It started with a bag of chips and a distracted mother. I was doing my time on the conveyor belt of torture while Big D sat stuffing his face with a bag of chips and a container of 1/2 eaten dip and my brother joined him in mocking me for various things, pretending to watch reruns of an old sitcom when along came Walter who flopped down beside my brother, drawing Dad’s attention.
Dad: Did you get into my dip?
Dad: The chips were at the top of my closet which means you had to go in my room and get them. Did you eat my chips?
Dad: Then how did you eat the dip?
*busted*, Liar. So, Dad’s all “hand over the phone.” and Walter’s desperately trying to text his “girlfriend” before handing it over. uh-uh, boy. that’s not how it works. Now, this “girlfriend” is different than the last “girlfriend” in that she is not in Texas. She is right here in St. Louis. but she’s still just a “girlfriend” with air quotes because … well, because I said so. *firm nod*
I’m not paying much attention, going on about my business, until Big D, who’s tormenting Walter, reads off in an overly sweet, girlish voice, “I love you.” Now, you can bet your bottom that got my attention quick. It was my good fortune that the treadmill had already stopped or I’m confident I would have done a bit worse than trip over my feet getting off that damned thing. The words running through my head would have made a sailor blush, so I think it might be a good idea to step outside before opening my mouth. and then Walter ruins it. “I already asked mom if she could come over and she said no.” and there’s a chorus of unfair, paranoid mom horse crap pouring out of the living room. I open the door and very calmly ask my boy if I needed to explain my parenting decisions to him. I ask him if I need someone else’s stamp of frickin’ approval on my declaration. The answer, of course, is no. This isn’t a freaking democracy, man! There’s no vote. What I say goes and that’s just the end of that. Keep pushing and I just might start screaming, “OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!!!” and mean it. Justifiable homicide is a real thing, ya know. He doesn’t dare even glance at Dad with hope for back up. They both know better.
Next thing you know, we’re all piled in the living room: Big D, Thing2, Walter, my brother and myself having THE talk. My husband thinks I’m being ridiculous because he’s 12 years old. I ask him if he wants to talk about 12 years old, because 12 years old is not too young to be having this talk. Big D says Walter isn’t me. No, he’s not. because he has supervision and he has a parent who will talk to him. He has a parent who will do everything in their power to keep girls out of bedrooms, out of the basement, a parent who will hound his ass and hunt him down to drag him home if need be and that is exactly what I am doing right now. I am talking to him. as his parent. My brother wants to know how much of what I’ve done has influenced who I am and how I could have learned my lessons without making my mistakes. Which is a good point, but still. he can make his own mistakes but he can also hear what we have to say first, having already made our mistakes.
I’ve preached at Walter for a good many years so he’s familiar with most of it. Today, I did something a little different. I asked him. I asked him why he wanted a girlfriend. I asked him what he was looking for in a girlfriend. We discussed the difference between girl friend and girlfriend and the vital importance of girl friend coming before girlfriend. You need something solid to build a relationship on. If you do not have the solid foundation of mutual respect, admiration, affection… what do you have? What is your relationship about if you have no friendship to build on? Is the relationship about YOU, what you want, what you need or is the relationship about the both of you as a couple being together? Do you want this girl for what she makes you look like to your friends or who she is on her own, how she makes you feel when you are with her?
These are the years that you learn how relationships work and what you want from a relationship. This is where you learn the reasons for looking for your One. Not the time to make a “life-long” commitment to the first person who looks at you. We talked about the need to be picky, the need to be careful who you choose. The way to do that is to be friends first. Be friends, do things together as friends, start building that foundation. If it doesn’t go beyond that, it doesn’t go beyond that and you are still friends. Jump into something without looking first and you have no clue what kind of slop you are jumping into until you are already over your head and sinking fast.
One part where Thing2, my brother, and my husband really impressed me was backing me up on “I love you.” If you tell every single girl you are ever with that you love them, whether you do or not, just saying it to be saying it, the one that matters won’t be getting much. If the words are easy to come by, they don’t need to “earn” them, even if the earning is just in being the person they are. You cannot go throwing those words around. They are important, sacred words that need to be held onto tightly until the person they were meant for comes along. That way, when you finally say them, you and the person you are with will understand how powerful those words are, you will know what a gift you have been given.
Learn to be a friend before learning to be a boyfriend.
You don’t commit to having a girlfriend until you mean it.
You don’t have sex until you mean it.
You don’t say “I love you” until you mean it.
If you can’t do that, then you just aren’t ready to have a relationship.
I might let her come visit as his friend because how is he going to learn to build a friendship if mommy’s holding his hand too tightly to let him play? This is an area that I need to learn to step back and observe, ready to catch him if he falls or witness the first flutters of flight, instead of being in the middle directing every step. but I can promise, I will be within seeing and hearing distance at all times. and there will be no “dating” going on. uh-uh. Not until the boy’s at least 25. maybe 40.