My ex learned something important about my son before I did, and I’m a bit jealous, but he was looking in the right place and I wasn’t. I knew something was up, that my middle-schooler’s social life had shifted from being mostly a loner, to having a couple friends, to that grand feeling of being a part of a group. I knew he was starting to chat with friends on Facebook, and that at least one of them was a girl. And I knew that he was finally connecting with other family members on Facebook that I had suggested for him, because I got the notices. But I missed his change of status. I missed his announcement to the world that he was “in a relationship.” I’m not hurt that he didn’t tell me. He wanted me to know, he just didn’t want to bring it up. I just didn’t expect that Facebook would be his ‘outing’ of choice. Silly me.
There are two talks a parent needs to have with their kid and yet really dreads blowing it, right? There’s the one about the facts, and then later there’s the one about the impacts. The first talk — about hypothetical birds and bees — is simple mechanics, but the second talk springs from the parent’s uneasiness that at any time it could be too late, and yet to bring it up too early is just terrifyingly awkward. Apparently, many kids never even get the second talk, based on my anecdotal research amongst friends. Maybe the triggering situations were missed by the parent, and then it was just too late, water under the bridge.
I’ll always remember when my mom had the second talk with me at age 15, and I think she was wise in her approach. She told me she wouldn’t set any rule for me because I would have plenty of opportunity and justification to break it when the time came. So she told me instead about how sex tends to artificially intensify a relationship, especially if you are not ready for it. She told me she didn’t think I was ready for it. It was not a hypothetical concern; amazingly to me because I had always been somewhat of a social outsider, I had a boyfriend at 15. From a parent’s perspective, you never know how serious these early relationships will be. In my case I was with that boyfriend for three years. But I think the most important thing she told me is that no matter when I decided to lose my virginity, it was important to make the decision ahead of time and not in the heat of the moment, in order to be prepared of course, but also to maintain control of an important milestone
and reduce regret. I took her advice. I was a virgin when I graduated from high school, although after a casual survey of my friends I wondered if I was the only one (that didn’t bother me so much as make me more convinced that I needed to hold out; I told you I was an outsider).
How did my decision impact the boyfriend? I know some of the guys reading this are wondering how HE held out for three years. No need for pity. I was strategically strict about the ‘virgin’ definition, which left lots of room for experimentation and he talked me into quite a few of them. Looking back, it was the sweetest, gentlest (and safest!) way I could imagine two people learning together. We somehow managed to create a cocoon around our relationship and sexual development such that our performing arts-based social group had virtually no impact on it. He became part of the family, joining us
for many dinners any day of the week. Even after we broke up and I had gone off to college he would come over just to visit my mom (she was just that kind of mom). I have made some poor choices over the years and intensified relationships that were NOT worth it, but I don’t regret a single thing with the first boyfriend.
But back to the current challenge, how to discuss the social navigation, the vulnerability, the consequences, and from a boy’s perspective! I mostly just repeated what my mom had told me. I just hope that there will be many more talks, and that the girlfriend wants to be part of our family. I’m happy for him and the journey he has begun.