Revealing the secret world of adolescent boys and girls.
Rory’s parents had discovered that Rory was sexually active and wanted to know how to handle his request to have Jen (his girlfriend) “sleep over” when they were planning to be out of town. They decided to talk it over with someone because they had different opinions. When Rory, who was now seventeen, had posed the question, he had told his parents that he had seen me and suggested that they call me.
Waiting between sessions, I could hear Susan’s and Mike’s raised voices on the path to my office as I sat working at my desk.
“This is the door to her office.”
“No, this way, over there!”
After a few minutes of this I decided to stand at my entryway to guide them.
Mike was a tall man with the same broad shoulders as his son, the football player. He looked like he knew where he was going, but he had already passed my office and was opening the door to the toolshed. Susan was still at the very top of the path. She was on her hands and knees, admiring an English ivy pushing its way out between two rocks. I thought she might be trying to take a cutting. I waved them both in.
Hurrying around my largest tree, Mike arrived first and shook my hand vigorously. “You need to post a map out there just to get around your backyard!”
“Good idea, it can be pretty confusing,” I said.
As we sat down inside, I could see what Rory meant when he said that his parents were in different places. Mike coughed and complained loudly for several minutes while Susan cleaned off her ivy cutting in the bathroom. She seemed oblivious to her husband’s frustration with the delay.
“That’s an unknown ivy, Dr. Ponton, very unusual. Thanks for letting me take some.”
Although Mike appeared eager to begin, I sensed that it would take some work with this set of parents to move into the topic of their son’s sexual behavior. And I was right. Nearly half the session went by before we were even close to the subject.
Then Mike let me know exactly what he was thinking. “It’s against my values to ever have this kid sleeping with some girl at our house. He says he’s not going to have sex, but you can’t trust him, Susan.”
“Mike, it’s his choice, his body. You can’t control everyone,” said Susan in a frosty voice that hid more than anger.
“I know I can’t control everyone, but it’s my house.”
“It’s our house, Mike.” I heard the tenor of her voice rise to meet his.
“Let’s see if I’ve got this straight. Mike, it is against your values for Rory to have a girlfriend sleep at your house. Susan, you have a different opinion. You think it might be okay under some circumstances. Mike, help me get the full picture here. What values does this violate?”
Taken aback by my question, Mike paused and stroked his beard. Susan smiled sweetly, seeing her husband on the spot. “Yes, dear, what values?”
“He’s a kid. He’s irresponsible, well, some of the time. And, simply put, I own the house. I can decide what goes on there.”
“That’s a value, all right,” snorted Susan.
“Susan, we probably wouldn’t even be here if you hadn’t encouraged him to sleep over at Jen’s house. Then he gets caught, and the Ludtmanns are not speaking to us.”
“Mike, you’ve got that wrong. I knew about it, but I did not encourage it.”
“Well, you didn’t tell me it was going on. I thought he was at some football camp until Jen’s dad calls me at the office, threatening to sue. I was left looking pretty stupid—sports camp, huh?”
Here Susan blushed and started fumbling in her oversize carryall.
“Susan, Mike, what was your communication like before this happened?”
Drying her eyes with a bunched-up Kleenex, Susan said, “Usually a lot better than this. After this situation with the Ludtmanns, everything has fallen apart.”
“Exactly what was the situation with the Ludtmanns?”
“Well, in all fairness, we’re still not sure. Jen had Rory and two other kids sleep over at her house when her parents were out of town. Then Mr. Ludtmann got sick, and he and his wife returned early to find four teens asleep on their living room floor. Apparently he went over the top and started shouting that he was going to have Rory arrested for statutory rape.” Here Mike’s tenseness relaxed, and he smiled. “The way Rory tells it, he had said, ‘Mr. Ludtmann, there’s nothing going on here, but I would like to remind you that if we had been having sex, your daughter is older than me. She’s eighteen, sir.’ The kid’s got your sense of humor for sure, Susan. He’s a winner.”
Both of Rory’s parents chuckled at the imagined picture of their son and Mr. Ludtmann. Hearing her husband’s laugh, Susan relaxed too. “Mike, I feel like you’re blaming me for this whole thing, and that’s unfair.”