I first realized my teenaged son was looking at porn when I innocently picked up his Ipod. It wasn’t a cell phone. It was – I thought – just a music player. Remember those blissful days when you just didn’t know things? I had no idea his shiny new birthday gadget connected to the internet. At all. I only became aware of its mystical powers when I moved it off the bathroom counter (that’s right: in the bathroom. Sigh.) and it suddenly turned on. Well I’ll be, I thought, this isn’t Nickleback. Just kidding. Of course I did the Mom Screech when I stumbled onto it but looking back all these years later, I guess it was more than a little amusing.
He was my firstborn son and thankfully, was pretty discreet about all things adolescence. Trust me, I’d heard plenty of horror stories from friends about crunchy socks strewn on the floor and apocalyptic sheets stuffed into bottoms of hampers. Really now, save for that wee bit o’ porn, I’d managed to get through the grossest stage of his young male development relatively unscathed.
But fast forward a few years. Now my youngest two sons are teenagers and I’m about to lose it. Don’t get me wrong. They’re not heathens or sexual sociopaths or Jared Fogle wannabes. They’re fine. They’re just… well, I’ll say very comfortable in their almost-men skin. And by this I mean sometimes-naked-almost-men skin … usually viewed as a blur … running down a hallway … after a shower … because (naturally) … all the towels are still in their rooms.
At first I wanted to blame rap music. You know, all those songs about so many hos, so little respect (you feel me, dawg?). Thanks to crude lyrics and really (really) bad swear words in every other line that they insist on belting out in my car, it’s clear my sons have become desensitized to offending their mom. I resist the urge to constantly complain about their taste in music because (a) I know shaking muy fist ala John Lithgow’s Reverend in Footloose would color me crazy and (b) looking back at some of the stuff I sang back in the 80s (um… Cocaine… Touch Me… White Lines… I Might Like You Better if We Slept Together… just to name a few off the top of my head) doesn’t really give me a steady leg to stand on. But man, oh man, they are far from embarrassed in front of me.
Worse than the music they prefer are the movies they find hilarious. It might be just a coincidence of scenes I’ve happened to walk in on, but I’ll be damned if Seth Rogen and his friends aren’t – you know (cough) releasing energy — on any given weekend in my home. And smoking (don’t say pot, Mom, it’s) weed. Oftentimes in the same scene.
Gaaaack. How are they not embarrassed to watch this in front of me?
What’s a mom to do? Apparently (*shrugs in defeat) gather together for Sunday night family viewing of Game of Thrones. When in Rome (or rather … Westeros…)
I appreciate the openness of our relationship, I really do. It’s just colossally different than the relationship I shared with my own mom. Good lord, like it was yesterday I can flash back to when she took us to see Jaws. It was a double feature – and immediately after we were duly scarred for life of ever entering ocean waters again, the Deluxe Theater in Queens was showing the (at the time) risqué flick Lifeguard (ahem, for the young’uns: a sexy, Baywatch-esque summer sleeper). My sister and I sat like church mice, hoping my mom didn’t realize we were still there when the movie began. Fat chance. The steamy opening shot of suntanned boobies wasn’t on the screen a minute before she was yanking us out of our seats.
Dayum. Different times for sure.
Ah well. I suppose as parents we have to take the good with the mortifying, right? While I’ve seen my share of blurry, hairy asses to last me a lifetime, my kids are also un-embarrassed to talk to me. And I do love the ease in which conversations flow between my he-men and me. I didn’t talk to my mom about anything R-rated, let alone which 8th grade girls were doing less-than-ladylike things in the back of a school bus. Gawd, would you ever? So I do try to keep an open mind (and my face from scrunching too tightly) when we do talk. Our open dialogue isn’t always a laugh a minute and we’re far from yukking it up over condoms and opioid use. Some of our chats see blips of discomfort (the school bus detail — good lord) but there’s never been a rock-paper-scissors shootout between my husband and me to see who’s Going There This Time. I imagine if your kids are comfortable talking, any conversation’s a pretty damn good one, even a squirmy one. It’s all good.
I’m still not a fan of those masturbation flicks (hell, maybe my inner fear of millennials living in my basement in adulthood is at the root of that psychosis) but I guess it could be worse. So, I’m sorry for the judgement, Seth Rogen, and really, no hard feelings. I hope you’ll accept my olive branch (but seriously, can we talk about all those bongs…?)
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Tina Drakakis blogs at Eyerollingmom and recently was featured in Huff Post. She appeared in the Boston production of “Listen to Your Mother: Giving Motherhood a Microphone.” Her work has been featured in NPR’s “This I Believe” radio series yet she places “Most Popular 1984” on top of her list of achievements. (Next would be the $100,000 winner on that home improvement reality TV show of 2003 but her kids won’t let her talk about that anymore). A witty mother of four, she takes on cyberspace as @Eyerollingmom on Twitter and Eyerollingmom on Facebook & @Eyerollingmom on Instagram. Her collection of essays, A Momoir, can be found here (agent interest ALWAYS WELCOME!)
While I was more… conservative, when my kids were small, these days they regularly talk in front of me as easily as they do their friends… I think my first mom-shock came when I was walking through Walmart, picked up an oddly-shaped item in the electronics section, and idly wondered what it was. “Looks like a dildo to me,” said my 11yo nonchalantly. I yelled “Where is your mom filter??” earning snickers from a 30-something guy behind us in the aisle, but the dam had broken. My son has no mom-filter. It’s odd and endearing and I do worry about him growing into a heathen, but he’s still quite respectful with other adults and careful around his grandmothers, so I guess something about manners has sunk in.
All we can do is our best. Good luck, Mama!
Growing up in a family with a vet and a nurse… well, conversation about dressing changes, infections and disease, semen and pregnancy checking around the house were more than an occasional occurrence. Honestly though, I have more of a mom filter than a dad filter.
Regardless, when I think back to the last odd conversation I had with my parents (as a twenty something), a conversation about the ethics of the porn industry and the morality of masturbation if it didn’t involve porn, and whether masturbation is essential to being comfortable with your sexuality when you do end up having sex (all from a religious perspective) comes to mind… Honestly, I would say filters are overrated–these are important things to talk about (particularly the porn industry and the underbelly of it–child pornography, violent pornography etc.–which unfortunately is supported even if you are watching what would be considered “soft-core” or “regular” porn).
I guess I also tend to be a pretty open book myself and I’m not afraid to talk about things that may be controversial or awkward as long as I know the person I’m talking with.
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