Just so you know, I was not prepared when the time came to have this talk. My sons, now thirteen and almost fifteen, were eleven and thirteen when the moment fell, scratch that, slammed into our laps.
It all started with a girl named Dread. Okay, that wasn’t really her name, but that’s how I saw her. She was a senior at the high school connected to my sons’ middle school. She also rode the same bus as they did each day. Somehow, within a few months of eighth grade for my oldest, he had struck up a “friendship” with girl Dread. Something about her all black wardrobe and depressive mannerisms pulled him in.
Then, one day after school, when I wasn’t home, they took a walk to a nearby park and kissed. For my son, it was his first kiss, and he was exhilarated. I want to pause for a moment and tell you all one thing I am forever grateful for: my son felt comfortable enough to share this intimate moment he’d experienced, with me. I was careful with my questioning, knowing that one wrong move could close his lips tighter than a Chincoteague oyster, which by the way, are my favorite. He shared with me the fact that they were in love, and had already started making plans to live together after he finished high school, four years down the road. They wanted to have a couple of kids, and my son felt proud for putting a cap on their reproduction at two babies, so he wouldn’t “overpopulate the world”. “Inside me” was shaking my son until his head fell off. “Outside me” was calm, nodding at crucial moments and encouraging my son to continue speaking. Let me tell you – that was harder than childbirth.
From the intel I was able to collect, Dread was seventeen years old and already had a boyfriend, a foreign national whose father had been stationed at our base. She said things to my son like, “I don’t really love him though,” and “I love you, not him.” All of which my son ate up like a cold piece of cheese pizza at midnight. Here is the decision I had to make, in that moment. Do I tell my son he can never see this girl again, when I know they will see each other every morning and afternoon at the bus? There was no way for me to get him to school myself, nor could he switch routes, his was the only one available. I could get the school involved, but I risked creating a bigger problem, and my son not sharing anything with me in the process. I had less than three seconds to contemplate all of my options before saying,
“Once she turns eighteen, any physical relationship she has with you will be illegal, and although I am sure she is a nice girl, I would have to file a report and she could be forced to register as a sex offender.”
I could tell, as the last word left my lips, that I had said the absolute wrong thing. He withdrew from me and focused on his giant hands, when did those hands get so big? I looked at my son carefully, seeing not just the baby I’d brought into the world, but the young man he’d grown into. He was tall, too tall for his young age, hovering at 5’10, he looked more like a college kid than a middle-schooler. My son’s mature physical appearance didn’t change the fact that in his heart, he was still just a thirteen year old boy.
We ended the conversation and I took some time to think about what I could do, and what I needed to do. It was the advice of a friend that truly illuminated this decision for me.
“Honey, buy that boy a pack of condoms, stat!” she’d said.
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