Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘how to raise a boy’


Dear Loch,

I’ve recently become obsessed with a television series called Friday Night Lights. I’m a little late to the party as the entire series has already aired, pilot to finale, but I don’t think it makes a difference. It’s an incredibly engaging show with compelling acting and directing, with a camera style that lends an authenticity to the show that makes you feel like you’re really in the room with these people. I was particularly taken with a recent episode called “I think we should have sex” in which the 15 year old daughter of the main characters plans to have sex with her boyfriend and her mother finds out. Connie Britton’s performance is nothing short of amazing.  She is truly shaken by the idea that her daughter is thinking of this and she expresses her feelings with equal parts grace and fury. Though I think it’s different if you have a son rather than a daughter, in no short part to the double standard known to all, it’s still something I’ve found myself thinking a lot about since I saw that episode. Where do I stand on this? What’s my take?

Baby, I realize you’re 4, but they’ll come a day when you’re not, and all too soon this will become a thing, and it’s a thing worth talking about.

First of all let me say I honestly debated not writing on this subject because…well, gross. These pieces of advice are supposed to come in small doses in casual conversation, where you can nod and leave the room immediately after so no one feels uncomfortable. I want you to be able to come to me with any question, have me answer clearly and susintly without judgement, and allow you to go on your way with both the facts, and very limited awkwardness. I also don’t want you to think I’m promoting sex, because I’m not. It’s a big deal and something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. But the truth of the matter is, eventually you’re going to do it, and whether you’re in high school or college or beyond, I think young people get into the most trouble when no one talks about it. If you feel you’re ready (and quite frankly you’re over 16 – because before that, I’m sorry you’re just too damn young) then I want you to be prepared.

The thing is, have no problem talking about sex, but I know that talking to your parents about sex is pretty hideous, no matter how cool the parent. So, I’ll give you the rundown as I know it, and try to keep my personal antidotes to a bare minimum. You should never be embarrassed about sex. It’s not an embarrassing thing. It is, however, a private thing. A personal thing. A not-for-mass-consumption thing.

Ok, so, before you start doing it with other people (preferably one-on-one) you will do it alone. That’s good. It’s an important step. It’s totally normal and everyone does it. You can just tell us one day that you think you need a lock on your door and we’ll get it. No one wants that moment of discovery.

But when it really comes down to it, don’t rush into anything. Not just because adding sex to your life stops your childhood in it’s tracks, but because there are lots of other things you can do before you burden yourself with that responsibility. Don’t feel the need to speed things along or rush to an imaginary finish line. Kissing rocks. When I was a teenager I could literally kiss for hours. I miss that. Really, truly, miss it. The make out years are the best. And once you’re past kissing, there are still tons to things to do before sex. Back in the day we used to say “Everything but…” I remember Granny asking me once what that meant. I was like, “Uh, everything but…pause for her to get it, she didn’t…sigh, Sex. Everything but sex.”  Because once you’ve had sex, it’s always on the table, and you tend to rush right to it and forget about all the other awesome things you did before it was in the game. And I’m not talking about awesome things like playing sports and hanging with your friends. I’m talking about sexual things you do with a partner. I’m just saying, master one set of skills before moving to another. Trust me, women your whole life will thank you.

That’s the thing babe, for the most part, life is long. There will be plenty of time to explore. Plenty of opportunities. Don’t feel like, “I gotta just do it now. I might not get another chance.” There’ll always be another chance, and if you can wait till you’re really in love for sex, then wait. Your dad had sex for the first time at 16 with his long term girlfriend. I was 19 and with my first real boyfriend in University. Had I made different decisions with the boys I talked about in Regrets, I might have been in High School too. But the point is, we were both in relationships. Committed, long term relationships and that’s what I’d advise for you.

Listen, you can have great sex with someone you feel nothing for – mostly because you’re uninhibited and don’t really care what they think – but it doesn’t feel so great after. Try and find someone you really like and trust, so you aren’t self conscious and you want to hang out with them the next day. I’m not saying never have a one night stand or hook up with someone just for fun.  I’m just saying don’t make it a habit. It’s like junk food. Great in moderation but mostly you want to fill your life with healthy stuff that really feeds you.

