We all have something from our past that we are now experts on. We lived through drug experimentation, sex, love, fights, depression, abuse, college, drinking, and corny-ass parents. A friend of mine recently reminded me that one thing we did not live through: Social Media. So, all of our learning experiences were (Thank you sweet baby Jesus) not recorded on Facebook, not immortalized on YouTube, not mass texted in picture form to the entire 3rd grade that one time you couldn’t get your culottes unbuttoned and you wet your pants. Or tore your skirt in half shimmying up the swing set. Or tried to make your homemade witch costume “sexy” by tucking the skirt in and pulling the top over your shoulders. As useful as the internet is, it is full of faults. It’s like the magazines in the grocery checkout line. You can read a tribute to Johnny Cash, a story about a child hero from the most recent school shooting, and how a 600 lb. woman in Texas didn’t know she was pregnant when she gave birth to alien triplets. Experience tells us these can’t ALL be true. Hell, maybe none of it is true, which is the truly scary part. But unfortunately, most kids (and several adults I know) aren’t able to tell the real from the fake. They truly believe it can’t be on the internet if it isn’t true. The magical interweb fact checkers would never let that pass. As most kids have some access to the internet, which saves them the embarrassment of asking the old folks for clarification, they go and research on their own. They can google anything and “learn” about it in an instant. With pictures. Horrible, horrible pictures. A friend of mine said she was looking through her sons search history and found that he was looking for “boobies.” At first this totally cracked me up. Then I googled boobies, and it made me sad. So many sites. So many videos and pictures. No grown man is looking for porn this way. People specifically created, and named their sites to be found by, and appeal to children. So, WTF do we do when we don’t want them to learn that way?! It’s really not that hard: You simply take away all computer communication, turn off your WIFI, homeschool them, do not allow them to have friends, move to rural Pennsylvania, become Amish, and buy an alpaca farm.
Or we do it the hard way: We talk to them. The best part of this is that kids think we like to talk to them about this stuff. They think we lie in wait, ambush them, and relish their embarrassment. They will never know (for another 10-20 years) that we hate it more than they do. I started drug and alcohol talks when Alex was about 8, Ryan was 5 and he listened too. In my family there is a lot of addiction. But, as my grandfather had a winery, and that was part of normal life for my mother’s side, we also have a lot of people who drink responsibly. It was important to me that they know the difference very early. That because I have a second glass of wine one night does not mean that I will be crawling into the house at 2 am covered with vomit, with a black eye. I thought I was a pretty hip mom for starting that so young. I would ask them if they had questions and answer anything they asked. Because I’m awesome. Also, because substance-wise, I was a good kid, so none of my stories are that shocking. And compared to what is easily available to high school age (and younger) kids today, I was a complete square.
So! Don’t do drugs. Done and done. (Sound of hands brushing off excess awesomeness). No, there isn’t any other talks… I did stranger danger, drugs, alcohol, bullies… That’s it. Sex…? I don’t think… I mean, don’t they learn that in school…? Because my GOD I don’t want to have that talk. THEY don’t want to have that talk. Can I please just wait a few years until they’re like 35 and then see if they have questions…? No. You can’t. When I was a kid there was a specific protocol for learning about sex: Your best friend’s older brother told you he knew what your parents did to have you, you screamed at him that he was a liar, went home crying, and didn’t look your parents in the eye for 3 years. But we can’t count on that anymore. We can’t assume they are going to learn in a (relatively) safe environment. We have to be educated to what is out there. And I am NOT telling you to start googling shit so you can see what they can possibly see. DO NOT DO THAT. So, I had the talk with my older son. He’s 14, and I’m late having the talk. Which is crazy to me, but it’s reality. I wish it wasn’t. But if I wish in one hand and shit in the other, I could still end up a grandmother before he graduates high school and I’d really rather not. So, for any of you that know my son, you will not be surprised that I was the awkward one in the conversation. I kept blowing out big sighs, dropping my head back on my shoulders and saying “fuuuuuuuuuuck I can’t believe I’m talking about this with you.” All of my awesomeness melted away. As I’m not completely naïve, I know that I didn’t need to talk mechanics. I thought about the information that was out there. I thought about what he probably hears from his experienced peers. We talked about abstinence. We talked about protection. We talked about respect. Because when I googled respecting your partner, I found a rash of misogynist trash about women serving men. Surprised? No. We talked about exes. We talked about sexting, pictures, and how what is put out on the internet never truly goes away.
Before you give me props for doing this, I have to be honest: I hated every fucking second of it. I asked him if he had questions and silently begged him NOT to have questions. I am having a very hard time with my babies growing up. I cannot get my mind around the fact that I can remember my sons first words “goodgirlbay” and “Na” (For our dogs Bailey and Gwen) like it was yesterday. I can see his little impish face and single cocked eyebrow. I can smell his baby scent of shampoo, graham crackers and sunshine. And here I am telling him if he ever receives a naked picture, not to share it with friends. But this isn’t the same world I grew up in. So, I had the talk. And I’ll have it again. And probably again. And I’ll probably cry to myself afterward. And have a glass of wine (3). And not be able to look him in the eye. But I feel better for having done it. I feel like communication is open. I feel like I’m a safe person for him to go to. I feel that if someday there are questions, or fears, MAYBE he will come to me.
**I started this blog over a year ago. I recently opened up my blog thinking it had been a few months since I wrote, only to find that it’s actually been 15. The last year has been kind of tough for me, and I guess I temporarily misplaced my sense of humor about the chaos. Alex is now 16, which blows my mind. But even a year later, he’s still my baby.