33 Comments
Mar 6Liked by Asha Dornfest

I don't think my college aged son has gone on a date since he started college (he 'dated' a girl briefly in high school, like three dates). I'm not concerned, because I know he does have a social life (letter writer: are you concerned he's not dating, or that he's not going out at all?).

I get wanting kids to learn the social graces in hand while they are young, like how to ask someone out, treat someone well, negotiate a relationship, etc. But I guess I'd rather my son have fun with his friends and not worry about him being in an actual relationship right now (only two of his friends have girlfriends, and they've basically been together since their freshman year).

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Thank you for widening the lens on relationships, Pam. That made me think about how when I was in college, you were either friends or you were romantic partners. The categories have really broadened and blended, which is remarkably freeing. Potentially confusing as well, but there is a lot more room to move.

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Mar 6Liked by Asha Dornfest

Each of my kids has been different on dating interest. It took me a bit to get over my own anxiety about this, which was entirely conditioning from my own upbringing.

The two who are in relationships took different routes. One dated through high school, and eventually found a good match and is still dating them in college. The other didn't date at all until 20, and then started dating someone they'd known as a friend for years. They already knew each other well, communicated well, and were super compatible. I was the celebrant for their wedding, and my first grandchild is due in May. So.

The other two, one dabbled in dating and then was like eh, nah. The other just was never interested in dating, but has some close platonic friendships. Neither is lonely.

How they are approaching their romantic/partnership/sexual lives is different from what was possible for me, for all of them. But it seems to be centered and whole. So, I'm going to not argue with it. I just acknowledge that they live in a world I will never inhabit. I fret a little now and then, and then let it go.

They're in charge, and they're better judges of their bandwidth and interests than I am. It's another type of transition, which means I thrash a bit and have a lot of doubts about whether I did everything right enough in preparation. And then things move that are beyond my control, and life proceeds.

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WEDDING! GRANDCHILD! sorry Heather, but I just had to get that out-of-the-way first. Absolute thrill.

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Mar 6Liked by Asha Dornfest

Try not bawling when you're standing up with your child and their beloved, and their beloved has tears pouring down their face as they say their vows, because they love your child so damn much and this formalization is so right.

The grandma thing is still blowing my mind, but I'm less weepy more randomly laughing with delight.

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Your comment just blew my mind!!

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Mar 6Liked by Asha Dornfest

There was so much laughter, too. We had neglected to determine who would do the ring first, and they are not traditionally oriented, so they just up and Rock Paper Scissors'd for who would go first.

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“I acknowledge that they live in a world I will never inhabit.” This is so grounded and true, and I had to sit here with it for a bit. Relationships and partnering aren’t just a function of our individual kids, but of the moment and the social context they live in as well. How can we possibly overlay our assumptions and categories on their experiences and expect them to fit? That said, there’s natural grief and worry in that for some of us. And we DO have the wisdom of experience, some of which is timeless. I’m glad we’re talking about this, because even if there is nothing for us to do, at least we can acknowledge that it’s hard.

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Mar 6Liked by Asha Dornfest

Yeah, processing it is still hard work. And it's jarring sometimes to realize my world and theirs are not even close together sometimes. So many feelings to process.

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SO MANY FEELINGS.

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Mar 6Liked by Asha Dornfest

WOOOOOOO my moment has arrived. *cracks knuckles*

For background: my oldest dated regularly (and is now married), my youngest has never had a date.

