I can’t wait to talk to my sons about girls, sex, dating – said no mom ever! I know, I get it. But I once heard a parenting expert explain your child’s understanding of these type of topics as files being opened in the filing cabinet of the brain. The file will be opened, named and will start containing information gleaned from what they hear, see and their environment. By being intentional about these awkward topics, we are in essence taking the initiative to “open the file”, thereby having a chance to input shaping information that is in line with our worldview, convictions, and morality. Every other piece of information that then comes into the “file” get’s tested against the truth that we put in first. Should we remove our intention we give way to the alternative, a view on women, dating, sex, shaped by the barrage of messaging, content and images that the world is consistently producing and offering up.
I didn’t want to write this. Newsflash: Being a boy mom is not dissimilar to being a girl dad. You experience the same fierce protective streak and compulsion to grab a shotgun. However gracious and “live and let live” you may appear you still secretly harbor the conviction that no one will ever be good enough for your offspring. Even if he is currently obsessed with slouchy pants and continues to be amused by his own farts.
So you can imagine my reticence when The Elder returned from Holiday Club with a hand full of notes secretly passed (some things never change). He had an expression somewhere between bemused and confused on his face as he read me a note from one girl who asked to wear his beanie, another his jacket. When I asked “what do you think about that son?” and he said “I guess they like my clothes?” Ummm, I realized I had some work to do in helping him work out how he should respond. Because how he respond doesn’t just affect him, but as he is being shaped by this interaction so are the girls he is interacting with, all of them at an age that is forming the neural pathways and emotional understanding of those interactions for years to come. Yes, we have ticked the boxes on the body and sex conversations. But this blog is about the fuzzy stuff. The stuff I want him to keep in mind as my son, as someones’ future boyfriend, as someone’s future husband. So here is what I told The Elder about girls…so far….
Be honourable – Every night before my boys go to sleep I say to each of them: “You are my treasure”. And so I have told The Elder that he must remember that when he is interacting with a girl, she is also someone’s treasure too, her mom’s, her dad’s, and God’s. And all treasure must be seen as precious and must be handled with care. Every person we encounter is an image bearer.
Be kind – “respond to girls in a way that protects them and protects you”. My son is 11, an age where possibly there is a disconnect between the feelings he has and his ability to express them. So arming him with “scripts” that enables confident responses that are also kind is how we have chosen to help him. For example: “ I am too young to have a romantic relationship, but I would enjoy getting to know you as a friend. “ or “I am too young to have a girlfriend, but I know how to be a good friend so let’s do that instead.”
Be a gentleman – Even as a 40-year-old woman, I can still recall valentines day slights, offhand comments that I shouldn’t have heard, boys being insensitive boys, all of these things I remember from being an insecure pre-teen girl. So if I am going to be the mom of a pre-teen boy, maybe I can spare some girl having similar, shaping, sore memories. My boys don’t have sisters, but they have 3 girl cousins, and a slew of friends who are like family, so when I tell them to treat every girl like she is Lila, Isabel, Jua, Hannah, Sophia or Ava, Pia or Sienna, they get it (please Lord Jesus, I hope they get it!). I take pains to help them make sure the little girls in the class that the boys know might not get anything for Valentine’s day gets something, albeit anonymously. I (try) to keep sexist joking and name calling out of the house and discourage them (strongly) from participating in it at school.
In a world of man-bashing (mostly rightly so) we as boy moms should try to encourage positive masculinity and chivalrous behaviour that has nothing to do with long-dead ideas about men and women, but has everything to do with very much alive #everybodyalways #kindnessalways thinking and the golden rule of putting others first that helps our boys to shine a light in the world.
Be careful – puberty and its company of feelings and hormones are hard to manage. And in the right (and by that I mean the wrong) situation, it can be like a car rolling down a hill, i. e hard to stop. Encountering attraction and trying to understand it is tricky for boys, so sound advise for this life stage is to stay in a group. “Don’t put yourself in a compromising position!” For now we steer clear of concepts like “dating” or “going out” until a more appropriate age.
Be aware – “Not only are you as a boy going to be dealing with your own growing awareness of the opposite sex, but you will also be dealing with girls who are going through the same thing.” In every person, the outside is most often a reflection of what is going on on the inside. So I told my son than when he encounters a girl who seems like she is overly desperate for male attention (albeit via what she wears or how she acts), give her a wide birth and keep a careful but kind distance. There are possibly things going on in her heart/life that you can’t help her with and that your attention is not the answer to.
Yes, the pre-teen and adolescent path is a messy meander of navigating confusing, overwhelming thoughts and feelings. However unpopular it might be, that’s where we as parents come in.
Make peace with the fact that you are going to be the good guy in your movie and the weird guy in theirs (there will be allot of “Awww Mom ! Gross ! I don’t want to talk about this with you!”), and launch as deeply as you can and as quickly as you can into the “girls” conversation. Yes, if you are a boy mom, leave the sex convo to the father/ father figure in your boys’ life. But when it comes to the emotive stuff, remember what it was like for you when you were a girl and use that as a jump-off point to help your boy be the kind of boy your 10-13-year-old self would’ve wanted to encounter.