Dear Mothers of Sons,
First of all, thank you for having sex at least that one time so that we, the future partners/spouses of your son, can participate in many wonderful experiences with the human you created. That includes also having sex with your son. But I’ll talk about that a bit more later–don’t worry, it will be handled delicately.
Secondly, I should begin this letter by clarifying that I am not a parent and likely will not become a parent. Yes, your son will be informed of this. In fact, it is highly likely that we will date/marry because he himself does not plan to be a parent and it’s likely he’ll make himself a lunch appointment with Dr. Snip and celebrate with an ice cold microbrew afterward, holding it between his legs and feeling a little violated but much relieved. If you haven’t discussed this topic of no grandchildren with him at some point and this idea is shocking to you, I apologize. Please don’t blame yourself–well, you may, after reading this letter. But really, it will be ok.
There will be days that we, the partners/spouses of your son will blame you for his behavior. Didn’t you do the same thing, the first ten years of your marriage, when your husband refused to pick up a dirty dish? You cursed his mother for raising a slob, for failing to instill a sense of equality in the kitchen. But you cleared the table all those years anyway, because you still loved the way your husband’s hair looked after a day in the fields–all mussed with flecks of grass or dirt. A boy in a man’s body.
On the days that I fume silently about your son’s lack of understanding of basic life or relationship tenets, I’ll likely wonder how this disconnect occurred. To figure that out, I’ll compare his childhood to mine. Sometimes mine will be wrong, sometimes his will be wrong. For example: the fact that I learned to wash white laundry with bleach so the towels will be sanitized is right. The fact that your son washes towels with sweaters and then complains of all the fuzz will suggest to me that he learned to do laundry only when he went away to college, scrounging quarters for the washers in the dorm basement. Mind you, this is a very minor example, and if I was raised appropriately, will not allow these types of domestic quibbles to impact the relationship as a whole.
So that said, let’s move on to the “big stuff,” as they say in counseling. Yes, your son will likely be asked to go with one of us partners/spouses or will seek out counseling on his own. This is really rather typical with our generation. We get anxious or mad or put on probation for a minor crime like possession of marijuana before it was legalized and we find ourselves telling strangers about things we couldn’t ever tell our parents. Thankfully, Obamacare has created unlimited outpatient sessions at $25 a pop in most health plans.
“Big stuff” includes things like communication. Let’s say your son likes to storm out of the house during a disagreement and disappear for hours without so much as text message. This says to me, the partner/spouse, that your son either got his way a bit too much, or never got his way at all. So frustration on either side pushes him to squeal his car tires out of the driveway and find the nearest bar or friend’s house or long open road, for which his immense cloud of words can dissipate in his overwrought brain. All this to say: Please let your son speak when he needs to speak. But also tell your son that part of speaking is listening to another side. And that just because he says it out loud doesn’t mean it’s true. If your son thinks he is always right, then his partner is always going to feel wrong. The result: stewing silence. Partners who don’t talk don’t have sex (and don’t make grandkids for you.) In a nutshell: If your son can talk to his partner AND listen, then you did your job well.
Affection. Ah, that’s a tricky one. If you lived a stilted, unhugging life, we partners/spouses will pay the price for this. It wreaks havoc on our psyches. We will utter such phrases as: “I must be getting fat because he rarely pats my ass when he walks by,” or “He must be having an affair because he never notices when I’m wearing a special dress.” I’m asking you to hug your son—go ahead, it’s important. Tousle his hair. Tease him in a kind way. I’m asking you to hug your husband. I’m asking you to talk to your husband with kindness, touching and joking with one another, so that your son sees this as normal relationship behavior. I can hear your frustration now. “If the man won’t wash the dishes, then where the hell do you think he ever learned to kiss my neck?” I’m sorry. You’re right. It’s tough. All I can say is that we must lead by example. So kiss that handsome man of yours and laugh at the shock in his face. Keep doing it until he gets the point. Don’t be passive-aggressive by saying things like “See? That’s what a proper couple should do.” Say things like “That’s just because you smell like outside and I love that.” Or don’t say anything at all. Flash the smile he learned to love years ago but thought he lost.
Sex. This is different from affection. You’re raising a son. He’s going to have “feelings.” All teens do. Don’t do what my parents did when I was teetering on the edge of Barbie Dolls and eye-shadow. They glared at me and said “You had better never get pregnant!” Then I watched some film at school about periods and sperm. Don’t get me wrong–my parents’ tactic worked, to an extent. I never got pregnant. But we teens need to know that sex isn’t a dark, dirty strange thing. Nor is it a highly-romantic, hair-flouncing, muscle-flexing, soundtracked background to every love story. Those perceptions only lead to often-scary experimentation with often-scary partners. Teens also DO NOT need to know all the fine details from our parents. They don’t need parents to tease about pubic hairs and rib each other like old pals about “hot girls/boys.” Be cool, Mom, but not THAT cool. It’s a fine line, but if you can navigate it, I guarantee your son and I will have smoking hot sex because we were raised to be both smart and confident about our sexuality, without using it as a way to rebel, self-medicate, or define our lives.
Not to disappoint you, but your son is not perfect and it’s ok if you need to gently tell him that now and then. Especially if he has no siblings to knock him down a notch or two. If you dote, he will eventually develop one of two things: the inability to make his own decisions and the inability to think his decisions may be wrong. Likely, it will be a combination of both. Your son will consistently worry that he must do the right thing because it is what was always expected of him–to be wonderfully perfect–and in the pursuant anxiety, he’ll develop a closed-in belief that what he does is the most important thing. In practical terms, this means he spends a lot of money on very expensive things while declaring that he worked hard for it or he will dump too many women reasoning that they didn’t “get him” or he will begin using lots of drugs because it’s fun and nothing bad will happen. Regardless, he’ll constantly be chasing down this idea of perfection and wondering why it keeps slipping like a shadow around a corner. And while we, the partners of the sons out there, will likely be facing similar personal demons (again–it’s a generational thing), this kind of situation never bodes well for us. It’s difficult to make a perfectionist happy. Mostly, it’s exhausting. And exhaustion leads to bitchiness.
Moms of sons, there will come a time when we will be sharing this man. If my own parents raised me fairly well, then you and I should get along wonderfully. I will respect you and do my best to create a sense of “family” for all of us, in the ways I know how. But please understand that the way you used to speak with your son, whether it be confiding everything or berating him into action or barely speaking to him at all–all of that may become a little different. The reason is that he will be out living his life in a new way. New because his partner gives him different eyes to see the same old landscapes, different ears to hear strange music, the snap of a baseball on a bat, the murmur of morning wake ups. A new mind to forage from. And if this partner to your son is worth her salt, she’s going to echo all of the beautiful things you did teach him about this world. Such as acceptance, duty, quiet unbreakable love, and a sense of future.
Thank you for creating this amazing man.
The One Who Will Make Sure He’s Ok When You Can’t
Author’s Note: This post inspired by the prompt found here: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/08/13/open-letter/