My sons are only 2 years old and 4 years old, respectively. Their knowledge about the difference between men and women is mostly limited to the fact that males have a penis and females don’t (“No, son, those things attached to that cow’s udder are not penises.”) and that babies only grow in women’s bellies. But someday they will be teenagers, and if well-meaning, loving moms on the internet are to believed, they will be at the mercy of random teenage girls who will be posting photos of themselves in all sorts of inappropriate ways. Photos which, apparently, will be permanently burned into my boys’ brains and lead them astray into all sorts of trouble. I certainly don’t disagree that teenage girls (and boys) need to make better choices about what they post online.
But seeing as it’s not my job to raise other people’s kids, I thought maybe I should talk to my own future teenage boys instead, to help avoid the problems that might arise because of the inappropriate postings my teenage sons will inevitably encounter.
I get it. I really do.
Girls are pretty, and they smell nice, and it makes you feel funny inside when they smile at you. Especially when they smile at you that way.
Sometimes that smile, or just the look in their eye, or an awkward arched-back pose, or the way they are dressed, can make you think and feel things you simply don’t want to talk to me or Mama about. For some reason even when they pout their lips a certain way it can make your brain and body go so crazy that you forget they look like a duck when they do that.
But let’s be very clear: the responsibility for your desires is yours and yours alone.
As much as we may want to deny it, you’re growing up and turning into men, and your growing, healthy sexuality is par for the course. I’ll be honest, things probably feel more out-of-control in this way right now than they ever will, but though it gets better, it never really ends. Learning how to control yourself is just part of becoming an adult.
We’ll have talks about this stuff over the years. Awkward, embarrassing talks that we’ll both want to end before they begin. Talks about the mechanics of sex, and the virtues of love and commitment, the practical wisdom of monogamy, and how to practice self-control. We’ll talk about trying our best to live according to a high standard that honors yourself and your future wife. We’ll talk about what it means to be men of integrity, to make good choices, to avoid temptations, to have dignity. You’ll have girlfriends, and friends-who-are-girls-but-you-wish-were-more, and we’ll probably like some and dislike others. I hope you’ll respect our opinions because we’ve earned your trust, but we don’t expect that you’ll always agree.
And you’ll mess up. A lot! Probably more than we’ll ever know, really. You’ll think you’re in love when you’re only in lust. You’ll find yourself making decisions based on peer pressure and instant gratification rather than based on what you really want in the long term. You’ll make poor choices out of laziness, or selfishness, or just because you want to rebel. I hope and pray that the mistakes you make, the times you miss the mark you’re aiming for, will be blessedly small. But I also hope and pray that you continue to aim high, and know that no matter what, we’ll love you and walk with you through it.
But the most important thing I want to make sure you understand is that at no time will the way a girl dresses, the way she looks at you, the way she smiles, or the provocative photo that she posts in the CyberBrain or whatever you’re using (because let’s face it, none of you will be using Facebook, will you?) be an excuse for your choices. She is a thinking, breathing, valuable human being. She’s not a piece of meat there to tempt you. She’s not a witch putting you under a spell. She’s not a slut or a whore. She is another human being making mistakes along the way, just like you, and just like me. Her mistakes are her mistakes, and your mistakes are yours.
The onus for how well you live up to the standards we will be trying to raise you to call your own is on you, not on any girl. Don’t forget it.
Love, always and forever,
P.S. If you’re reading this as a teenager and you’re still not completely potty trained you are so grounded, mister.