with that’s how he met the girl he dated the longest.

“I met her and dated her, and you didn’t like how that turned out,” Eddie said.

I was fine with his girlfriend initially, since unlike my daughter Jillian’s boyfriends, she didn’t lurk in the shadows. Eddie’s girlfriend was charming and amusing. She hung out for birthdays and seemed very nice until the reality hit that she was manipulative and destructive.

I think I let things slide with her initially since my daughter’s high school boyfriends avoided me as much as possible. “Daddy, you’ll like my boyfriend,” Jillian once explained. “He loves sports and is being recruited to play college football.”

Sounds great on paper, but the guy was up for meeting me as much as my boys are looking forward to a weekend of Russian literature. Watching my kids date, or whatever they’re doing, has been an experience, and now it’s time to advise Milo, who is my wildest child.

It’s time for a talk, but not that talk. The chat about sex is always uncomfortable. With Milo, it was briefly discussed during a drive through Arizona last summer. “I learned about everything in health class a few months ago,” Milo said reassuringly. I still provided details until he cut me off. Now the chat is about other aspects of relationships.

A great byproduct of the #MeToo movement is having respect for who you might date. I’ll remind Milo why it’s important to be kind and considerate while spending time with a significant other. Don’t coerce anyone into anything, and stand your ground if they ask you to do something detrimental. If you have questions, contact me.

Be careful and smart, since teenager and parenthood should be mutually exclusive terms. Having a child when you are a child doesn’t make sense. Life is very different when you’re caring for a helpless young human being. I’ll use myself as a deterrent like I did with Eddie.

When Eddie showed me a letter his ex-girlfriend sent in which she signed with her first name and our last name, we had a serious discussion. It was evident that his gal pal wanted to be part of the family, and there’s a simple way to expedite that wish.

“If you have a child with her, you two aren’t the most responsible people, so who do you think is going to raise her?” I asked. “That’s right, me. Would you really want me to raise another child, particularly yours? I can’t run another 18-year marathon!”

Whenever you’re confused, follow the Golden Rule. Treat others as you would like them to treat you.

And have fun. You’re only young once, and at times it’s easy to forget what it was like to be a teenager. That’s a shame since as awkward and uncomfortable those days were, it’s a magical time. Not to make it sound like an adult beverage advertisement, but Milo, enjoy responsibly.

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