My husband and I recently had a conversation about our children’s future dating lives. We were discussing the idea of our children saving their first kiss for their wedding day. While we both like the sentiment of our children saving every bit of themselves for their spouse, I have to admit we both wondered if this is realistic, or even possible. “How do you enforce a rule like that?” my husband asked.
And, I realized, you don’t. We won’t be with our children at every school dance, at every party, or at any other scenario where they might steal a few moments alone with a member of the opposite sex.
We won’t be there with them, but hopefully something else will: a sense of respect for the dignity of the other; a desire to work for the good of someone they care about; a recognition of what it means to truly love and how that emotion is manifested through our bodily actions; and, above all, a greater love for God than for their own desires.
The question “Where do I draw the line?” is ultimately the wrong one to be asking, for our children and for ourselves. Of course, we have an obligation to teach our children the difference between right and wrong. We do their souls a favor by teaching them which behavior is always sinful, and also which behavior is only made sinful when acted upon in circumstances for which it was not intended.
Which means we also need to convey to them which behavior, when carried out in the right circumstances, is good, and beautiful, and true.
When we emphasize the beauty of something, the sacredness of something, and the fragility of something, even the smallest of children are capable of finding their self-control. I’ve seen the most rambunctious of toddlers caress a newborn baby with tenderness and love. I’ve seen the most boyish of boys handle a tiny caterpillar with a gentleness that outshines their rough and dirty hands. It takes the manliest of men to treat their bride like the luminescent light of God’s love that she is.
And so, this is why we start the conversation now. This is why we don’t just talk to our children about what not to do, but also what to do: how to treat their future spouse like God’s treasure, even now, by living in chaste anticipation; how to hold their own bodies and their sexual powers with the utmost reverence and respect; how to show someone they care about what real love looks like.
I write this to remind myself, as well as all of you, that raising pure children is not just enforcing a set of rules and boundaries. It isn’t drawing lines, and lecturing, and instilling fear. It is creating people who don’t need the lines. It is creating people who would never think of crossing the boundaries, even if the boundaries were there. And when temptation gets the best of them, and they do take a step over that invisible line, we will hopefully have formed people who feel the prick of their conscience and will find their way back home.
The Theology of the Body is not a set of unrealistic expectations. Quite the contrary. It is God’s blueprint for us. It is what we were created for.
So will my husband and I “let” our children kiss before marriage? I guess that will be up to our children and their own free will. But we will certainly do our best to instill in their hearts what a kiss really means. We will do our best to teach them to hold that first kiss as a precious gift that should be treasured and preserved by them and those who claim to love them.
And if they choose to share that kiss with someone before those final moments at the altar? We hope to instill in them an awareness of the sacredness of that moment that will not arouse desires that cannot yet be acted upon, but, rather, a sense of self-control and respect for the gift of the other person. A desire to help the one they care about remain pure, and to follow God’s plan.
Lead your children into relationship with God, and pray that the Holy Spirit will gift them with clear vision and a pure heart, so that the only side of the line they see is God’s side.
How does your family address the 'rules of dating'?
Copyright 2014, Charisse Tierney
About the Author
Charisse Tierney lives in Wichita, Kansas, with her husband Rob and seven children. Charisse is a stay-at-home mom, musician, NFP teacher, and a Catechesis of the Good Shepherd catechist in training. She is also a contributing author to The Catholic Mom's Prayer Companion and Family Foundations magazine. Charisse blogs at Paving the Path to Purity and can be found on Facebook.