When people talk about teens there’s an emphasis on stroppiness and acne and anger management. No-one talks about the pleasures. Watching your wee boy transform in front of your eyes into a young man and become a funny and engaging adult whilst alternating with their toddler self, each trying to get the upper hand. Oh the joy of never knowing which one you’re going to be living with.
Of course I don’t have a true teen yet, that starts next month, and I’m well aware of the escalation that can occur but for now we have an irritating but manageable level of cockiness and eye-rolling and a funny, cool young man in the making.
One of the joys I have discovered is the embarrassment to be had from having certain conversations with your teen and not even necessarily intentionally.
When the young man’s voice began to break a couple of months ago and then acne appeared marching across his back (though not yet on his face – please spare his pretty face!), I decided that A CONVERSATION was in order. It was prompted by a discussion about our soon-to-be-installed hot tub.
“There are rules about teenage boys using the hot tub, Daniel which you and your friends need to know”, and as quick as a flash he retorted –
“No girls. No sex”
“Ummmm, well I was thinking no peeing in the hot tub, no eating in the hot tub and no drinking in the hot tub. But well, yes, those two as well.”
I carefully picked a time when we were driving in the car as the most suitable location because:
a) they don’t have to make eye contact with you;
b) they can’t escape.
“Daniel, we need to have a conversation about sex”
“Really we don’t Mum.”
“Really, we do Daniel.”
“I know EVERYTHING Mum”
“Daniel, you’re 12, I find that highly unlikely. Besides I’m not meaning the birds and bees talk, we’ve done that already. We need to talk about sex again now that your hormones are kicking in – about safe sex and consent (and the age of consent) and sexting and other things you might never have imagined you’d be tempted to do but might start to seem like a good idea now”
Out of the corner of my eye I could see his head hitting his knees as he tried to curl into a foetal position as much as his seatbelt would allow him and a low keening moan rose from the seat next to me.
He didn’t actually say “Make it stop! Make it stop!” but I could see a virtual speech bubble hover over him saying it in italics.
“I know no-one wants to talk to their mum about sex, but I’m exactly the person you need to come to if there’s something serious happening. Trust me, it’s true.”
“Mum I know all about this, we cover it in school”, he fell short of singing “Lalalalalalala can’t hear you!”
“That’s good I’m glad it’s covered in school but I would be failing in my duty as a parent if I left it to your teachers to make sure you understood some of the serious things about sex that you must know.”
So, doggedly I persisted in warning of the dangers of sexting, how once it’s out in the world you can’t ever get those pictures back, how you must never pass on any pictures that anyone sends you because firstly it’s illegal to distribute pictures of a child (ie anyone under 18) of a sexual nature EVEN IF you are a child yourself but secondly it’s really not a nice thing to do to someone who might not have a lovely mother to explain to them the dangers of sexting. I made a sweeping pass through consent and safe sex and totally forgot the “sex within a loving relationship” bit (Oops) and landed on “If you have any questions, you know you can ask me, right?”
“OK then…” the boy was indeed turning into a young man and went in for the kill…
“How old were you when you lost your virginity?”
Bless him he has no clue that I would happily lie to order to reinforce my point if necessary and am way too long in the tooth to be phased by such questions.
“Oh 18 or 19, I can’t remember if it was before or after my 19th birthday” I replied breezily. Foetal position was resumed with a muffled…
“Crickey that’s old!”
“There is one thing I can promise you Daniel, not one of your school friends will ever admit to still being a virgin at 16 even if they are, and many (hopefully all given aforementioned age of consent) of them will be.”
At this point I took pity on him and let the Arctic Monkeys wash over him and through his head trying to bleach from his brain the idea that his mother had EVER had sex with the soothing melody of “I Bet That You Look Good On The Dance Floor”.
Poor lamb thinks we’re finished. He has NO idea, we’ve barely started.