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Monday, December 26, 2011

Cheese Update - Part 1 (Cheese Will Be Dating Soon and Has Lots of Plans)

Dear Readers,

Three days of "Cheese" updates, three days in a row. 

This is Part 1.

- Bro Jo

Hello again, Bro Jo!

I hope all is well in the Jo household. The Big Cheese family is happily anticipating another busy season and reminding our darling 15 year old daughter that her birthday (and hence dating) is still a few weeks away.

"Cheese" is certainly not the only one counting down the days until the magical event. I'm a little bit surprised that her calendar is already filled in with quite a few dates for the ensuing weeks after her birthday. Which is fine. Big Brother laughs at them all and says "if they want to get in line to see her now, it's their business. My business is to take bribes to move them up in the order. It's lucrative business, too."

So my question is about her dating guys in LDS limbo-land--those who have graduated high school but are still pre-mission. Two guys in particular stand out. One is a very sweet, super obedient "Peter Priesthood" type who will be starting BYU (full scholarship)soon. He just turned 18, graduated high school with honors, Eagle Scout, youth volunteer, has a job, will be living at home to save $ (paying for the entire mission himself) etc etc etc. Big Cheese &Mama Cheese love Pete! And he clearly & obviously has a thing for Dear Daughter. So should we allow the two of them to go on casual group dates after her birthday? Or is the high-school/college/age barrier an inviolate deal-breaker?

Guy number two...I don't like so much. He's headed off to the Y, too, also living at home to save $ tho not focused at all on a mission, and is, in fact undecided whether he wants to go. He's kindhearted, brilliant and talented, and is closer in age. He's also clingy, extremely emotionally needy and rather immature. So...once again, do we allow them to go on casual group dates after she turns sixteen? Or do we just say "No, he's in college, you're only in high school. Forget it."

There are a couple other of Big Brother's pre-mish buddies who have graduated high school who also look interested in asking Cheese out once the b-day arrives, so I can see this being an area where we need some clear guidance and ground rules.

It seems problematic for those poor preemie freshmen; they definitely shouldn't be serious single dating. But the frosh sisters generally have moved past casual group dates. So if the lads can't date girls their own age and also can't date girls still in high school, they seem kinda stuck. However, it also seems to me that college freshmen dating high school sisters is a recipe for trouble.

I keep hoping that once these guys are off to the Y, where there's a campus filled with lovely, talented, amazing, slightly-older-than-Cheese young ladies, they'll promptly move on and drop her like a flaming charcoal. But I'm also not blind or stupid and can see that whenever we manage to chase one away, two more appear to fill his place. So...advice, please.

Mama Cheese

Dear Mama Cheese,

My rule is that a pre-19, pre-mish guy is still a Casual Group Dater. By definition he kind of has to be. If he's really focused on serving, then Serious Single Dating is not a good idea, but we can't expect him to be a monk, either.

As parents we run a real risk when we try to dictate who are kids' friends are; even more so when we tell them whom not to date.

Unless they ask.

Even then you have to be careful. I know more than one 30+ year old unmarried Mormon who had several opportunities to marry someone decent but chose not to pursue because mom and dad had a history of being overly critical (often unjustly so) when it came to possible dates and romances.

Unless the guy is dangerous or she has a legitimate reason for not going, if he asks, she should go. Being overly selective at a young age, in my opinion, leads to kids pairing off, which we don't want to encourage (even though we know it happens). Guy number 1 is a good choice, so sure she should date him; guy number 2 isn't as promising, but if he's willing to follow the rules I think going out with him should be allowed.

For you and Big Mac it's a teaching opportunity. When her dates are over you can talk to her about why she thinks one guy is better than another. I'll bet she sees the same things you do. But at the very least, if you ask and respect her opinions then she's more likely to ask you for yours. And that's a VERY good thing.

There's nothing wrong with saying "he seems like a really nice guy, and I'm glad he treated you well, but he doesn't seem to have much of a testimony or willingness to put the Lord first in his life".

If it's true, of course.

One last thing: just because a girl is 16 and gets asked out a lot, that doesn't mean she has to overload her schedule with dates.

I get lots of "how do I get him to ask me out letters", as you know, but the opposite issue is also legitimate. Church, Family, School and other obligations often need to come first. A "one date a week", or "two dates a month" policy in your home might be appropriate. Heck, as busy as Cheese is, once a month might be plenty of social activity.

