My son is nearly 13. When I was his age I’d already had two “boyfriends”, by which I mean a boy I was “going out with” for , say a month or so. We hardly ever spoke, of course, let alone went anywhere together. I didn’t mind. It was the status and the idea that he “liked” me that mattered.
When one of them tried to kiss me in a rare moment of actually sitting next to each other, I turned away quickly. I was quite grossed out, honestly! We never spoke of it, but were awfully awkward around each other for a while.
All that to say, I was in no way aware of what an actual real relationship entailed at age 13. Respectful communication was certainly not part of the picture! So I was really impressed by my son a few weeks ago.
I have thought for a long time that my son is not the most mature of his age group. He tends to have emotional melt downs regularly (still). He shuts down when I try to talk with him or advise him about his behavior (hint: boys don’t like this, men either. That is a reminder for me, as much as you!). He still hasn’t even lost his eye-teeth.
Therefore, I thought it was sweet when he admitted to me one day he had a girlfriend. They actually talked on the phone, emailed, chatted online. They tried to make plans, and managed to hang out a few times with others around. It wasn’t the center of his life, but he was enjoying it.
Yet, as all romantic relationships do at this age, this one eventually came to an end. When asked, he said he was sort of sad, yet it was okay.
A month later his “ex” showed up with some other friends at our house for a party. My son was taken by surprise. I asked him after the party ended whether it had been awkward with her here. His response completely surprised me:
“We decided not to let it be awkward when we see each other.”
Wow! Many adults not only let it be awkward with their ex, but make it awkward and uncomfortable to be anyway near their ex. He was behaving more maturely than many adults I’ve known!
I was really proud of him for having the awareness to realize he can make the choice to not let a relationship be ruined just because it changes form. I am proud that he actually talked with her about it.
This also makes me proud of myself, my ex husband, and my partner (my son’s step-father). We have all been able to model respectful, kind and loving behavior towards each other.
My ex and I chose consciously to remain close friends when we got divorced. We decided that our relationship wasn’t ending, it was just changing form. My ex and my partner chose consciously to be friends.
If hard feelings arise, we work through them consciously, prioritizing our care for each other. As we navigate the challenges of having a split family we do not feel broken at all. We feel expanded, and loving.
Though we haven’t been perfect by any means, we make respect our highest priority.
I see that it is in large part due to these parental dynamics that my 13 year old was able to be so respectful and mature about his break up.
He imitates what he sees around him.
The respect and kindness essential to healthy relationships of all kinds is what he has witnessed most of his life, and therefore it has now become his way of interacting with others.
If we care about our children’s future relationships, it starts by modeling healthy relationships at home (without worrying about perfection!). It is that simple.
Thank you, sweet boy, for reminding me of that!
How has what you were taught by your parents influenced your romantic relationships? Comment here.