As you edge your way into sex or sexual situations and experiences, here are some things I want you to know:

First and foremost, if you are having sex, you are using protection. Period. And that protection must be condoms. Unless they have created something that surpasses condoms in ability to prevent the spread of disease and avoid unwanted pregnancies by the time you’re dealing with this, you will be using condoms. Not sometimes. All. The. Time. It is your responsibility. You are in charge. When you’re in a relationship and you know that you’re both monogamous and disease free, then other forms of birth control can be considered appropriate. But NEVER, NEVER just forget. Never. I can’t stress this enough. Sex can be a lot of fun. But it comes with responsibility, and if you screw that up it goes from a good time to a bad time really fast.

I want you to know that porn girls are not real girls. They are naked actresses who are bleached and pumped and waxed within an inch of their lives. Don’t expect real girls to look or behave like that. I think girls today feel the need to perform much more to keep up appearances. Trust me, real sex can be awesome but it can also be pretty funny and sometimes pretty messy. Respect the real girl you’re with. Don’t make her feel she has to be a tanned, gumby doll to please you.

Threesomes are overrated. I’m not saying don’t do one. I’m just saying they aren’t customary. They’re a sexual blip that somehow has become mainstream. When did one partner become banal? Why are we fixated on making it wilder? Different? Crazier? Plain old sex can be plenty steamy. You don’t need to add another person to make it better. Sometimes it just makes it confusing.

Don’t keep anything you tape. All must be deleted. I promise this is excellent advice.

There will come a time when you stop sharing every detail with your friends. That’s normal. It usually coincides with your first real relationship. But until that point, talk about it if you can. That’s how you learn – by combining your, minimal, experiences. I’m not sure if guys talk like girls, but I am very grateful to my friends for all their insight. I never went into any sexual situation blind. I was taught how to do almost everything by my more experienced friends so I never felt like I was floundering. Just be sure not to brag or say anything that might embarrass your partner. Talk, just be classy about it.

Before you add a partner to the mix you might want to consider what used to be called maintenance, and is now referred to as “manscaping”. Take the time to clean up the business. I’m not talking about waxing or anything extreme, I’m just saying, keep everything neat and clean.

Speaking from the other side of the coin I can tell you this. Stay in shape. Cardio, strength, agility and general esthetics all help in this department. Be careful with stubble. It’s sharp and it hurts. Don’t be the guy with too much saliva. Keep your tongue in your mouth until you get to the lips. I remember kissing a very handsome boy in high school who literally had his tongue out of his mouth 2 feet before he got to me. It was all I could do not to lean away. Focus on other areas of the body rather than just the obvious. It’s annoying to have someone come at you with just one thing in mind. It’s going to happen. Don’t be desperate about it. Also, don’t hesitate. It’s a little like driving. If you’re going to change lanes, change lanes. If you’re going to kiss her, kiss her. Pay attention, so you can tell what’s working and take her cues, but don’t waffle or second guess yourself. Make your moves with deliberation. And don’t hook up with someone if you really want their friend. It’s mean and it makes people feel used.

Finally, be open to learning. To having someone teach you the ropes. Really pay attention. A guy I once knew told me he’d dated an older woman who’d taught him everything, and felt she done him a major favor. Whether it’s an older woman, or an open and vocal girlfriend, bother to learn. Be the guy who knows what he’s doing. I’m not understating it to say that guy is remembered long past the others.

Wash your sheets. Make your bed (it’s more appealing to get in to whether you’re alone or with someone else). Be clean. Use hand towels not kleenex. Get to know your own body so it doesn’t betray or embarrass you. Buy good underwear. And for God sake, have fun. Enjoy your youth. Respect your partners and stay healthy and child free.