But I'll bet she pushes for 2-4.

Best of luck, mom; it's just gets more and more fun from here!

- Bro Jo

Dear Bro Jo,

You are pure genius! Seriously! I have no idea why the thought of limiting quantities of dates never occurred to the CheeseHeads, but we LOVE your suggestion!

We looked at your dating rules from a different perspective, and established that four dates a month would be a reasonable maximum. This allows for more than one a week in certain date-heavy times of year (like prom, homecoming, etc) while forcing more reasonable expectations overall. Thank you! We have granted exception to the policy for the already-scheduled activities in the 6 weeks after her birthday; she may go to all of those, since it would be rude to cancel. But after that, the new plan kicks it.

Now the only ground rule I think we still need to establish is something about how far in advance those 4-a-month can be scheduled. It seems a bit crazy to me that lads would already be staking out time on the calendar for things that are months and months away! What do you suggest would be a reasonable maximum time in advance for an ask? I think 6 weeks should generally be plenty for a formal event requiring expensive wardrobe enhancement (ie prom) and maybe 3 or 4 weeks for ordinary activities?

Many thanks, as well, for the College Boys vs. RM Men perspective. I'm feeling much more comfortable with allowing Peter Priesthood, Tortured Genius, and several other lads in the College Boys category some limited access. As long as it stays casual group dating, following the rules, it seems like it should be ok. Since Cheese has acquired a job right across the street from the frosh dorms in Provo, plus Big Bro starts soon, too, so it seems likely that she will meet quite a few CB's in the near future, and having a plan for interacting with them seems most reasonable. Now we are prepared; we shall not fear.

Thanks again!

Mama Cheese

Dear Mama Cheese,

"Over planning" is actually kind of creepy, and it can really cramp a girl's style.

With the Jo Boys (to look at this from the "guy asking" point of view), we've encouraged them to ask a girl no more than one-week in advance for regular Casual Group Dates. If it's a girl's First Date, and the boy really wants to be that First Date (and who wouldn't?!?) then we've said 3-4 weeks can be okay, particularly if it coincides with an event (like a county fair or concert). But I think they'd tell you that they were more successful waiting until two weeks out or less for those "she's turning 16" dates.

For Formal Dates, like Prom, we've told the boys to ask 7-10 weeks in advance. There's a ton of planning to do, and frankly if you wait too long (like only a month before) it gets really difficult to find a date. Not that all the good ones are gone by that point, but knowing who's still dateless is really difficult.

(We had one disaster where a girl accepted a Prom invitation from our son, then cancelled two weeks before the big dance; that was a tragedy. He got a date, but not without a lot of effort.)

We try to have "Family Council" in our home on Sunday evenings. The first thing we do is go over everyone's schedule for the next 4-8 weeks (Sister Jo keeps them on a "Master Calendar"). At that time upcoming date plans are mentioned, even if whom the boy is taking out has not yet been decided. We might know that six weeks from now, when a particular movie is coming out, and between this event and that game, that one of the boys is planning a Casual Group Date, but he may not actually ask anyone until the Sunday before.

(Note to guys: the Jo Boys say that asking a girl out on Sunday or Monday is best because it's not so soon that you seem creepy and far enough away to build excitement. Plus, and they say this is a big deal, those days present the best opportunities to ask a girl out when you're less likely to have friend and weekly drama to deal with.)

To switch that back to the girl's perspective, except for formal dances, I don't think she should accept any dates more than 4 weeks out. What if her plans change? What if something comes up? What if . . .

In fact, if she wanted to have fun with it, Cheese could make it known that she'll only agree to go on dates with guys that ask her in person, one to two weeks in advance, on Sunday, between 4:30pm and 5:15, and even then only if they meet with Big Mac's approval.


Seriously, if Cheese is inundated with date requests, and since she plans all of her dates at this point to be group ones, one thing she can do to dodge the boys she's less interested in, and I really mean this, is to say "you know I can't go that night because I already have a date" (if it's true of course) "but you should ask my friend" (and then name someone specifically whom she think would like to be asked out). This little bit of covert matchmaking will help her get out of some dates and perhaps cheer some friends as well.

Oh, and while I'm thinking about it, particularly with those CBs, make sure you meet them and you know (and can confirm) who else is in the Group going on the Casual Date.

- Bro Jo

PS: Thanks for the Scripture reference!

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