Respecting your child’s sexual awakening

By Peter Ehrlich

If you have a teenage son you may relate to my story. I happen to have an eighteen-year-old boy.

When he was fourteen, I began to find girl’s hair clips around the house. I didn’t give it much thought other than “isn’t that cute?”

At fifteen, on occasion I found a girl’s pink or light green sock lying around in the house. The homemaker dad in me simply attributed that to the notion that one of my son’s friends, a girl, got her sock wet, took it off and forgot it at our house.

He had no steady girlfriend and there certainly weren’t any sleepovers, so what else could it be?

Looking back, the hair clip and socks were the first sign that there was something in the air.

What was in the air? It’s called testosterone. And there was thirty times the level of testosterone in the air than when he was twelve! That’s a fact.

This morning I was sorting through the laundry, and — lo and behold — I found two girl's socks and a kind of ballet-dancing top.

Socks are one thing. I’ve had lots of women take their socks off for me in my time. Since I didn’t have a foot fetish, it was never a big deal.

I can’t imagine that my son has a foot fetish. I’ve seen his girlfriends and I can tell you, and I say this with all due respect, there’s no need to think about feet yet.

A top however is a whole other ballgame. A top like the one I found just doesn’t come off — it gets taken off. There’s a difference.

Recently, we had to move. My son said this to me; “Dad, I don’t care where we live, but your bedroom has to be far away from mine.” Because I listen to anything my son asks or says with uncompromised respect, I didn’t burst out laughing.

Then, when I was alone a few minutes later, the full implication of his request came home to roost.

What he was really saying was thus: "Dad, I plan to have sex both with myself and my friends who are girls, and I’d like to have the freedom to do so without wondering whether you can hear me."

Fair enough. Repressed sex is bad sex. And if you can’t let loose, it’s repressed sex.

Imagine if my son was your son and his message to you was reversed? How would you feel about this; “Dad, I don’t care where we live, but I’m a eighteen-year-old teenager and I want my bedroom to be as close you yours as possible.”

I don’t know about you, but if he said that to me, I would immediately be on the phone to a child psychotherapist. “Doc, you gotta help me. My son won’t leave my side. I think he may be asexual”.

Yes, it’s a scary when the first signs that your child is interested in or having sex emerge, but at the end of the day that’s exactly what we want for our children as they become healthy adults.

One could argue that — as long as our children are practising safe sex — we should meet their sexual awakenings with sighs of relief. We must respect and honour this, their greatest transition.

Not only respect it, but encourage it, and that takes courage.

The kind of courage it takes to go out a find a house where your new bedroom is “far away” from your teenage son’s.

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