Yes, I Bought Condoms For My Son


buying condoms

My oldest son is sixteen and has a girlfriend.  How this happened, I have no idea.  Didn’t I just bring that swaddled lump home from the hospital?  Wasn’t it just yesterday that he was mooning over Blue’s Clues (and I was mooning over Steve Burns)?  Wasn’t it just recently that the most stressful speck on the horizon of his childhood was signing him up for t-ball?

I blinked, though, and here he is – more man than boy, navigating his first teen romance.

I was sixteen when I had my first serious (okay, my first) boyfriend.  My mother took me to the doctor to get a prescription for the Pill.  Looking back, I now understand how difficult that must have been for her.  I think the tendency for most parents is to want to keep our kids young and innocent.  It’s painful letting go of them, step by step, watching them grow into their own lives and away from us.  We dole out lectures and try to lay down rules meant to keep them safe, and if we are honest, meant to feed our illusion that we remain in control of the choices they will make.

As much as I’d like to keep my son young and safely tied up in my apron strings, I realize that it’s folly.  He is growing up, and he is making his own choices more and more.  The best I can hope for is that his dad and I have instilled in him the values that will dictate good decision-making on his part.

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It was actually two of my close girlfriends who informed me one night over dinner that, now that my son had a girlfriend, and being of the age he is, it’s time to buy him some condoms and have that talk with him.  Not the sex talk – the birth control talk, the protection talk.  I was horrified.  Although I remember what my own mother did for me, I wasn’t prepared to deal with this with my own children – let alone my son.

But the more I contemplated it, the more I realized that they were right.  I could live in denial that my son was even thinking about sex; I could try to convince myself that his relationship with his girlfriend was innocent and platonic; I could close my eyes to the fact that when I was sixteen . . . But it was no use.  The inner voice that spoke the loudest in my head was the one saying, “Yeah, and while you’re busy trying to fool yourself, he could be getting her knocked up.  At sixteen.”  And the imagined implications of that scared the daylights out of me.  Two young lives potentially detoured irrevocably, forever.

I had the birth control talk with my son – a straightforward, brief monologue on my part which (hopefully) hid my wrecked nerves, while he stood with a stricken look on his face, very much like a deer in headlights.  But even after the talk, I realized that, at whatever point in time he actually decided to become sexually active, it was highly unlikely that he would have the means or the nerve to procure condoms himself.  And if one thing led to another, as they so often do . . . well, one time is all it would take.

The next time I went to Target, I had condoms on my mind.  I couldn’t bring myself to go down that aisle, though.  For the next few weeks, the condoms mocked me every time I ventured into Target.  Eventually, I was able to casually push my cart down that aisle, glancing at the condoms in my peripheral vision as I glided by.  Finally, a few days ago, I once again found myself at Target.  “This is it,” I told myself.  “This time, I’m doing it.”

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I approached the aisle.  I ventured a casual glance to see if anyone else was in the aisle; when I found it empty, I rolled my shopping cart down the linoleum and stopped in front of the condoms, and promptly began to hyperventilate.  Words jumped out at me in neon script: “Pleasure Pack,” “Easy Glide,” “Ribbed for Her Pleasure,” “Fun Colors!”  Holy mother of god!  I don’t want to think about my son having fun!  Or pleasure!  “Don’t faint, don’t faint, just breathe, nice and easy . . .” I told myself.  Finally, at the bottom of the display were the no-nonsense, plain condoms.  How many to get, though?  Crap!  Six?  Twelve?  I finally decided on the economy pack of thirty-six – not because I wanted him to have that much sex, but because I never wanted to find myself in this aisle on his behalf again.

I threw the box in with my paper towels and cereal and Pine Sol and diapers, and made my way to the front of the store to pay.  My heart was thumping and I felt very close to tears – this was some kind of bizarre milestone in my childrearing career, for sure.  Of course a twenty-something guy manned every open checkout lane, only recently out of high school themselves, no doubt.  I briefly felt embarrassed about my loot, but I couldn’t worry about what the cashier might think for too long.

I deposited the box of condoms in my oldest son’s bathroom and sent him this email:


Up on a high shelf in the cabinet in your bathroom, you will find a bag.  Inside the bag is a box of condoms.

I realize that just reading this will probably horrify you – your mom buying condoms for you??  Blech!  I know.  Believe me, it wasn’t any easier for me to buy them than it probably is for you to be reading this.  However, as uncomfortable as it might make either of us feel, the fact is that you are of a certain age when things might happen, and because I love you so very much, and care so much about your well-being and your future, as a responsible parent, I have to ensure that you are protected. 

