When we were in Boston over spring vacation, I let the kids pick out a few souvenirs. I had no idea shopping for souvenirs would lead to me crying in the middle of a jewelry store, but it did.
My tween son informed me that instead of using his spending money on himself, he wanted to pick out something for his girlfriend. It was a lovely sentiment, and really, it is the way I’ve raised him — to do lovely, thoughtful things for someone he cares about. But I found myself tearing up anyway.
Thank god a huge, gaudy necklace came to the rescue. My son pointed to it and said, “What is that, Mom? Is it a necklace…or a weapon?”
We both burst out laughing, and once I got going I couldn’t stop. Mainly because it hid my sobbing. My son has seen me laugh so hard I have cried many times before, so it was the perfect cover.
Having a girlfriend while on the cusp of his teenage years wasn’t something I wanted for my son, if I am being honest. I rather hoped his focus would be on his studies, sports, and friends. But when I was his age, I was doing the same thing, and hot damn it was fun. The drama, the notes, holding hands in the hallway (you can’t do that now), curling my finger around the phone cord as I talked to my latest crush on my hot pink telephone while the theme of Cheers or Growing Pains played in the background.
I suppose I could tell my son he is not allowed to have a girlfriend. I could have said no when he wanted me to drop him and his friend off at the movies for their first (chaperoned) date. It might have prevented the crying episode in my car after snapping a few pictures of him and his girlfriend as they walked into the theater. I know it’s ridiculous to fall apart over such a little thing, but when your car smells like cologne and Trident and those smells are coming from your son and are meant for someone he is smitten with, dammit, it’s hard not to cry.
I could tell him to hold off a little longer, to wait until he is 16. But I won’t. And anyway, would he really listen? I know I wouldn’t have.
So my son has a girlfriend now. A girlfriend who is lovely and charming and brings out the best in him. He cares about another person enough to spend all his money on her. That is what made him happy — giving to someone else. Why would I want to forbid that?
I’ve noticed other small changes in his behavior too. He is more polite. He asks my opinion on what he should wear. I don’t have to beg him to shower or change his socks. He holds doors open. He is kinder. And while I know part of it is just him finding his way, growing up, and learning who he wants to be, I know his girlfriend has a little bit to do with it.
This is his first relationship, and I know it won’t be his last. There will be a lot I won’t know about his life, and I want to build a solid foundation of trust, understanding, and acceptance between the two of us. And so I welcome this relationship, and I welcome her.
Don’t get me wrong — just because I’m supportive doesn’t mean my son and his girlfriend are allowed to be alone together. The talks about how we treat others (their bodies and feelings) happen very often and will continue as we move forward. As long as my son lives under my roof, I will be watching very closely.
Whether I’m ready for this milestone or not, my son feels he is. And because I never want him to feel like he can’t tell me about any of his relationships, I will be supportive.