When Your Young Adult Son Wants to Sleep with His Girlfriend in Your House
My wife and I talk to our son Scott about every two weeks. Actually he’s been more chatty about his life over the phone from 800 miles away than from behind the closed door of his room during his senior year of high school! It was surprisingly sad when he first went off to college. We visited his empty room frequently. Sitting on the bed, we wondered how all those years went by so quickly when there were times we thought we wouldn’t make it through the day!
No one seems to talk about the quiet but significant fact that we parent our adult children much longer than those “developmental years” that hundreds of books focus on. Try standing in front of the child-care section in one of the giant book stores and look for help with the challenges that start with college and continue on for decades. There’s not much there.
Yet the issues we start to deal with suddenly make those early concerns seem almost trivial. Questions about relationships and career and their own families — questions that have such incredible impact on how they are REALLY going to live out their lives — not just the imaginary ones we had in our minds when we thought we were shaping their destinies at 5, 10 or even 15 years of age.
Okay, this phone call may not really be destiny-shaping but it certainly got our attention. “Mom, is it OK if Jennifer comes home with me during the break?” Jennifer has been his girlfriend since November. We’ve heard a lot about her and immediately felt pleased that Scott wanted us to meet her.
“Sure Scott, that sounds great.” We looked forward to a very new experience. Then, while preparing the guest room, it hit me. We suspected they had been sexually active. Despite attempts to talk more openly about sex in the past, we still found it difficult to do more than occasionally remind him about the importance of safe sex. Were Scott and Jennifer planning on having sex in our home?
My immediate reaction was “Absolutely not!” Then we began to struggle with a number of issues.
We didn’t and couldn’t prevent their sexual relationship at school. Is it hypocritical to insist on no sex while they are here? What if they want to share a room? What if they simply sneak off together each night regardless of having Jennifer in the guest room? Then we started remembering our own days at college. Ouch. We did some things we’ve never told the kids about. What rules?! Didn’t we turn out OK? Do we expect something different from our children? I thought we’d gotten past the tough part.
Baby Boomers parenting adult children. On the one hand, we have an advantage. There is less of a gap between our youth and our children’s lives than we experienced with our own parents. At least it can be an advantage. It depends on how you feel about what happened and whether it allowed you to build a closer relationship along the way. But, it can work against you if you assume too much (that is, if you think you know what your child needs and wants simply based on your own memories instead of really listening).