I, too, worried about this for reasons I couldn’t entirely articulate, because I was well aware that 1) it’s none of my business and 2) not everyone needs that sort of relationship. At some point when it felt like they might be open to a conversation, I prefaced my questions with “You absolutely do not have to talk to me about this if you don’t want to, because I’m not trying to pry,” and then—gently, neutrally—asked if they simply had no interest in romance, or if they weren’t sure about their interest, or if they were interested but didn’t know how to go about it. (In my case, this was not an odd conversation format, as said adult kiddo is autistic and we’ve used a similar framework to clarify/change situations in the past.) Their answers didn’t surprise me: yes, they think they’re clear on their romantic/sexual preference; no, it doesn’t feel like a priority right now, but maybe someday. I then suggested to them that IF they wanted to “dip their toes” in the dating pool, maybe try out a dating app, because while there is absolutely no rush, if they get too much older and then DO decide it’s a priority, there’s an additional hurdle of “Hi, I’m a totally normal adult who has never had a single date.” They demurred, probably for… about a year? And then surprised the heck out of me by asking me to help with some pics, about a year later, so they could create an app profile. When I asked what had changed, they said they remembered what I said about it being harder to “enter” with no experience, the older they got.

Maybe this is where a romcom is supposed to happen, but what actually happened was… not much. They talked to half a dozen people, serially, and never went on a date in the 6 months or so they tried it. And they decided that was okay for them. We’ve since discussed how no one really had acceptance (much less language) for being asexual back in the day, but they probably are some flavor of ace, and they’re comfortable where they are. As they are also a very late bloomer I know something could change, but mostly I think/hope that they may one day meet another delightful ace human who adores them, or not, and they’ll be fine either way. 🤷🏻‍♀️

The interesting part, to me, is that my older kid is SO different, yet feels that her sibling is just being wholly themselves and that’s awesome and it may or may not change but who cares. I love that this generation is so much more willing to just go “do you” and move on. I learn a lot from both of them!

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Thank you for the generous details, Mir. Reading your, Heather’s, and Pam’s comments together just reminds me of the gloriously different human beings we are all talking about. it’s easy for us to say “everyone has their own path,” but everyone really DOES have their own path. And every path has its own challenges and happy endings, with the caveat that there are no endings or guarantees. I hear the joy and wonder in your voice and it’s so lovely!

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Mar 6Liked by Asha Dornfest

You’ve known me a loooooong time (ha!) and I really thought, once my oldest kinda figured herself out, that there could be no greater joy than seeing her happy and whole. Turns out that watching my late bloomer discover what they love and value is also amazing. 🥰

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😭😭😭

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Mar 6Liked by Asha Dornfest

Same situation, same worry.

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Mar 6Liked by Asha Dornfest

Such a good question. No answers here but I am right there with you, worrying about this!

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Mar 6Liked by Asha Dornfest

My kids are 17, 19, and 20 and last year they all had their first dates within 2 months of each other. After so many years of tracking milestones, I think in my head this was also a milestone that they were supposed to accomplish at a certain age, and preferably in age order! But one started at 16, one at 18, and one at 19. I had started to worry about the oldest, but there was no reason to. It can all change very quickly, and there is no "normal" age to hit this milestone!

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Kay, thank you for the reminder about how quickly things can and do change. about EVERYTHING.

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Mar 7Liked by Asha Dornfest

My oldest is 16 so I don't have a ton to contribute from the parent side but I can say that I really didn't date until I was almost done with college. I guess I had a few very short romances (and may not have even told my parent about some of them) but I was super focused on academics and friends and my hobbies and it just wasn't a big priority for me. I definitely had crushes and some of my reticence was rooted in a family situation I endured as a teenager (a mental health crisis of one of my sibling's) but overall I lived a really full life and was pretty content. And then when I was in my senior year of college, I started to have more interest in dating, did go on some dates, and then started dating my now-husband right after graduation (and we had been casual friends for a while before then). While I think it's something to keep an eye on, I also think different people follow different timelines and have varying levels of interest in this area.

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This is so helpful, Kathleen -- not only your "this is how it was for me" story, but the fact that our own experiences so often frame our expectations for our kids. I mean, I realize that's obvious, but it still can be so sneaky.

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Mar 7Liked by Asha Dornfest

My son did not date in high school or college and not even the first several years out of college. He said he didn’t have anything to offer a woman since he went from being a starving student to a starving artist. Once his career finally took off, he started dating. He was in his thirties by then. His friends would tease him about his 16 year old heart in a thirty something body since he was experiencing that “first love” at an older age. He married at 38 and has a child. When he was ready, it happened. I tried not to pressure him to date or have children. It was hard not to drop hints.

