I got a call from a mom the other day. She wanted some advice on how to speak to her 13 year old boy about porn. She had been warned by other moms that a boy’s first impressions about sex and sexual partners could be devastating if porn was used as his introduction; that how he perceives women could also be tainted and lead to misogynistic ideas. So I did what I’ve done dozens of times in the past, I asked one of my elder sons. His response was simple and honest. He said that all media now, all of it – from Cinderella to the Adam Sandler family movie night choice, from social media to porn sites (and of course a good Jennifer Anniston rom-com) – all of it will influence how a kid looks at sex. But for most, none of it is a problem. The visuals are out there and most kids will figure it out based on the total media they are exposed to and the old-fashioned normal experience they will have. The uncomfortable fumbling around mixed with locker room chat and late night confessions with your best friends.
Sage advice. I’ve spent the week digging down looking for nuggets of wisdom to instill in my boys who are soon to be leaving home again. My eldest is leaving for good, for now. The delayed Covid move after college graduation that was supposed to happen last year is happening tonight. I tell him to be brave, be smart, be healthy. That life is going to kick him around a bit and then add an unceremonious spit when he’s fallen and his job is to get up, brush it off and learn from whatever mistakes he’s made. A little harsh, perhaps, but true – right? The cotton wool we wrap them in is perfect when they are young but not so fitting when they start to grow up. But he seems to know most of what I try and impart. His determination is fierce and necessary. ‘Besides,’ he tells me, ‘I’ve finally come up with a Plan B.’ ‘What is it?’ I ask with huge curiosity as having a Plan B was always scorned upon. ‘Poker,’ he replies with no sense of irony.
Just as one son will leave tonight, another one of my boys takes off tomorrow morning. Double whammy. My poor heart! This son though is still within the normal college rhythm of coming and going, but mostly, of returning home. You never think you’re going to get used to them leaving once they go to college, but you do. They’ll Facetime you from their kitchenettes wanting a certain recipe and you’ll take them through the sprinklings of spices quite chuffed that they actually think you’re a great cook. You’ll still cry, I cry hugely at every single airport drop off, but the tears fade a little quicker each time. The idea that they are living independent (ish) lives and trying out how life fits them away from home is the overriding thought I am always left with which really helps with the tug on my heartstrings. That, and the money call.
Then, two of my boys are coming home this week. One from a job on a farm – note to self, make sure to check all things in recycle bin can actually be recycled and fix dripping tap – eco warrior about to return. And my little one, the one who I encouraged to go on a 30 day wilderness trip, the kind where you are literally shitting in the woods and burying it for a month without a shower or real change of clothes – returns this weekend. We were not able to speak for the entire month. This was the first time in his entire life we didn’t speak every day, let alone for a whole month! I found this part pretty excruciating. I realized that not only do I miss his entire being, his voice and giggles, his energy, but also I still feel that mama responsibility to guide and offer intermittent advice on how to analyze something, process life. He and I talk about stuff. But somehow, I’m going to throw out a guess here, I think he’s going to come back from this insane trip, sharing a few pearls of wisdom himself. It’ll be my job, this time, to just listen.
We as mothers know that our children are our greatest teachers. They shine a light on our own strengths and weaknesses. I’m learning that sometimes my sage advice that’s needed or even wanted in a particular moment is literally just that: add a pinch of sage to round out the flavor, don’t overdo it. Simply add this to the recipe book of life and voila, problem solved.