When my kids were teenagers and starting to date I was the condom Nazi. I bought Trojans by the gross at the big box discount stores. I set them out, right by the door, in a huge, fancy, cut crystal bowl. Like Halloween candy. Take as many as you need I told them. Just leave enough for the others.
In my mommy wisdom I said things like, "If someone will have sex with you, they'll have sex with anybody. Protect yourself." I also made them say something to me as they headed out the door on dates that my brother finds hilarious.
"Say it!" I would demand as I handed over the car keys.
"Jeaze..ok. Mama ain't raising no grandbabies. NOW can I go?" And out the door they would fly. Into the world, navigating with their hormones.
Just a little reminder to them… the choices they made that night were their responsibility.
I am a realist at heart. I know that the human species is programmed to reproduce. Teenagers are driven to procreate. I was one and I know a lot of them. They are just like rabbits. Horny rabbits.
Oh sure, Sweet husband and I had all of the obligatory conversations with them. You know the ones.
The one you have during their first crush: Be respectful.
The ones you have when you catch them surfing porn (teenage boys are wizards at getting around parental web controls): You haven't even kissed a real girl and you are looking at this? The porn industry is one filled with abuse and sadness. The one about the objectification of women (and men). And the you are soooo grounded Mister one.
Then they have their first "real” girlfriend/boyfriend and the talk gets real: How and why to use a condom.
We live in the bible belt. Here the public high school has bi-weekly "Character Development" sessions in homeroom. Volunteers come to the kid's classrooms and discuss good choices for teenagers. I have no problem with that. But every single year someone (read right wing religious nut freak) comes to speak to them about abstinence.
Okay. Good talk. Good point. Will they have a doctor or nurse in next week to speak about birth control? Hell no. Just say no, and sign this pledge to be sex free. Wear a "promise" ring on your finger (I promise to save it for marriage) not a rubber on your penis (I promise not to spread disease or babies around).
Call me weird but I believe in telling kids the truth. Give them the tools and then let them make their own decisions. They're going to anyway, right? Demystify protection. The alternative is difficult and heartwrenching for everyone involved.
For example, we never told them not to do drugs because drugs are bad. Our drug talk went more like this: Don't do drugs because you'll like them. Until you don't. Then your life will be screwed up and you'll end up just like your Uncle M. Do you want that? Well, do you?
We also encouraged a lot of questions around our house. We discussed sexuality, money, politics, alcohol, abuse, education, the world, love, and most importantly of all, personal responsibility.
I was raised by a single mother. Abandoned by my father. Mentally abused as a kid. I ran away from home at sixteen. I know what the unwanted in "unwanted child" means first hand.
All of my kids were wanted . Wanted by their dad and me. We always put their needs first. We provided for them. Loved them. Nurtured them. And then we taught them personal responsibility. Some of the kids we raised had never known responsible adults before us. Now they are adults. Hopefully, they understand what they will need to give in order to be good parents themselves.
I'm not sure what my blatant honesty did to our kids' budding teenage egos. They all seem to be pretty great young adults (I AM their mother and a bit biased). I will say one thing though. My sister's grandson is awfully cute. And someday…when they are ready…I hope to have some grandkids myself.