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"Once his career finally took off, he started dating." Thank you for sharing, Lori. The self-definition of "not having anything to offer" varies so widely between people! Lovely to hear about your son.

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Mar 10Liked by Asha Dornfest

It made me sad since he should be enough.

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It’s so painful when they are convinced about limitations we can see beyond.

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Mar 7Liked by Asha Dornfest

I just don't think 19 is that old to not have had a date. Everyone is on a different timeline. Also, a lot of 19 year olds had a big old pandemic interrupt their adolescence, so why would they be expected to be on a more "traditional" timeline? It seems young to start worrying.

My kid is 17. I've seen what he's had to go through to figure out his gender identity, but I don't think he's figured out his other preferences yet, and that's okay. It's more complicated than when we were kids, and I think a lot of kids need more time to figure it out.

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THE PANDEMIC. Of course you're right, its impact on "normal" timelines is incalculable (and what even is normal anyway?). In our societal rush to put the pandemic behind us we can leave behind crucial bits of insight, just like this. ("Our" and "we" referring to the culture, not necessarily us individually, certainly not Puzzled Mom.)

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Mar 10Liked by Asha Dornfest

The pandemic hit when today's 19 yos were 15. They would have just started to think more romantically, and then they had about 2 years where they weren't actually around other kids. This is absolutely crucial to understand. I know it hugely contributed to my kid's extreme difficulty with puberty. He went through it alone. He didn't see other kids growing and changing too. It didn't help that he grew to 6ft during the pandemic. He thought he was a monster.

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Oh, man. I can only imagine how difficult that must have been. These kids. What they went through. 💔 where is the space for them to process it?

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Mar 7Liked by Asha Dornfest

The "dating" world is so different than it was for us that I don't think we really have any idea. My younger (20 yo) so has been "dating" since he was 12. His older brother (23) however, has not ever been in a relationship. He had a school wingman without noticing it until they left for different colleges. Then, just as he started to think about how to get out there and meet more people by himself in a huge college, BOOM there was a pandemic. Not much socializing for another year. He's graduated now, and meeting people will be harder irl. But he seems happy so I'm trying not to worry. Or at least trying to not let him know that I worry. But I met my husband when I was 30, he was 33, so I don't think either of my kids feel any rush.

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Overall, the whole vibe I'm getting from this whole comment thread is TRUST. Trust the wideness of the range, trust that readiness varies, and trust the glorious diversity of our kids' experiences.

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From observing, listening, and living with young adults for decades, I understand that what we might have thought of as dating, looks a lot different. Groups of friends hanging out together is more the norm for many. And with all the changes in gender and identity, who romances whom is an open question for many. This group of 17-20 something young adults also experienced life very differently than any of us. With one whole year of isolation and pandemic related living, studying, and socializing, it's been a whole new story. The 19 year old may have been homeschooled, virtually educatated for more years of high school than not, so the idea that there should be any pressure on anyone to 'date' may be unrealistic for some. And then there's the privacy issue. Many young adults are learning how to be independent differently, so the need to have their own space/thinking may play a bigger role in their lives than we expect. I have a 17 yr. old GD ready to graduate, who isn't in a big rush to go or do anything yet. Be patient, available, and keep listening and showing you care.

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The wisdom in this comment is astounding. Thank you.

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Mar 21Liked by Asha Dornfest

My kid self describes as gray ace, which as best as I understand means that he's not particularly interested in romance or sex, but hasn't ruled them out completely. But he's also super introverted, and doesn't really have friends. Which doesn't seem to bother him, but makes me worry. (He's working, living at home, and I'm not sure he talks to anyone who is neither a co-worker nor a relative on a regular basis.) But I'm mostly making my peace with this being his choice whether it's a problem, not mine. (His younger brother is living with his girlfriend, and acting like they're married even though it's not official. I've heard her daughter call him dad, which is a whole other kettle of fish.)

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