I’m not ready to be a granny just yet.

xo your mom

Being a Man

Dear Loch,

So, you have a girlfriend at school. She’s new this year and you’re crazy about each other. She’s your favorite and you’re her hero. It’s mad cute. The other day though, one of the “cool” girls (and I say that with a touch of irony as I know everyone is 3 and 4) told your girlfriend that she could sit beside her. Your girlfriend was thrilled. She’d finally been accepted! You, however, were not so thrilled. As it worked out, there wasn’t enough space now for you to sit. You tried to finesse one but it wasn’t happening so you stood in front of your girl and wailed. You cried and cried until I came and lead you away. What I told you then makes me laugh just thinking of it. It went kinda like this, “Loch, I understand you’re upset. I know you want to be with her but you can’t be the guy crying in her face. Go play with your boys. Sit with someone else. Have fun and just hang out and she’ll come back to you. She has to sit with the girls right now. That a big move for her. But she’s crazy about you and she’ll come back just as long as you aren’t the boy screaming in her face. You don’t wanna be that guy.” Honestly, Preschool mirrors Jr. High more than I can possibly say. But it got me thinking. I told you you “don’t want to be that guy.” But what kind of guy should you be? What kind of man would I like to see you become? What could I possibly have to teach you about being a man?

Loch, you have a wonderful father who has been loving and involved in your life since before you were born. You will learn how to be a good man from him. Sensitive but not wussy. Confidence without arrogance. It’s such a relief for me to know that should I not be around, your father will be. Listen to him. He is a spectacular role model, and despite his rocky beginning in the teenage behavior department, he became one of the best men I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. That being said however, women have a unique perspective on what makes a man. What qualities we value varies from person to person but since you are my son, I want you to know what I see as the markings of a truly good man.

When you’re young and dating, people always ask you what your “top 5” requirements are. You’ll answer this question many times in your life. MY list looked something like this:

Top 5 Qualities in an Ideal Man


Sense of Humor/Funny




Ambition is a big one and one that still rests near the top of my list. Ambition is a bit illusive as you can be ambitious without being successful, but, I feel that truly ambitious people eventually succeed because they’re not the type to give up. Determine goals for yourself. Set the bar high and be tenacious working towards them. You gotta be “hungry” and not afraid of the work it will take to get where you want to be. Men aren’t lazy. Boys are. Ambition can be a wonderful trait. It can spur you on when you feel like stopping. It can inspire you to find a new way to do something. It can focus your life like no other. Just be sure that your ambition doesn’t overshadow your life. Push yourself. Aim high. Go for the gold, and all the other cliches you can think of, but never at the expense of your family or friends. Getting where you want is not worth anything if you’re alone. Don’t step on anyone on the way up that you wouldn’t want to see on the way down. Remember who helped you. Help others. Be a man you can be proud of and that others are happy for.

Sense of Humor is on everyone’s list. I read once that to most people sense of humor simply means, someone who laughs at my jokes. Funny would be someone who makes you laugh.  Strive to be both.

Hospitalized in Mexico. Sean brings light to the situation.

Ultimately people just want someone who gets them. Funny people are almost always liked. I don’t mean being a comedian – someone who’s always on or pushing to find the humor – or a comic who is funny for a living, but just someone who enjoys the lightness of life and isn’t afraid to laugh at himself. Sense of humor also means someone who can see the humor in a bad situation. Who can brighten a room and make others more comfortable. There’s nothing worse than people who take themselves too seriously. People who are too self aware to laugh a little. A real man uses humor to his advantage and isn’t afraid to poke fun at himself.

Smart is big. You want to be a smart man. Smart does not mean intellectual. Often the most intellectual people aren’t very smart. Smart, to me, means clever. Well educated. Aware. People who are exceptional in their given field but who are also clued in to the rest of the world. You should have a working knowledge of many areas of life. You might not care about sports (that would be me) but you should know the names of at least 6-10 teams in each league. You should know the names of major sports stars of the day and you should have a working knowledge of how the games are played/scored. (Unless it’s cricket. I don’t get that game.) You may not be a business guy but you should at least comprehend the stock market and interest rates (I plan on putting you in classes for this since this a problematic department for me). Fashion might not be your thing but you should be able to name at least 8 designers and know how to dress yourself so you don’t look like a douche. You may be ambivalent about entertainment (almost impossible growing up in this house) but you should know certain actors, bands, author’s names. I don’t watch reality television but I could have a relatively interesting conversation on the topic. You have to be aware. It’s not enough to say, “I’m a guy. I don’t know about that stuff” or “I’m too busy to watch the news.” Get a clue. Life is happening. Not just your life. Be part of it. There’s nothing duller than a man who knows infinite amounts about only one topic.

