Talk to Your Sons

If you doubt the veracity or sincerity of the #MeToo movement, I beg you to read this blog post. If you read nothing else I write, please read this.

My 18-year old daughter has had multiple experiences that I can’t fathom. That I never experienced and struggle to comprehend. Experiences that make my skin crawl. That make me want to shout into the wind. That make me want to strangle the necks of the young men who foisted these experiences on her. That make me want to cry. That make me think, as parents of boys, we must collectively be failing.

************** warning **************
*potentially offensive language ahead *

Jane has been asked to boys’ houses for casual sex. Jane has been texted by boys asking her to suck their dicks. Jane has been texted by boys asking her to let them “suck her titties.”

This has come from multiple boys. None of whom she’s been in a romantic relationship with at the time of the request. In fact, only one of them had she ever even gone on a date with, and that one, it was a single date months in the past. One had only recently been dumped by a close friends of hers. And another was a clearly platonic friend she had known for almost a decade.

Jane is matter-of-fact about it. She tells them no and often tells them off. She lectures them on their behavior and attempts to explain the inappropriateness of it. But.

But.

She seems to take it all in stride.

Just let that sink in for a minute.

An eighteen year old girl knows it isn’t right but also isn’t particularly surprised.

I talked to another mother of a girl of a slightly younger age. That girl wears a sweatshirt several sizes too big for her every day to school, no matter the weather, because that’s the only thing she’s found that keeps boys from grabbing her.

What a terrible thing for our boys that they are expected to misbehave. What a terrible thing for our girls that they have to deal with the misbehavior. As if it’s normal.

Now before you shake your head and mutter under your breath that some people should do a better job raising their sons but it has nothing to do with you, consider this. One of these boys, I know for a fact, comes from a very good family. A good Christian family that believes in hard work, respect, morals, proper behavior. His parents would be appalled.

I don’t tell them because they would come down on him and he would lash out at Jane and Jane would be mad at me, feeling I had betrayed her confidence. And then she would shut me out. I don’t tell them because Jane doesn’t want me to.

She’s already learned the lesson that many women seem to learn. It’s just better to sweep it under the rug. To minimize the significance of what happened. To say it really wasn’t that big a deal. It’s just her word against his anyway and there’s always the chance that his parents and others won’t believe what she says. That they’ll think she’s just out to destroy his life for some unclear reason. So we don’t rock the boat. No wonder so many young women struggle with depression and anxiety.

Here’s another sad lesson. When I said that every time I see one of these boys or his parents, I’m thinking about it, that I can’t look at him the same way anymore, she responded, “I know mom. Me too. It just goes to show that you think boys are your friends, but really, they aren’t.”

If you think your son would never do this, that he’s not capable of being that crass, that you’ve surely raised him better than that, You. Are. Wrong.

I believe my 15-year old son would never do this. I believe he is not capable of being that crass. I believe I have raised him better than this.

But I also know that before this, I had never talked to him about stuff like this. I had never thought I needed to tell him that asking a girl he’s not in a serious relationship with for sexual favors is wrong. That texting a random girl “Hey, suck my dick” is out of line. I seriously never thought I needed to.

I have talked to him now. In depth. And if you have a son, you should too. Today. And again tomorrow. And next week. And as often as necessary. Talk to him about his behavior but also tell him to talk to his friends. Tell him to call it out for what it is when he sees it. Work to change this culture that objectifies and demeans our girls and reduces our boys to something less than they can be. Than they should be.

Addendum: I told Jane as she read this that I would not publish it without her permission. I thought she might not want me talking about it. She shrugged. “It’s not a unique story, mom.”

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How Pokemon Do It

As I was preparing to leave the house this morning, I heard my husband and eldest son talking in the bathroom. Actually, Daryl was the one doing all the talking until my husband called out, “Honey! You need to come here.”

When I entered the room, he looked at me, his eyes dancing with amusement, and said, “You’ve got to hear this.” And then turning to Daryl, “Go ahead and tell her about how Pokemon make babies.”

“Well, you see,” he began, oblivious to the silent conversation and innuendo taking place in the room around him, “if you want to make a new Pokemon, you take two of them and put them in this Day Care. It has to be one boy and one girl.”

I raised my eyebrows at my husband at the mention of Day Care. His eyes twinkled and he nodded an I know. Right? look.

“And the breeder says…”

My husband interrupted him. “Tell her where the breeder is.”

“The breeder is outside the Day Care. And he says that if the two Pokemon like playing with other Pokemon more than the other one, then there won’t be an egg. But if they like to play with each other more than anyone else, then there might be an egg!”

