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.
“Oh hell no, I’m not going to encourage my thirteen year old child to have sex with a near-adult. Hell-to-the-no. ‘Aint happening,” I argued.
“Okay, that’s fine,” my friend said, “Just be ready for him to become a father at fourteen, or get an STD. But no biggie, right?”
Damn. On the scale of right and wrong, my side looked a lot lighter than hers. Let me repeat something to you now, I was not prepared for this moment to happen. Not this soon. I had a choice to make, and the decision I landed on could mean the difference between having a son who is a teenage father on MTV to having a son who has experienced too much too soon, but still has a future ahead of him.
I had to do some serious soul-searching. The truth was that I was a teen mother myself, with him, and by his age had been exploring my own sexuality. No matter how badly I wanted to deny this privilege to my underage son, it was still going to happen. With or without my approval. So now what? I pulled my husband into our room as soon as he came home and detailed the whole story. I ended with,
“So here’s our choice. We either get him a pack of condoms and tell him how to use them, or we risk him doing it without and having a whole set of problems come our way.” We both agreed that he was 1) too young for this to be happening and 2) needed condoms and a serious talk.
We drove together to the mini-mart and bought the only condoms they had, Trojan Extra Large with ribbing for her pleasure. I told my husband these would just be for the lesson, and we’d have to find him another pack more suitable for his needs, later. We got home and at the last minute, decided to include our then eleven year old sixth grader on the discussion. Here’s how it went down, in embarrassing detail:
My husband used an overly ripe banana in place of a penis to demonstrate how a condom should be used. He is a visual learner himself and figured our sons would benefit from the interactive nature of the lesson. He gave each of the boys a banana, all of which I had planned to use for a batch of banana bread, but quickly changed my mind. Then, each son was taught how to tear open the gold-lettered black package and apply the condom. My husband forgot how to do it, so I stepped in.
“Pinch the tip, honey,” I instructed, “you can’t forget to pinch the tip so there’s a reservoir.”
My oldest son squeezed too hard on his banana, and it spilled out of a perforation on the side of the peel, right into the ribbed condom. My youngest pointed out the ribs of the apparatus and asked what they were for. Then, he looked at the box and laughed. After the lesson, I gave my son the prepared speech I’d made up while driving home from the store with the condoms.
“These are in no way an indication of my approval for you to have sex. If you are stupid enough to make the decision to have sex as a child, I want you to be at least smart enough to wear a condom,” I said. I rounded out my speech with a detailed discussion of every STD I could think of, and then asked my sons if they had any questions.
“What’s the slippery stuff all over the condom?” my youngest son asked.
“It’s spermicide. It’s used as both a lubricant and a chemical to kill sperm,” I replied. Both of my sons ran to the garbage and threw their bananas away. Some leaked banana stuck to the side of my oldest’s hands, which elicited a forced gag. Both boys pushed each other to be the first at the sink to wash their hands with handfuls of soap. They were disgusted. A few days later I asked my youngest why spermicide bothered him so much.
“Because, it’s someone else’s sperm mom, that’s so gross,” he said.
I decided not to clue him in, and nodded solemnly at his answer. Inside me did cartwheels and cheers. My children, as informed and prepared as they are, are still just boys at heart.
*Side note: Girl Dread ended up breaking my son’s heart for another boy, her own age, shortly after the condom situation. He moped around the house for a good month before deciding he was okay about it all. Eventually, Dread moved away with her family to an undisclosed location. Inside me got all Jerry Springer on their moving van, but outside me opened all the windows, burned incense and baked a cake. I was ecstatic.