I think most parents dread the day they have the sex talk with their teenagers.
I never got “the talk’ from my mom. I’m not sure if she just assumed I wasn’t having sex or if she was even aware that I had boyfriends. My first trip to the gyno was when I was already eight weeks pregnant. As if your first Pap smear and pelvic exam aren’t humiliating enough, add 20-years-old, never been, already knocked up to the mortification. I cried through the whole exam.
It would have been easy to blame my parents for my situation. My mother never talked to me about birth control and I, like 100% of teenagers, assumed it would never happen to me. I was a smart girl, I knew where babies came from, and yet I rolled the dice. Nine months later I had a baby by a man that I had known for less than three months. Having that baby turned out to be the best decision of my life and made me who I am today. But, it was a hard life for a long time.
Fast forward sixteen years. That baby is a tall, handsome, smart and very funny young man. Until recently, he had no time for silly, insecure teenage girls. But he’s become romantic about a girl whom he’s been very good friends with since the eighth grade. They’re romantic for each other and I’m happy for him. They’re a great pair: she’s brilliant and sweet and quirky, he’s warm and clever and romantic. I am in love with their budding romance.
That is, until I walked into the family room and found them horizontal on the couch, their faces plastered together.
I started with diplomacy. I loudly clomped toward them from the next room over to give them time to get decent but, much to my surprise and annoyance, they did not separate. I snapped my fingers at them and barked “Inappropriate!” not knowing what else to say. They slowly sat up but the second I left the room, they were at it again. We’ve had The Talk with him but I just didn’t feel like we had really prepared him for this.
We are very open and accepting. We always want our son to know that he can speak honestly with us about anything, and we have always been very candid with him. He knows he won’t be judged if he tells us he’s gay or has a substance abuse problem. He knows he doesn’t have to go to college if that’s not for him, as long as he’s doing something he loves with his life and not mooching off of us. And he knows to wear protection if he has sex.
It was easy to have these conversations because we approach things in a humorous way. He’s had Sex Ed at school, and he knows in theory that he should bag his groceries but I knew these things too and it didn’t prepare me at all. My husband and I brainstormed over why people don’t use common sense and I think it goes beyond the obvious “it was in the heat of the moment.” It’s a lack of comfort and preparedness.
I’m in my thirties now, and it’s all too easy for me to glibly tell him to just wear a condom. That doesn’t prepare him for the time when he has to make that choice. We don’t verbally instruct soldiers on how to fight and then send them into battle without having ever fired their weapons, do we? No, when people are going to be in dangerous situations, we prepare them and drill them until we’re convinced they can handle the situation confidently and safely.
This is no different.
We sat him down and explained that we were about to have a painfully awkward talk about what had transpired the night before on the couch with his girlfriend. He was invited to not say anything stupid and that his best course of action was to simply shut the fuck up.
I first told him that their behavior, while pretty normal, was quite disrespectful considering I was watching TV twenty feet away. I diapered him, I cuddled him when he had his tonsils out, I kissed his ouchies and he still kisses me goodnight. I should never have to see him in the throes of passion.
Then we explained what was next for him. While he and his girlfriend had talked about boundaries and decided that just kissing was good for now, at some point, he’d find himself in a one thing led to another scenario. Responsible parents take their daughters to the gynecologist to get them on birth control. How do responsible parents prepare their sons? I told my son to go to the drugstore and buy some condoms and then spend some time learning how they work. If he needed help, dad was available. Finally, he needed to report back that he had completed the task.
Of course he didn’t understand the point of the exercise, at first. I could see the terror in his eyes when I told him he needed to go buy condoms and his discomfort at my mere mention of masturbation. I explained “Girls go to the gynecologist, they strip naked, put their feet in the air, and a virtual stranger probes their lady-parts with metal tools and bristle brushes. When that’s over, they have to remember to take a pill every day or they get a shot every three months or they can have something IMPLANTED in their arm. The least you could do is spend four minutes in the privacy of your own bathroom figuring out how a condom works.” He acknowledged that his part was relatively easy in comparison.
I was pleasantly surprised when he told me, two days later, that he had, indeed, bought the prophylactics. I asked if he had tried them out which, believe me, was every bit as uncomfortable to ask as it was for him to hear. But this was the important part. For me, the follow through was critical and it didn’t matter how embarrassed either of us was. He simply nodded and I left it at that.
I don’t worry about the moment he’ll have sex for the first time anymore. As a mother who believes that pre-marital sex is not only inevitable but also okay, I did everything I could to prepare him for that moment.
Related post: Yes, I Bought Condoms For My Son