I wrote a letter to Hannah yesterday, and now it is time to sit down and write one to you, but for some reasons the words don’t come as easily. Partly because I am a female raising a son; I know what I would have liked to have heard from MY mom, as her daughter, which made it easier to know what to tell Hannah. With you, I am navigating strange and turbulent waters, and I am in awe every day of the responsibility of raising a son in this world.
You know we started that class in part because of your changes in attitude and your sudden assertion that you are a man and therefore cannot and should not be told what to do. Now that we have been in the class, though, there is not a session that goes by where I don’t feel stunned with gratitude that you are nothing like those other young men. You are a normal, healthy, assholish teenager, and while I will not go back to the previous leniency I showed you, I do have a greater understanding of the fact that you are growing and changing in ways I can only begin to imagine, and that much of what you are going through is part of all of those changes.
Some of the things that were brought up in the adult class on Thursday, the one taught to us by N., made some alarm bells go off in my head, and I wanted to address them in my own words and with my own personal spin so that you know that her way isn’t the only way, nor is it necessarily the right way. It appears that she doesn’t like women very much, and is willing to cut young men a lot of slack, and I want to tell you that in this case, her viewpoint is absolutely wrong.
I know you hate it when we talk about sex, I know that it is embarrassing for you to be taught these things by, gasp, a mother! but Eli, I love you enough that I don’t care if I embarrass you. We have talked, you and I, about birth control, and one of the proudest moments in my life so far is hearing you ask why “people” always blame the women when she gets pregnant, because it is just as much the man’s fault. You are SO on the right track there, sweetie, and I am proud of you for having that perspective.
The thing is, getting a girl pregnant is not the worst thing that can happen anymore, though it is quite bad enough. There are sexually transmitted diseases out there that can and will kill you, cause it so you cannot father children, and cause a whole bunch of long term health issues. The odd thing about it is that you are not very likely to get most of these diseases; the way your body is made up makes it pretty difficult for the germs to get where they need to get in order to cause an illness. Instead, you can be intimate with an infected girl and you might not get it, but your next partner almost certainly will. This is why condoms are SO important; not only are you protecting yourself from becoming a teen father, but you are also protecting not just your current partner but any other partners you may have in the future. By engaging in risky sexual behavior, you are impacting not just your own health, but the possible future of your partner-and that isn’t right. Carry condoms with you any time there is even the slightest possibility that you may engage in sexual activities. You may be called presumptuous or the dreaded “player” by having them accessible, but it shouldn’t matter. Use one all the time, the whole time, every time; there will be girls who will tell you that since they are on birth control you don’t need to wear one, but do it anyway. There will also be girls who will lie and tell you that you are their only partner, their first partner, whatever, but I don’t care-use one anyway. The only way to completely prevent both pregnancy and STD’s is abstinence; the second best thing is to glove up every time.
I was told on Thursday that sex should be saved for marriage, and I want you to know that sex is a wonderful, beautiful, enjoyable thing that should only be shared with someone you have a committed, respectful relationship with. As you well know, that doesn’t always mean marriage, and I would really be heartbroken if you rushed into marriage with someone you don’t really love just to allowed to have sex. However, I want you to know that sex IS a big thing; it is huge, and not something to be taken lightly. Women think about sex differently than men; for us, it is a natural progression of strong feelings, it is something we want to give you. For most women, the hootch’s in your school aside, sex is a gift that we want to give someone we feel very strongly about. I know that at your age, it is all about how great it feels, and I understand that-but before you decide to become intimate with someone, you need to remember that it is a fragile thing, not to be taken lightly. You have got to respect the woman, you have got to listen to her, and Eli, I don’t care if she is naked with your dick in her mouth, NO means NO. You never, ever continue the activity if she says no, no matter how far you have gotten. And if I hear, EVER, the words “I couldn’t help myself” come out of your mouth in respect to having sex with someone, I will make arrangement to have you permanently incapable of having sex. (“eunuchy, snip snip”). Sweet boy, if you cannot control yourself enough to stop things even when you are so close, you are not mature enough to be having sex with anyone, period.
I love you, and am so proud of you. I know that you have heard things about how “doomed” you are for not having a father in the home, and I hope you are discerning enough to know it is all a bunch of crap. I know that you can see M. and his family, the continuing issues with his parents and with W. in and out of jail, so you can see that even two parent, tow-income families are susceptible to problems. I also know you are smart enough to see that you guys are the only kids in the class with just one parent, yet you are also the only two not in trouble. Please don’t let anyone tell you that we are not a “real” family because your dad isn’t around. In that vein, though, I want to tell you that you will have plenty of time to be the man of your own house; you don’t need to do it right now. You are a handsome, talented, brilliant young man, and I love you enough that I am going to tell you that you can watch, you can learn how to behave in an appropriate manner, you can learn how to treat y
our future wife and kids, and you can grow-but I love you so much that for now, you can just be a teenager. You have so much ahead of you that you have no idea-and I want you to enjoy the now, because it will all happen soon enough.
I love you, Eli. I love who you are, and I love who you are going to be. I love your gentleness with your little brothers, and your happy attitude. I have seen some wonderful changes in the last six weeks, and I couldn’t be prouder of you.