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This is not permission from Dad or me.  Sex, as we have talked about before, is a huge responsibility with tremendous implications, and the truth is that it’s best left to adults.  I hope you will wait.  But to count on that would be unrealistic; I realize that you will make your own choices in this regard, just as I did when I was your age.  The best I can do is to encourage you to make those choices with intelligence and respect, and armed with protection.

This is an informational video about how to use a condom:

I love you.


We haven’t spoken of it since. He didn’t acknowledge my note, but I didn’t expect him to. Every once in a while, I catch a glimpse of that Target bag up on a high shelf in his bathroom cabinet. And I know I did the right thing.


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  1. says

    I think that most of my friends will follow the thought that such an act will imply permission and not do the same. But I don’t think I’ll be them, I think I’ll take the risk that they think it’s permission for the trade off of protection and my sons knowing that they can talk to us. But it’ll be hard.

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  2. kim says

    My son is also 16; not only did I buy him condoms, but I also had him go with his girlfriend to the doctor when her mother took her to be put on birth control. I explained to him that this wasn’t just her deal and that he needed to support her. He went AND asked questions. Pretty sure he got the best boyfriend award for that one, plus scored some big points with her mom. :)

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    • Alison Taber says

      Kim, You are my hero. My boys are only 7 and 5 1/2, but I have already been plagued with what awaits me in 10 years, and plan to follow your wisdom and bravery. I’m assuming that you had a good relationship with the girls parents as well, and discussed this beforehand?

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  3. Me says

    I have a 4 year old daughter, and I DREAD “the talk”. I was 16 when I lost my virginity and I really REALLY wish my mom had “the talk” with me and made me realize I should have waited. But, what’s in the past is in the past and I can’t change what I did. Been with a great man almost 8 years now ;-)

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  4. Toni Gehrig Rossmiller says

    Oh, I hope you also talked about abstinence, sexually transmitted diseases, the emotional toll of being sexually active, etc. I get what you are saying — really, I do — but let's not forget that many teens and young adults DO choose to wait until later (even until marriage) to have sex. Please keep that option open for your son as well.

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    • Lisa says

      Yes, I’ve talked to him about all those options, as I explained in my post. Frankly, though, I would never advise anyone to wait until they’re married – I can’t imagine waiting until you’re legally tied to someone by marriage to find out if you’re sexually compatible. I think it’s enough to advise my kids to wait until they’re adults. However, as we all know, kids are going to make their own decisions; hence providing protection.

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      • Lindsay says

        But…if you wait until you’re married, how will you have any idea that what you experience *isn’t* compatibility? My aunt and uncle both waited until they were married (granted, they were 18 and 19 when they married), but they both say that, as far as they’re concerned, their spouse is the best lover who has ever lived, and not a single person in the world will ever be able to prove otherwise. Maybe ignorance IS bliss!

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  5. Beth says

    My son is only 2, but when the time comes, yes I will. Not only do I not want to be a grandmother in the next 20 years, but condoms can prevent him from contracting (or, heaven forbid, spread) an STD. I will also teach him responsibility. I didn’t wait for marriage, but I did wait until I was ready (college), even though most of my friends had had sex long before me.

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    • Beth says

      I should also note that I wish my mom had done the same for me. Not because I wanted to have sex, but I had horrible periods with awful cramping and unsightly acne. There are other reasons for a teenage girl to be on the Pill!

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  6. Diane says

    Thank, you, thank you, thank you! I say that on behalf of all mothers of 16 year old daughters, of whom I am one! I have kept an open dialogue with my daughter, and when she felt that she was ready, we went to the ob/gyn together, and she also asked questions, even though we had bought her a book , had talks, etc. It is a lot easier physically to prepare boys (can’t go to Target to buy birth control for girls off the shelf!) In no way is it giving permission, it is realizing that you want more than anything for your child to be protected, from unwanted pregnancy and STD’s, and a way of acknowledging their impending sexuality without making them ashamed of their bodies or their desires. As you said, it would be nice if they all waited until they were grown, had great jobs and financial responsibility for themselves before they started having sex, but, reality doesn’t jibe with that! I would rather put my daughter on the pill as an educated, informed , empowered young woman than to find her crying over an EPT stick in the bathroom any day! :)

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  7. Alex says

    When my daughter had her first serious boyfriend at the age of 15, I took her to get birth control. That was the most difficult decision I’ve made so far. But after weighing the pros and cons – I decided that I’d rather she be protected than live in the illusion that she is too young and won’t be sexually active. She was mortified when I told her the plan, because she was not going to have sex. But I reassured her that it is just a precaution for when she does make that decision and also emphasized that this is not permission! She has been with this same boy for over a year and I have no idea if she is sexually active, but I do have piece of mind that she is protected when the time comes.

