When our son 4M started high school, he transferred from the tiny Catholic school that all our kids have attended, to the large public high school (which all our kids have also attended). Since he hadn’t gone to the public middle school, we had to enroll him at the start of the school year. And, since I work out of town, tasks like that typically fall to Molly. So, she took 4M to the school office to get him enrolled, amid the chaos of the first day of school (at a school which we already knew was somewhat ‘administratively challenged’)
So Molly and 4M are standing at the counter in the school office, waiting for some or another administrative functionary to do some or another administrative function that needs doing, so 4M can take his place in the long line of students at Large Public High. While they’re standing there, quietly minding their own business, a young lady sidles up to 4M, in full view and hearing of his mother, and says, completely unsolicited, “You’re hot!”
Which took Molly back, just a bit. I mean, in our day, the girls were more, uh, subtle about insinuating themselves into our attention. Heck, in my case, they were SO subtle that I’m hard-pressed to recall any attempts at insinuation. But that, as they say, was then, and this is now.
I have alluded previously (although it may have been a while ago) that 4M is something of an All-American Boy – tall, good-looking, athletic, hard-working, honor student, thrifty, brave, clean, reverent, and all the rest . And as such, he has attracted somewhat more than the usual share of attention from the fair sex. Which leaves me somewhere between scratching my head in perplexity, and scratching my head with something more akin to envy. (Molly swears that he’s mine; I asked, just to be sure). Which might account for the density of the hair on the top of my head.
Also, when 4M was still in the Catholic middle school, he attracted the attention of a young lady from one of the other Catholic schools in OurTown. A very attractive young lady, and the daughter of a dentist. Over time, as they passed into high school (she went to the Catholic high school, but that hardly mattered, since 4M had lots of friends that went there), their relationship grew into something of a more ‘serious’ nature.
Molly and I resisted him having a girlfriend, reasoning that such an ‘exclusive’ relationship really only had its appropriate context when marriage was a possible end result. But, we also knew that we didn’t want to ‘drive the relationship underground’. So, we developed a kind of uneasy truce.
Once, a couple years ago, Molly and I went away for a 4-day weekend retreat. We farmed the younger kids out to spend the weekend at friends’ houses, but we let 4M and 5M stay at home, to fend for themselves in our absence. Before we left, we told the boys to mind themselves, because if they misbehaved, our neighbors in the community would let us know. Assured that they would be on their best behavior, we went on our retreat.
A couple days later, in the midst of the retreat, we got a phone call from one of the neighbors, saying that they’d seen a young lady going into our house, and then noticing that all the shades were drawn. I asked my neighbor what, exactly, he’d be willing to do in the situation, and he said, what do you want me to do?
I asked him if he’d be willing to go over and knock on the door, and let 4M know that his parents were up to speed on what he was up to, and that it was time for the young lady to be on her way. Which he did, and he called me back to report on the outcome.
He explained how he’d let himself into the house, and found 4M and the young lady sitting together on the couch, and he’d said what we’d agreed he would, and the young lady left.
“And I have to tell you,” he continued, “this was an EXTREMELY good-looking young lady.”
So, we had the long talk about trustworthiness (following on his late-night escapades with his sister’s car), and what was appropriate behavior for a single young man with members of the opposite sex, and so forth. I even took him over to the girl’s house, and had him apologize to her father (which, though the dad took it with all due seriousness, also amused him somewhat).
4M also convinced us to get him a cell phone, so we could stay in touch with him, given all our respective busy schedules. We looked into it, and if we dropped the long-distance from our home phone, it was actually a decently attractive deal, from a financial standpoint. What we hadn’t fully reckoned with, in our naivete, was that there were other people for 4M to talk to on his cell phone besides us. And his cell phone could do incoming calls just as well as outgoing ones.
One morning at the breakfast table, 4M was especially groggy, and he had an odd look on his face. I asked him how he’d slept, and he said “not so good”. I asked why not, and he got a very odd look, and he pulled me aside to talk privately.
“A girl called me at 2AM,” he said.
What? What in the world did she have to say to you at 2AM?
“She said she was horny, and wanted me to come over to her house so we could have sex.”
Well, I just about dropped my teeth. Two thoughts immediately shot through my brain –
1) That’s a pretty bold little chickadee, right there, and
2) Where were the girls like that when I was in high school? (I'm kidding!)
I did trouble to ask whether he had gone to her house, and he assured me he hadn’t, but that he found the whole experience to be perplexing. Which perplexity was reassuring to me, as his father. And we had a good father-son heart-to-heart on the general topic of “How shall a young man keep himself pure?” (Ps. 119:9)
The thing is, 4M really does aim at living a Christian life, as best he’s able. And I want to help him do that, as best I’m able. But I confess that the combination of his own junior-stud-muffin looks and the, uh, more aggressive nature of the young women of his acquaintance, have presented him with a degree of challenge that I never had to face. In fact, we ended up backing off some in our resistance to his having a girlfriend, because he told us that, if he had a girlfriend, the other girls would leave him alone. Which really has proven to be the case.
And I keep asking myself, where did this kid come from? Neither Molly nor I were super-popular in high school, and while we weren’t considered ugly, we weren’t considered more-than-normally attractive, either. So, a son who has strangers sidling up to him in the hall, telling him how hot he is, in front of his mother, is a little bit outside our experience. I genuinely appreciate his heart, and his determination to do the right thing. But sometimes, I can only shake my head at what he’s been given to deal with. One of Molly’s favorite sayings is, “It takes a steady hand to hold a full cup,” and I only hope that, especially as he gets older, and living on his own, he can have a hand that’s steady enough to deal with the cup he’s been given. . .