Best. Parents. Ever.
I’m certain that I envisioned my imaginary future children to be bright and precocious and free spirited and wise and, well, perfect. I bet that I thought I would be that mom who was so spectacularly awesome at crafts and snacks and games that my house would be the place where all the kids wanted to hang out. Of course, my children are perfect. And we might even be that house where their friends like to hang out, but we’ll never know. Because, quite frankly, I don’t like other people’s children enough to invite them over.So the net/net here is that so far, we are winning parenting. Yep. That’s the net/net.
The problem is that Sweet Pea is turning 11 in just a few short months, and I can already feel the tide changing. There are eyerolls, and dramatic exits with stomping feet and slamming doors. There’s an Instagram account that I’m doing a fairly mediocre job of monitoring, and a lot of reminders about things like camis and deodorant and face wash. Teenaged angst is coming at me like a freight train, and I am starting to question my game plan.
Despite Red Ribbon Week being the bane of my existence, I feel my kids understand our stance on cigarettes and alcohol. Basically, cigarettes are evil and alcohol will turn your brain to jelly until you are an adult. “Adult” is a little nebulous, but I think they know that we mean older than 16. (Even though in their minds anyone with a driver’s license and a locker combination is an adult.) When it comes to sex, Will is still in the dark, and Sweet Pea is so totally grossed out she’s considering joining a convent. I’m not even kidding. After we finished the puberty class I drug her to this winter, she told me that she was going to wait at least two years after she got married before she had sex. When I explained to her that sex is something most married people enjoy immediately, not just when they are ready to have babies, she was ready for me to drive her to the nunnery immediately.
And that is all well and good for now. But someday they will require conversations about relationships, and intimacy, and our expectations about when sex is appropriate. So when is that?
I have zero expectation that my kids will wait until they are married to have sex. Before anyone gets their panties in a wad about that kind of attitude being the reason this country is going to hell in a handbasket, let me be clear. It would be fantastic if people waited until they found their partner for life to have sex, if for no other reason because sex, by design, makes babies.** Babies are good! But babies are complicated and expensive, and time consuming. And if we follow the logic that you’re waiting to have sex until you’re married, then hopefully you’ve also waited to get married until you’re ready to be a grown-up with grown up responsibilities and the ability to support yourself.
**There are a million other reasons to wait to have sex. I mean, same sex couples don’t even have to worry about pregnancy, and I still feel like waiting is a good thing. But for simplicity sake, let’s start there.
If I really think about it, I might know 10 couples who were virgins on their wedding night. Seriously, good for them. However, when I think of all the people I know who weren’t virgins before saying their vows, some really amazing people come to mind. People who have been happily married for decades. People who raised wonderful children. People of faith. People who I look up to and love. People who really like sex. Totally normal people who are not in any way defined by their sexual activity, pre or post marriage.
I guess what I’m trying to say, is that premarital sex is not a dealbreaker for me.
If I could say to my kids, “when you’re ready” and have that mean to them what it means to me, this would be easy. But what teenager hears that and fully understands what being intimately involved with someone means? Ready to prevent unwanted pregnancy. Ready to protect yourself from STD’s. Ready to deal with either of those two things if all your fail safes, well…fail. Ready to choose wisely the person who you will be totally vulnerable with. Ready to know yourself, your body, your comfort zone. Ready to understand consent. Ready to give a little bit of yourself to someone else forever.
Some people are ready at 20. Some people aren't ready at 45. I know I thought I was ready before I really was. But thankfully, I knew that my mistake wasn't a dealbreaker.