A Love Letter

Yeah, it’s true, I sort of support the month of February now. Me, who spent years sprinting past Hallmark’s wall of red shame for the singlets from late January to mid February. It’s not a real holiday after all – just a time for people who are already couples to celebrate another year (though isn’t that really for anniversaries?) or for those same couples to look toward their unpaired friends and say fun things like there’s someone out there for you/it’ll happen when you aren’t expecting it/have you tried Match?/I met my person as soon as I stopped looking/there’s always Adam & Eve’s/I’ll keep my eyes peeled for you!/(or my favorite) I don’t understand why you’re still single! Oh, how times have changed for this one. I’ve just finished up my completely made up 14-Hearts-Project. I actually cut out two sets of 14 hearts, wrote cute little notes on them, and snuck into the relevant bathrooms to tape one on the mirrors each February night leading up to Valentine’s Day. Well, I had the Cricut cut them out. And I only snuck in until the boys were kind enough to acknowledge that they really knew it was me brightening their day. And also, I apparently can’t count to 14 because I had leftovers, but… who am I?

My son has reached a certain age. That’s what started the hearts. My son has reached an age where he doesn’t necessarily want to hear how much we love him but also definitely wants to hear how much we love him. He has reached an age where girls look at him with adoration when he walks by while strolling the aisles at Target. Sometimes, I look at him when he walks by, as well, and think, ‘goodness…he’s grown up nicely!’ He is polite and sweet and helpful and it’s all created my newest road to anxiety – that some girl is going to hurt his giant and kind heart. I’m told it is not appropriate to stare down any of these ga-ga girls he walks by, giving them a side-eye that says very clearly don’t you hurt my child.

And then there’s the other hand. The one where Zack will soon start liking girls (okay, I know, we’ve probably already passed that milestone) and giggling with girls and (ACK!) dating girls. One of the stop-you-in-your-tracks thought as a mom is realizing that you will be the main source of the Here’s How To Treat The Ladies information. Yes, my husband has a huge part in that too – we are well aware that Rich’s behavior towards me will shape Zack’s behavior to his future partners – but as a girl…I do have the most knowledge on the things that will pass and the things that will fail. Handily, this information download comes at a time when my child is not necessarily that interested in collecting any information from anyone at all. Quick question, universe….do you ever plan anything out in a sensible manner?

Zack already knows we mildly monitor his phone – ensuring that he speaks to everyone with actual words, unlaced with swears or saucy material. And, yes, friends, you should be doing the same. But now we have to do our best to avert our eyes from anything that could have a tiny whiff of courting – a super tempting teen novela that we try not to tune into. He’s reached that age where privacy is becoming more important yet he is still sitting within our fairly fair basket of boundaries. Mostly fair. I mean, right, he’s a teen, none of it is fair. Luckily we have that standard go-to of ‘just wait until you have kids to soften the blow.

When I started my Valentine’s prep work, I made a point of letting Zack know that the 14th would arrive before he knew it. He looked at me cross-eyed. I mentioned it again a few days later, again received with an eye roll, and followed it up with you know, in case you need any help. I was told very firmly that he does not need any help as he does not give out Valentine’s. Oh, my boy, but you did…remember? We used to sit at the dining room table directing the signing of 23 tiny cards? Small bags of candy carefully chosen against the long list of class allergens? I hope everyone liked those chalky candy hearts! We used to send him off to school with carnations for his favorite teachers – a budding Casanova winning hearts in the elementary school faculty room. So, yes, since he was 8 years old, he has been hearing me say because everybody loves getting flowers.

But what else should I be telling him? What is the long list of panicked advice that will flow from my brilliant mind when I hear for the first time that he is going to hang out with a girl….alone?

Open her car door first.

Ask her what she’d like to do. Don’t show your disappointment if it’s not play video games.

For every item spoken about yourself, ask two questions about her.

Let her walk into a building before you. Unless it’s a sketchy building – then you go first so she can use you as a human shield.

Jot down her likes and dislikes as you catch them – future reference will thank you!

Do not get sucked in by girl drama. Be supportive without being wrapped up in gossip or ugliness.

Build a friendship first. If things become (or start) romantic, maintain that foundation of friendship.

Don’t make assumptions. If you hear something that you don’t like, ask for clarification – encourage her to do the same. Side note: The adults in the house are still working on that one.

Remember every single stinking date. Put it in your calendar – as a male, that’s really your only hope. She will remember every single stinking date. And she will love to look at you with a twinkling eye and say do you know what today is? Your best option here is to say it’s my favorite day because I’m with you, unless you’ve got that calendar in order.

Let her win. Not always. But sometimes. Never tell her.

Don’t beg. If you have to beg for a relationship it is not worthy of your time.

Ignore any of her bodily functions until she is ready to acknowledge them with you. Do not try to convince her that you know she farts until she points it out.

Suggest a Romantic Comedy now and then. A girl can only see so many versions of The Avengers before she needs something involving a successful at something someone moving back to her small town to take care of her aging father and running into an old high school flame who was recently widowed and, bam!, they live happily ever after.

If her mom sends you home with leftovers, return that Tupperware full of something delicious – preferable homemade cookies or brownies. Returned-Tupperware-Calories, after all, do not count.

Find someone who wants to be with you but doesn’t need to be with you. Your heart is huge, but you don’t have to be a white knight.

Try not to fart, burp, or crack your knuckles at the table. I agree, they all sound cool, but, well, not really. In fact, maybe hold off until you are really, really, really sure she likes you.

Put your phone down. Build your connection with actual words and while looking into her eyes. Keyboards are not the place to maintain relationships.

Break up early (wait, what kind of tip is that, mom?!?!). But really, break up early. If you feel things pulling apart, don’t hang on for months or weeks or days for fear of hurting her feelings or to avoid an uncomfortable moment. There is a small break up window in which you can salvage your friendship – make that your target. She will hate you at first, but later will be grateful to still have your voice in her life. And for God’s sake, do it in person.

Have the uncomfortable moments. It is actually the difficult times in a relationship that make it stronger. Do not be afraid of them. Have the talks you wish you could avoid. Do the things you wish you didn’t have to. Know that an argument does not have to equal an ending.

Choose whether you want to be on a team or whether you want to be right. The answer will tell you your level of care for this person.

Laugh. Often. And especially at yourself. Nothing is more attractive than happiness and joy. Don’t be afraid to show yours. Being sullen may be hip, but being silly will earn your more smiles.

Don’t be afraid of the Hallmark aisle. Everybody loves a card – any day of the year. Pick one up anytime you pass it – tuck it away until someone needs a pick me up that doesn’t disappear when her phone’s turned off.

See yourself the way we see you.

You are going to do amazing things and share those things with amazing people – one of whom will eventually be your person. We promise to be super cool, open-minded parents when that time comes. As long as you follow all these suggestions. Okay, some of us promise to be super cool, open-minded parents.

I promise to ask this future person a long list of questions to make sure she’s just right for you.

Okay, fine. Not really.

But I may give her a good side eye for a minute.

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