Affectionate couple sitting together on beach watching sunset

Parenting: Nah, Mom, I don’t want a girlfriend

When my son was very little, he was so gentle and sensitive that I wondered if he would turn out to be gay.

I wouldn’t have had a point of view about it, since my basic approach to parenting was live from a curiosity of who this amazing being who’d landed in our live would turn out to be.

Though I had a lot of experience and training in working with emotionally disturbed children, the most useful source of information on what was required to parent Arran was Arran. I would watch and listen to him and do what he seemed to be asking for.

His distinct heterosexual bent was not long in emerging. Sasha, Velia, the female objects of his desire started emerging at about age 10. I remember standing in front of a jeweler’s window while he looked at jewelry and wondered if the girl of his current dreams would like it. Those attractions were nearly as fleeting as dreams and fortunately I was able to persuade him that the items in the city jeweler’s window were a bit out of scale for a fourth grade Valentine’s Day gift.

“People get together and say, ‘Let’s have a baby,’” his eighth grade teacher was telling us at a meeting preparing us to parent teens. “I’ve never heard of someone saying, ‘Let’s have a teenager.’” Having raised three young adults herself, her approach was refreshing and matter-of-fact, if still on the idealistic side.

We let them spend the night together!

As usual, Arran was miles ahead. A tall dark young woman had arrived on the scene in his eighth grade classroom and they were inseparable. Stuck with that strangely persistent but futile illusion that regulations by adults can keep teenagers from doing what teenagers will do, school officials tried to cool it off. They had about as much success as a straw fence in front of a tidal wave.

Since both parents were okay with it, they were allowed to spend the night with each other. The kids and the parents all followed the principle of not bothering to tell people what they cannot hear, and the school remained blissfully ignorant (as far as I know).

This affair ended abuptly when the young lady made a common but deal killing mistake. “She tried to control me,” Arran observed. That ended that.

Passion flared again when he moved from the confines of his grade and junior high school to the wilds of high school. A new influx of kids joined the class, doubling it in size and doubling the romantic possibilities. It was love at first sight for Arran and Alicia, who was conveniently enough in our carpool across the Golden Gate Bridge into the city. They were way too close for the comfort of high school officials, but they could easily make up for lost time when out of school.

Alicia was quite the drama queen, the non-favored sibling of two raised by a family with lots of money, lots of marijuana around for the adults, and not too much time or interest in their older daughter. She had her own unique take on life.

Noticing the intense stress and state of near hysteria in which she lived, I invited her to weekly sessions I host of “Bars,” an Access Consciousness technique that reduces stress, promotes relaxation, and releases limiting beliefs and upsets without effort. Her reaction, which she shared with Arran later, was to think I was saying she was “psycho.” She didn’t last long at the private high school they were attending. The last I heard she was being homeschooled, had been engaged to a guy at 17, turned gay and was engaged to her lover at 18. Her love of drama apparently continued unabated.

Our house became the safe house, the place where kids came to hang out when they’d passed their curfews and had no place else to go. The hot tub was a scene of gatherings until the wee hours, fortunately rather distant from the bedroom of sleeping parents. We did, however, notice the cast of young women who came, developed unrequited crushes on our son, left their bikini tops behind, and left, faded away, or remained “just friends.”

By his senior year, Arran was spending his spare time with a junior girl, Sierra. When he took a gap year after graduating, this continued through her senior year. Recognizing that they were going different directions when he headed to Massachusetts for college while she headed to Eugene, OR, they called their relationship to a halt, only to recommence when he returned to the west coast after just a semester in the northeast. Eventually it petered out, he moved 3 hours north of us to Chico, CA, and his romantic life was no longer played out beneath our eyes.

Having succeeded incredibly at raising a capable and independent young man, now almost 23, we rarely have the privilege of seeing him. It takes a significant event to bring him down the road—something like better St. Patrick’s Day parties in the city of San Francisco, or a high school reunion with free food and booze.

One of these occasions occurred on the Saturday before Father’s Day when he clambered down the steps of our hill side house into the living room as if he came in and out a dozen times a day like we do.

It was a rare soporific Sunday morning and we sat on our deck overlooking San Francisco Bay, enjoying being entertained by his stories of his life and pleasantly oblivious to the intensity of the rare sun in our “fog belt” neighborhood.

He doesn’t want a girlfriend!

Of course I asked about whether he had a girlfriend. “Nah, I don’t want a girlfriend, Mom. I like to do what I want. If I want to disappear for three days, a girl always wants to know, ‘Where did you go? Who were you with?’ I’d rather have my freedom!”

I was actually thrilled with this response. Many parents might wonder why. Do I not want my son to be happy? Don’t I want grandchildren?

Of course I would like my son to be happy. Unlike most people, especially parents, I do not have a pre-conceived idea of what that should look like. In other words, the point of view that he’ll only be happy when he is suitably matched up and en route to the white picket fence and 2.2 kids is not mine. How many people expect that of others based on the principle of misery loves company. In my world, the expert on what will make him happy is him, not me.

I remember driving him home from school in the city when we passed someone pushing a stroller with several kids on foot in tow as well. He expressed amazement that someone would choose that. I was happy for that as well. Having kids is a choice that has such life-changing consequences. I was thrilled he was aware of that, as that awareness on his part would have far greater consequences in his life than any warnings I could issue.

Having kids too soon, before being financially established, is one of the ways I see people cripple their lives. One of the few factors that predicts school and life success is the age of the mother when a child is born, with 25 being the dividing line. It’s also a huge predictor of lifetime earnings, with the income of people who have children later being significantly greater than those who have children before their education is complete and careers established. I couldn’t do anything to encourage him to wait—but I was totally happy that he’s chosen to. His comment on turning 20 when we remarked he would no longer be a teenager was, “I’ve successfully avoided teen pregnancy.”

We’re happy he’s not dating

But the bottom line on why I’m happy he’s happy NOT to have a girlfriend is that he’s choosing for himself. He’s not going onto autopilot or being a prisoner of his hormones, worshiping what some have called “the golden vagina.” He’s taking a look with a clear eye at what relationships in this reality are most often made of, and making his choice not to settle for that.

Despite what might seem to some to be an impossibly lenient laissez-faire attitude, I am still a mom. I had to put in a little comment to inspire him and keep him asking questions.

“You could choose someone like your mom who would let you have your freedom,” I said.

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