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OK mamas, admit it: no one is good enough for your son. You know your teenage son better than anyone, and the thought of someone coming in and stealing his heart is simply no bueno.
Whether your son brings home a boyfriend or girlfriend (these things aren't as taboo as they once were, and it's time we talk realistically about our children) you may feel Señora Judgy-pants kick into high gear. Does he/she have my son's best interest at heart? Do they cook? Do they have goals and plans? What about a good family, a clean record and a good personality?
Maybe, the answer is no. Now what?
Once upon a time, each of my sons had relationships with girls that were... how else can I say it? Unsavory. They were manipulative, selfish, dramatic, with crazy families and shockingly bad judgment.
The first time it happened, it was with my oldest son. His girlfriend was a mess, stringing him along with another boy, telling each of them she truly loved them, making suicidal ideations and playing every single one of my son's heartstrings. I had never seen my son so unhappy and yet, so unwilling to fix it.
I demanded they stop seeing each other. I threatened punishment if he went against my word. I was his mom, after all. I made the rules. I was going to protect him even if he wouldn't protect himself.
He said he loved her, that I didn't understand, and slowly I felt him pull far, far away from my grasp. It was a painful lesson, not for him, but for me. I had to give my son the room to understand the relationship on his own.
¿Saben que? He kept right on seeing her. I grounded him. I yelled. I took away his phone. Still, he went back for more. He said he loved her, that I didn't understand, and slowly I felt him pull far, far away from my grasp.
It was a painful lesson, not for him, but for me. The reality was that aside from moving out of state (and who knows if that would have worked, anyway), I had to give my son the room to understand the relationship on his own.
Once I did, things drastically changed. My son was sad, but he told me he realized this girl (whom I'd secretly nicknamed Dread) was a phony. She moved away shortly after, and they never spoke again.
A few years later, it was my youngest son's turn to experience a toxic relationship. This girl was our worst nightmare: sexually aggressive, manipulative, and conceited, and to make matters worse, she had two belligerent parents who loved to make big scenes while they would fight with each other (or their neighbors). We knew early on that the relationship was unhealthy. The girl would ignore my son for a week, then reel him back in with sweet words and promises.
Twice I caught her trying to convince my son to sneak out of his room for a midnight rendezvous, and my son even confided in me that she was pressuring him to have sex – even though he didn't feel ready.
Her parents were frightening – the kind you'd suspect would be all too happy to fight it out on an episode of Jerry Springer, and when the girlfriend told my son (and me) that her mom erupted in explicative-laced rages while her step-dad often trashed treasured items in her room, I was hesitant to speak to them about my concerns.
I had to mete out my response carefully. On one hand, I knew that forbidding my son from continuing his relationship with this girl would do only close the door on our discussions and he would most likely still see her, especially since they went to the same school. I needed to have our lines of communication wide open so that I could keep tabs on him. On the other hand, I was concerned for my child's well-being. He developed depression, and as a child with tic-based Tourette's Syndrome, I saw an increase in his ticking, which was directly correlated to stress.
I decided to have a discussion with my son and forbid myself from using language that seemed judgmental. My focus was helping my son understand what he got out of the relationship and letting him know that the only thing that mattered to me was his happiness and safety.
We spoke regularly about what was going on between them, and often, he initiated those discussions. He would ask for my opinion about her, and I would give it – with caution. I told him that I thought she was a sweet girl (she really could be) but that I didn't think they had the kind of relationship that makes both people happy.
I talked to him about balance, about giving and taking, and about healthy relationships. My husband followed suit, but most important of all, we always supported our son's choices.
It wasn't easy. Trust me. Sometimes this girl would be terrible to my son, and the next day she would come over to spend time with him. Every time, I would embrace her, welcome her to our home, and treat her like one of my own children. I would talk with her and often give her advice as well.
Eventually, the girl crossed a line with my son that he could not forgive. It turns out that he had a high tolerance for being mistreated, but the moment he learned she was spreading gossip about our family, along with her parents, my son wanted nothing to do with her.
I was so grateful he took a stand. Eventually, the depression faded, his tics lightened, and his shoulders were a little more relaxed. He learned something important from that relationship — what to avoid. Silver lining: check!
If you've modeled happy, healthy relationships, you have nothing to fear except a few bruised feelings now and then.
In the meantime, my oldest had started dating a new girl. Her name was Julia, and this October they will have been together for two years. I adore her. She is everything I could want in a girlfriend for my son. She's kind, funny, quirky, smart, caring, forgiving, and loves him with all her heart.
At first, I was a little hesitant to let her in our lives. Too many bad apples had made me cautious, but once I got to know her, and to see how wonderfully she treated my son, I was more than happy to welcome her into our family.
She makes it easy to like her, but I know that whoever my children love, I will love them too. I know that what is most important is supporting our children so that they feel they can come to us when things are difficult. We are their guides, not their dictators.
Mamis, take my advice. When your hijos bring someone to your door, welcome them with open arms. Smile, be kind, hold your judgment and let your child figure things out for themselves. Your child will be able to share more with you, and will look to you for wisdom instead of hiding what's going on with their girlfriend or boyfriend. Plus, if you've modeled happy, healthy relationships, you have nothing to fear except a few bruised feelings now and then.