“It’s a girl!”
It’s the announcement every mother hopes she’s lucky enough to make. The arrival of a baby girl signals endless hopes and dreams of a future filled with dress-up dolls, pigtails and plaits, netball games and school dances.
“She’s dating a loser!”
It’s the announcement every mother hopes she’s lucky enough to NEVER make. Ever.
But it happens. A lot.
Psychologist Jo Lamble says, “many girls go through a bad boy phase. These guys ooze testosterone, which is attractive. They often try to tame the bad boy. It's a form of gentle rebellion.”
And so many of us have been there.
At sweet sixteen, I dated a guy who had a car. A fast one. I don’t remember much else about why I actually went out with him. At the same time, I had a girlfriend dating a guy who went to an exclusive boys’ school with strict rules about the way they wore their uniform in public. He dyed his hair blue, wore no tie and smoked under the stairs at the train station. Swoon.
We were equally smitten with our loser-loves.
But sometimes these relationships don’t pass as quickly as parents may like and they start to become toxic.
And before you know it, a dreaded conversation looms over you and your daughter like a cloud of bum-puffed cigarette smoke.
Do you tell your daughter she’s dating a douchbag?
The answer? No. “My general advice is to be careful,” Lamble says, “you don't want to drive her further into his arms. Obviously if there are any signs of domestic violence, then it's a far more serious matter that needs to be managed carefully. [Otherwise] sit back and observe.”
Ugh. That’s right. Observe the slug pouring himself all over your baby girl. The baby girl who liked it when you cut her grapes in half. The baby girl who once asked you to help her put her seatbelt on.
Strap in. Everyone’s in for a ride but you can make it to your destination. Start with making a little extra room.
Because before you ban this boofhead from your home, Lamble suggests, “invite him over - a lot. Let your daughter see how he fits in with your family. See how she is with him. Does he bring out the best in her? It's about your daughter's happiness, not whether you like him or not.”
Most of the time, it’s because we’ve all been there. We’ve been dumped. Dumped by the guy we believed was our true love.
And oh, the heartache.
My eyes well up for my sixteen-year-old-self standing at the driveway of the school carpark, talking to my soon-to-be-ex-boyfriends-best-friend who is moments away from telling me that he was breaking up with me. For his friend. Who couldn’t break up with me because he still really liked me. “Huh? But if he likes me, why is he breaking up with me?” My friends looked on in pity and wonderment from the science lab above us.
I don’t believe a relationship was dissected with more enthusiasm and confusion until Brad Pitt left Jennifer Aniston for Angelina Jolie.
I doubt my ex-boyfriend and his best friend would even remember this blip on their relationship rollercoaster. It’s highly likely, nor would their parents. But why?
“When it comes to a son, you often have two women competing to be the most important woman in their life,” says Lamble. “We worry more about our daughters because we relate to the idea of getting hurt. Most of us clearly remember having our hearts broken by a guy who was never good for us.”
Because that’s when the real problem starts, right?
As Steve Martin so beautifully said in Father of the Bride, “you worry about her meeting the wrong kind of guy, the kind of guy who only wants one thing … Then, you stop worrying about her meeting the wrong guy, and you worry about her meeting the right guy. That's the greatest fear of all, because, then you lose her.”
But you don’t have to.
You don’t need to lose your daughter. Whether she’s dating a douchebag or not.
Lamble says, “if you want to stay close to your adult child, it's important to accept their choices of partner … and that includes accepting them dating someone you hate.”
And that means loving your baby girl as unconditionally and joyously as you did the moment she was born.