His voice rose gradually in excitement as he approached the end of his explanation. My husband nearly spewed his toothpaste as he rinsed his mouth. He looked at me and said, “Can you believe that? Can you? I mean, the ‘breeder’ is hanging out in an old beat up Dodge van outside the day care and…”

“He’s not really in a Dodge van, is he? Please tell me he’s not actually waiting in a van.”

My husband laughed as he walked out of the room and my son, delighted that we were enjoying his story but a little befuddled at what was amusing us so much, said, “No, he’s not in a van. He’s just standing out there. And I’ve got two Espurrs. They are the same level and both are psychic type, so I just know they like playing with each other more! They are in the Day Care right now and I hope I get an egg!”

My husband called back from the next room, “Just make sure you teach your Pokemon about Stranger Danger, ok?”

I started to add “And safe sex” but then realized 1) the Pokemon are trying to make an egg so safe sex is actually not what they are after and 2) looking at the innocent expression of excitement on my son’s face, I knew that he was not connecting this little feature of his video game with his limited understanding of “sex”.

Thinking of telling my son that he needs to have “the talk” with his Pokemon reminded me that it’s just about time for us to have “the talk” with our fourth grader. You would think that it being our second time to sing this song, I’d be just fine with it. But I’m not. And I don’t think I’ll be ready for round three when it comes up either. It’s not so much the subject matter as it is the recognition that my little boy is rapidly becoming not-a-little-boy. And while I cherish the changes and the young man he is becoming, I mourn the loss of all that was.

UPDATE: The next day, my son informed me that one of the Espurrs was holding an egg. He looked like a proud grandpa indeed.

Teenager-Be-Gone

We’ve added a very useful and effective tool to our parenting arsenal. It’s a guaranteed method for removing a teenager from your vicinity when you grow weary of her company. This could be because you were trying to have a private conversation before she arrived and she is now just taking up space. Or it could be that it’s past her bedtime. Or she’s in the way. Or maybe she is just being obnoxious.

Now, there’s a catch that I want to share with you before describing the tool. It’s not for the prudish among us. If you still want your teenager to believe babies arrived in little slings held by storks, then this approach is not for you. But if you know that your child already knows the basics and you don’t mind acknowledging that, this will work.

It involves reminding your child – preferably in the most embarrassing (yet not inappropriate) way possible – that her parents are sexual beings. This will send her running to the hills within seconds. This can be done in a number of different ways and can be quite entertaining for the parents. Let me describe a couple of scenarios.

Last night, she was working on her homework at the dining room table. She has a desk in her room for this purpose but she mistook it as a clothes rack some number of months ago and we haven’t seen the top of it since. It was late; the boys were already in bed. We were sitting at the table with her and had been visiting about various topics. We were waiting for her to go to bed so we could watch an episode of Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix.

It soon became apparent that we could not talk or she would be distracted from her homework. We could not adjourn to the living room and watch our show because she would be able to see it and thus be distracted from her homework. We suggested she finish the homework in her room. She made no motion to comply with the suggestion.

“What could we do to get her to leave?” I asked.

He looked up and smiled. “We could make out.”

She immediately buried her face in her notebook and tried to cover her head, face, and ears with her hands and arms. “No! I’m leaving! I’m leaving! Just don’t! Please! Don’t!”

I moved over to my husband and wrapped my arms around his head. We began making little Mmm-Mmm-Mmm noises as if we were making out. I started passionately “kissing” the top of his head. She literally ran from the room. Mission accomplished.

We first discovered this trick a couple of months ago. It was early morning. My husband was dressed for the day but reclined on the bed, waiting for the kids to be ready to go. I was by the closet getting dressed. Jane had come into the room and crawled into bed and was now refusing to get up and get ready for school. Eventually, I wanted to sit down on the bed to put on my shoes but her body was in the way.

“You know what we do in that bed besides sleep, don’t you?”

She threw the covers off of her and literally leaped out of bed. “Oh! That’s gross! That’s gross! Don’t say that! I’ve got to get out of here!” And with that, she raced across the hall to her room and closed the door.

Feeling daring, I called out, “You think we haven’t done it in there?”

She hurtled out of her room toward the bathroom as my husband called out, “Well, no. Not in there, honey! That’s her room. Everywhere else in the house though.”

“Stop it! Just stop talking! GROSS!!!

I smiled at my husband as I sat down to tie my shoes. “That was easy,” I said.

“Yep.”

And so a strategy was born.