One of the things I always dreaded in anticipation was the day my daughters would start going out with (or dating, as I guess you say in the US) boys. And likewise the day that Charlie would start going out with girls – but as he’s younger, that doesn’t yet apply.

But Ant and Bernie are both of an age (21 and 18 respectively) where it is only natural, and appropriate, that they should start being interested in boys and relationships.

Clearly my preference for all of them would be to find good Catholic friends, fall in love and marry. But it just isn’t that easy. We know very few Catholic families with kids the right kind of ages, and the ones we do know – well it just hasn’t happened that way yet.
So what has happened?

Ant met a lad at University whom she likes and who likes her. On the plus side, he is pleasant enough,well brought up, considerate and clearly very fond of her; he comes from a stable family background – his parents are still together. On the minus side, he has no particular religious outlook on life and has not previously given such issues much thought.

So where am I on all that? My view is that Ant could never really be happy and fulfilled married to someone who did not share her philosophical and religious outlook, particularly when it comes to the all issues around kids: both having them and raising them. But I am also aware that she is at an age where she will, rightly, make her own decisions. So I have gone out of my way to make it clear I like the lad, but also to have a number of conversations with her about what she is looking for in a future husband, and about the dangers of becoming too fond of someone who can never be that person.

Her current position is that she is not yet sure whether he is able and willing to grow into the man she wants him to become. So she is going to keep seeing him until that is clearer; she realises the risk is that both he and she will be hurt if it results in her deciding against him, but thinks the risk worth taking. What I find heartening is that she is very clear on the need for a believing and faith-filled husband. And if she can convert him to the Faith, then that’s a great gift to give him.

Meanwhile, Bernie, in her final year at school before University, has been going out with another lad. The situation was remarkably similar: he had no particular interest in religion, but was otherwise a decent reasonable boy. But he realised that she would never be happy with someone who did not share her Faith, decided that he was not prepared to go down that path, and ended it. That was naturally distressing for both, but I can’t help feeling it was better sooner than later, and showed remarkable perceptiveness and honesty on the boy’s part.

In both cases, the girls are clearly aware of the need to maintain appropriate emotional and physical boundaries; in Bernie’s case, that has certainly eased the separation, and Ant is quite aware that she may end up in the same place.

So in terms of keeping kids Catholic, what do I conclude? It seems to me that what works well is to give them a real love of their Faith, and repeatedly to talk to them, as they grow up, about the very practical implications of that. That means that when they come to these difficult and emotionally fraught times, their whole frame of reference is based on what will enable them to be most truly themselves, and to build families that have an eternal frame of reference, so as to raise their kids to be saints. Then all the rest, about modesty and self-control when dating, about choosing appropriate boyfriends or girlfriends, and, ultimately husbands or wives, should fall into place. So that’s this week’s challenge: consider when and how you need to lay the foundations for truly Christian romantic relationships – and that is long before your kids are anywhere near thinking about them.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

3 Responses to Keeping Your Kids Catholic: Boyfriends and Girlfriends…

  1. Ben Trovato says:

    Thanks Aluwir – though I have to say I'm always slightly nervous about tempting Providence when I write such things…

  2. nonbeliever says:

    Wow, that is really brainwashing what you are doing. Have you ever considered at if your god should be that strong, you didnt need to brainwash your children?
    What if your kids deep inside feeling going the way their heart leads them and not your god? Do you know how unhappy this children are?
    Do you know how hard it is for children to say to your parents that they dont believe? It is really a shame that you have to talk to your kids in this way and not let them make their own decision. As a man you might being happy having sex with a girl which dont loves you, but ask your wife how she feels about it? Love is something you have to learn through experience e.g. relationships. Finding the one and try love the first time and having sex after marriage. That is not what makes people happy!

  3. Anonymous says:

    I'm a catholic teenage girl (17 years-old) and I haven't start dating yet.
    I'm very afraid not to find any catholic guy. Around me there isn't much catholic people.
    Although all my friends know i'm catholic and respect it, they are not.
    I very much hope to find someone with whom I'll be happy.