Last weekend I took my son, my nephew and a friend to our church youth group leader's apartment. They had plans to go get pizza then head to a local elementary school to use their gym for a game of dodge ball. On the way there the topic of career aspirations came up when I posed the question of "What do you want to be when you grow up?" The conversation then went as follows:
My nephew: "I want to go to the community college for the first two years then transfer to the University of Kentucky and get a degree in nursing."
Me: "That's great. You would make a good nurse."
My son's friend: "I really want to get a scholarship to play soccer for Brescia University and get a degree in biology."
Me: "You shouldn't have trouble getting that scholarship. You are a really good soccer player."
My son: "I know for def that I want to get a degree in science and then go work for NASA in Houston, TX. I'm thinking I want to go to college somewhere in Florida or California because, you know, more boobs there."
Me: (face palming and making a sigh)
By the time this conversation had turned into an enlightening glimpse into my son's mind, the moment was over and I was pulling up to their group leader's apartment. I happily unloaded my car full of 13-year-old boys and thanked the Lord that there are actually grown men who volunteer their time to hang out with them. I'm even more grateful that dropping off a car load of 13 year old boys at a grown man's apartment on a Friday night wasn't weird...because their leader is just that awesome.
On the way home I thought about my son and how he is changing as he grows up.
He is a self-proclaimed mama's boy and I'm completely at peace with that. When he was little I would play a game called Who Loves You? with him and his sister. I'd ask them that question then they would answer with names of people who they knew loved them. The game could last all day for my daughter. She would answer each Who Loves You? question with a long list of answers including: Mommy, Daddy, Grammie, Pawpaw, etc.... However, the game was always a very short lived distraction for my son because no matter how many times I'd ask him the playful Who Loves You? he would answer with a joyful "Mommy do!"
I mean, come on, that's adorable.
But now, he's talking about choosing where he will earn his education that eventually will steer him towards his career goals by which campus would offer the most cleavage viewing opportunities. It's a small example of the new trend in my house as I raise a brand new teenage boy. I can't keep parenting the way I always have because he's not the kid he's always been. As he grows I'm forced to grow with him as a parent and adjust where necessary.
I decided it's time to pay closer attention to how I am able to help shape his newly expanding mind so that he doesn't become a complete chauvinistic ass as an adult.
I've come up with a list that I'll call.....hmmm.....
3 Ways I'm Trying To Keep My Teenage Son From Becoming Chauvinistic Ass
1. I don't let him kill hookers.
My son likes video games. When I was a kid we got a Nintendo and saved that Mario Bros princess more than a few times. Never even once, do I recall the princess wearing fishnets and smoking a cigarette as she walked towards the fire-breathing dragon. I don't recall ever having the ability to fatally shoot her in the face. Video games nowadays (use of the word "nowadays" is indicative of my advancing age and wisdom to any of you laughing at the term right now!) Nowadays video games have ratings similar to movie ratings. I've had to pay close attention to those games with an M rating. Those games usually feature very realistic images of people. These people often include voluptuous women clad in black leather and stilettos. There is actually a game where you can steal cars and kill hookers. How can we justify allowing our young boys to virtually kill women for pleasure and let them indulge in near pornographic images of prostitutes then not expect them to have warped views on how to respect and show self-control around women in their non-virtual lives? He gives me lots of push back on this one, but I'm under the conviction that allowing him to disrespect women, or any human for that matter, in the virtual world is one step towards him becoming desensitized to it and then disrespecting them in the real world. When he's 18 I won't be able to stop him from playing the games he wants, but while he is a 13 year old I can stop him. So I do.
2. I respect myself.
If I'm going to expect him to respect women then, as a woman, I'd better dang well be sure I respect myself. I want his image of a woman to be a reflection of me. I don't want that image to be one of weakness or one that resembles a doormat. I want my son to see my priorities in life and recognize that I am one of my priorities. I want him to see me practice self-control yet still speak my mind in a respectful manner. I want him to see how a woman can set boundaries in the relationships in her life while still being able to fully love and show affection in those relationships. I want him to learn how to treat a woman by seeing how I allow others to treat me. I have to find, then always use my backbone. If I want to raise a man of integrity, I must be a woman of integrity. It's not easy. I fail all the time. I have to right wrongs often, but I think that's all part of the learning process for the both of us. I hope by watching how I handle things when I get them wrong that he will see that while we aren't perfect we still get back up and keep trying. I hope he can learn by watching be behave like a lady that women are not delicate flowers, but equals and should be treated as such.
3. I choose my battles.
My son is gross. There's no other way around it. It's not just my opinion either. Ask our friends or family, they would all back me up on this one. His room is covered in Hostess cupcake wrappers, glasses half full of sweet tea normally accompanied by a fly floating on top no doubt dead from sugar overload to its tiny little insect body. His bathroom induces a gag reflex. We are talking toothpaste on the sink, dirty clothes all over the floor and a toilet reminiscent of one of those truck stops off an old two lane highway. We have gone rounds and rounds over this. I've grounded him, given ultimatums and tried scare tactics by sharing with him how one day he will wake up with a horrible ring in his ear and that ringing sound will be that of a roach that has crawled into his ear from under his bed. But after all the turmoil his untidy part of the house has caused, the result is that it's still untidy. As I review the list of things I want him to really get branded into his head a clean room falls pretty low on the priority list if I'm being honest. Maybe before he moves out on his own he will have arrived at the place in life where unflushed toilets will bother him, but for now I will keep his door shut, focus on the war rather than the smaller battles and will only go into his room to retrieve his laundry then quickly shut the door behind me. Whomever he ends up marrying, should he go down that path, will have her work cut out of her in this area, if things don't change before then. I can't make it too easy for his future wife though. I don't want to hand her over too perfect of a man. They will need things to talk about.
Do I think any of these things will keep him from not enjoying a hottie in a tight shirt who walks by him on a college campus? Not at all. However, I really hope that the respect he has developed for women through some of these efforts will keep him from Bronx cheering her when he sees her.
No offense, men from the Bronx. I'm sure you're nice people.