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  8. Redmam7 says

    Good for you! I wish my mom had been more open and honest about sex when I was a teen. Like it or not, your teen’s sex life is not yours to control. Buying contraceptives and talking to your teen about responsible and healthy choices is all you can do. The rest is up to them.

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    • Truthie says

      The teenage child’s sex life is not for the parents to control, but the parents are expected to spend THEIR money on contraceptives and condoms for the teens?

      Our thoroughly 21st century. Mom, dad, shut up about what I do with my body. Just buy me condoms, birth control, provide shelter and food.

      Here’s a novel idea. No dating until you are an official adult. Then, when you have your own place, money, etc, you can do whatever you want. Until then, this is my house, and it’s my way or the highway.

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      • J Cook says

        Because that always works with teenagers, right? “You can’t have sex, because I said so!” then stick your head in the sand and be shocked when you find out that you are about to become a grandparent. Teenagers are going to have sex, whether you like it or not. I would rather spend $10 on birth control than $1000s of dollars of prenatal care.

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      • reality check says

        Holy crap. Get your head out of the clouds. Independence seeking is the first thing children learn to do even from their first steps as toddlers. Try to control a teenager. I DARE you. Unless you plan on holding them hostage in a room with a gun outside, it’s not going to happen. They will do what they plan to do in the first MOMENT they are out of your sight (a lot of schools have issue with kids having sex in the restrooms and locker rooms). And unless you plan on being that creepy mom with her 40 year old child living in the basement, you better promote independence and good decision making at an early age, as well as the consequences of poor decision making. I KNOW people who flat out refused to even HELP the teen get protection and those are the ones that ended up with babies at 15. Like the article states above, ARMING your teen with protection is not the same as giving permission as long as you communicate clearly and LIKE AN ADULT with your teen about expectations of how adult people should conduct their lives, but above all how to NOT GET INTO A TEEN PREGNANCY.

        Besides, who says mom has to pay for the contraception? Most teens have part time jobs because they want to put gas in their cars and be able to do harmless fun things with their friends (concerts, dinners, fairs, shopping, etc). Being a teenager is learning how to care for yourself. If they miss out on a vital piece of that education, mom will be grandma far too soon.

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      • momma says

        ARE YOU SERIOUS?! The first time you tell a child to not do something, they are going to want to and usually will, do it!!! Relationships are a normal part of life! Every teenage girl or boy is changing from a child to an adult and with that comes hormones, anger, anxiety and yes, relationships with the opposite sex. I would much rather spend money on birth control and health safety than have my child pregnant or infected with some funk!!!! Sex is a natural part of life, and while I want my kids to wait till they are married, it probably isn’t going to happen…..

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      • nicole says

        LOL my mom tried to do that.. believe me it didnt work I resented her for a long time , I really didnt speak to her for years. I got into things worse than teenage pregnancy and I couldnt wait to get out of her house . Its not a good choice.She tried to smother me into doing what she wanted me to do aka not date. Did not work I have 2 kids and a 3rd on the way. I dont know how Ill handle it but I know I will not smother every absolute minute and make them feel like I was made to feel.

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    • Shawna says

      You’re wrong? How is she wrong to know that her son is at an age where she will not be able to control every decision he makes? How is she wrong to inform him of the consequences of unprotected sex? How is she wrong to saying that she is not giving him permission to have sex, but hope that he will wait until he is an adult and ready for such a relationship? How is she wrong for making sure she protects her son, in this generation, from ruining his life and someone else’s life? How is she wrong for being the best parent possible for her son? You are the one that is wrong, and if you do unsubscribe from her blog, I think you are doing her a favor

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    • Shannon says

      Have you ever considered that sometimes girls are the culprits in convincing boys they are ready?? It takes 2. And I believe she was teaching him about respect! A respectful man would want to protect the woman he loves. (And I am a mom of 2 small girls. I am thankful for moms like these)

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