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My Teens Are Dating, and I'm Terrified

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I was talking to the parents of a newborn recently, and they asked me what my scariest moment as a parent was. Childbirth? First day of school? That ER visit I'd just told them about?

I'd have to say hands down my scariest moment as a parent was when my teens started dating.

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I thought back to that day in the ER, and as scary as it was to see blood gushing from a 2-inch gash on my 6-year-old's face, that experience pales in comparison to hearing the terrifying words, "I'm going to the movies with Brad."

I'm not going to lie — I don't like my girls starting to date one bit. I used to joke that they wouldn't be allowed to go out with boys until they were 30, but now I'm starting to see the value in that plan. I like to compare teen dating to wearing Spanx; it sounds really uncomfortable, but that doesn't compare to the feeling of not being able to breathe and having your insides getting crushed when you are actually in it.

I can find 5,000 books on how to get a baby to roll over, but nothing on how to navigate the love lives of teens.

The first time I saw one of my girls on a sort-of date was during a group dinner in a restaurant, and I nearly choked on my pasta puttanesca. I was prepared for a stranger from the next table to rush over and give me the Heimlich maneuver, and once I'd regained consciousness all I could gasp out would be, "I saw my daughter holding hands with a boy and then everything went dark."

And there is really nothing to prepare you for your kids starting to date. I can find 5,000 books on how to get a baby to roll over, but nothing on how to navigate the love lives of teens. I think there should be instruction available for this, similar to Lamaze classes. You show up and practice doing breathing exercises, hear a few encouraging words and get a special pillow to bury your screams in. At the end, you get the opportunity to opt-in for an epidural if the process gets really painful, like if both your daughters are dating at the same time.

I'm not getting any reassuring words from my friends, either. Instead of coming to my side with comforting words and baked goods, they almost all have said flippantly, "You do realize they're all having sex, right?" To those friends I say, would it kill you to show up with a pie and tell me that teens these days are really just interested in cuddling on the couch and discussing climate change?

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I would really appreciate any advice from parents out there who have already gone through this traumatic phase in child rearing. How can I put my mind at ease? What questions should I ask my teens? If I put on a disguise to follow them and spy on their date, do you recommend a wig and a different walk?

And finally, the most important question of all: What kind of whiskey should I drink when I'm sitting on the couch until 1 a.m. waiting for them to get home?

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