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7 Thoughts on Love Inspired by My Son

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As my son, a middle-schooler, was finishing up an hour long phone call with his "girlfriend" of a month, I overheard him say "I love you" before he hung up. I was stunned. I happened to be scanning through a book online, ironically, called "Loving Yourself" by Sherrie Campbell, Ph.D. and immediately closed my iPad, drawing an absolute blank as I looked up in an effort to process his declaration. This was a first. Even with all the signs of his independence, such as going to a movie on a date, making his own arrangements with friends to get together, and being incredibly organized with his day to day activities, I wasn't quite ready for what I consider such an adult showing of emotion. So many questions...

  1. Where did he get it from? "I love you" has not historically been a term used with any frequency in our home. Certainly not when their father, my ex-husband, lived with us. I say it on occasion to my children but not every day. I didn't grow up in an affectionate environment and try as I may I just can't get used to saying it all the time. I'm also not a fan of over using it as some parents do with every phone call and interaction. We show our love in all sorts of different ways during the day. Could his influence be the result of "better living through television?" Score one for the media.

  • Is is PC? Is it politically correct for a twelve year old to say "I love you" to his girlfriend? Clearly the implications of such a statement aren't the same as when you're, for example, fifty and dating. I'll admit, one of my first thoughts was, selfishly enough, why hasn't my boyfriend of three months said that to me? And the answer is because with age comes depth, presumably, and it would bring the relationship to a different level. When you're twelve, it's sweet and innocent. It's not the words "I love you" that give it meaning. It's the intention.
  • Will the sassy minx break his heart? It's hard to let go as children get older. I just watched an episode of Modern Family where Sophia Vergara's character, Gloria, gets a little competitive with the girl her son Manny invited over. In the scene, the three of them are in the kitchen having chocolate milk. The girl tells Manny that adding a touch of salt will make it better. Gloria takes offense at her trying to influence her son and says "Salt is for the popcorn." Manny tries it anyway and likes it. He insists Gloria try it. She does and claims she doesn't care for it, but off camera she admits it was "delicious." I'm pretty sure watching him go through a heartbreak will be tougher on me than it will be on him.
  • Is he going to bounce around from relationship to relationship? Yes, he probably will! And that's a good thing when you're in seventh grade. Not so good when you're my age. I love that the trend in his school, and maybe this is all middle schools, is to write the date when they first started going out on their binder. There's only so much space for that. The boundaries are in place.
  • Am I setting a good example? Upon review, yes. I date. I haven't declared anyone "the one," no one is moving in, there hasn't been any drama, and he's only met one guy who he knew before anyway. And fortunately we parted on good terms. My son and I have talked about some aspects of my dates just so he knows I'm also not shunning relationships. And it opens up the conversation if he has any questions so that I'm not prying into his personal matters. One of the things that bothered me about my relationship with their father was that my son never saw us hug or kiss. I want both of my boys to be comfortable with displaying affection. I hug them as much as I can but they're not always receptive. I understand that. It would be nice for them to see what a healthy relationship looks like. I'm trying!
  • Have I covered all the basics of relationships with him? We've had "the talk." From the beginning I used the correct names of body parts. He doesn't giggle when he hears the word penis. He knows that women have "boobs" but are referred to as breasts and that "nuts" is okay to use in the locker room but not in everyday language. We've discussed birth control to an extent. Or at least he knows that condoms are too expensive to use as balloons. I have a collection of art museum magnets on the refrigerator, one of which is a nude in repose. A friend of my son's asked "Why do you have a picture of a naked lady on your refrigerator?" I replied that it was better known as "Nude on a Blue Cushion" and we saw it at the National Gallery of Art. Get over it.
  • What can I learn from my son? Hearing him say "I love you" at such a young age made me think both how innocent he is and how hardened I am. After all, I'm still working on loving myself. I do not throw those words around. And maybe that's too bad for me. Am I missing out on something? I'm proud of my son for having the emotional maturity to express his feelings and am also impressed with the confidence he shows within his peer group. Like the time he saw me waving to him from across the field and yelled out "I love you mom" in front of his teammates. Glad I had a tissue on me!
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