Attractive is totally subjective and on the surface might seem shallow or irrelevant. At the end of the day you will be attracted to who you are attracted to and vice versa. It’s a lot of chemistry that is sometimes unexplainable.

Ready in 5 minutes but the man is not afraid of a few accessories.

When I talk about begin attractive I am really talking about taking care of yourself. You’re going to look how you’re going to look. Currently things are looking good and I’m not going to lie, the world is kinder to attractive people. It’s a sad but true fact. What I’m talking about though is taking pride in how you look. Working out. Staying in shape. Respecting your body for what it can do, but also for how good it can look if you put some effort in. I’m talking about showering and smelling good. I’m going to insist on deodorant – preferably non-aluminum. Musky is nice. Too much musky is rank. Get a cool haircut. Put product in or don’t. Have nice nails and non-Hobbit like feet. Avoid sketchy facial hair. Care, within reason, about your clothes. Don’t be too cool to dress up. Be respectful of where you’re going. You can still be manly if you make an effort. Just don’t get prissy about it. Men that take longer than women to get dressed are unattractive no matter how handsome they are. And that’s the long and the short of it, isn’t it? Attractiveness has a whole lot to do with attitude. You don’t have to be the best looking to be attractive. You have to be at ease in your skin. Confident with yourself. And those things are easier to do if you smell and look nice.

Powerful is one of those things I still find attractive but one that no longer makes my top 5. Powerful men are sexy. Powerful men are attractive. Powerful men get things done. And getting things done – being someone who delivers – is a palpable trait. It’s hard not to be attracted to power. It’s addictive. But it can also be hard. It can be vain. It can be short sighted. You want to be someone who gets s#^* done but you don’t want to be rude about it. I’d call it quietly powerful. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for what you want. To let someone know if they let you down. To send a steak back if it’s cooked all wrong or to tell a manager if there’s a problem. Stand up for what you know is right. Stick to your guns. Practice the art of persuasion and learn how to get what you want without being a d*^#. As your Granddad always said, be diplomatic. It’s power…with class.

And though power has it’s place, it’s Kindness that has replaced it on my list. In many ways, kindness has moved right to the top. It took me years to figure this out so I’ll let you know that some women, particularly young women, might not have any idea this is a key quality. They still like bad boys. The men that keep them guessing. The men that treat them like dirt. I understand this phenomenon as, for a time, I was that girl. It wasn’t until much later that I realized love wasn’t supposed to be that much work. It wasn’t supposed to cause me so much pain. That having someone be nice to me was lovely and I deserved it. You deserve it too. Pick kind people to be around if you can help it. Be kind to others. Be empathetic. Think about how what you do or say might affect someone else. I’m not advocating doormat behavior or being the “nice guy”. I’m just saying be a nice guy. Be someone people can count on. Which leads me to…

Honorable. An old word but an exceptional trait. You want to be the kind of man that people trust. That people can trust in. The kind of man that gives his word and follows through. The world has become very wishy washy in the honor department. It’s a trade up world. A world where people don’t think twice about selling out to get ahead. Money is king in modern day America and for that honor has taken a real back seat. I think it’s a real compliment to be referred to as a stand up guy. A gentleman. It speaks to a world of principles that are almost lost to us. And with honor comes…

Loyalty. Real men are loyal. To their friends. To their morals. To their wives. Enough said.

Other things I’d like to see my boy learn on his way to manhood:

Learn to Dance – I’d probably steer you away from competitive dancing, but dancing in general is a phenomenal skill for a man to have. The man that can dance is a real catch. If you can dance to popular music that’s a bonus but learn couple dancing too. Learn to lead. It’s great fun and a terrific way to impress the ladies. P.S. Your dad is awesome at this.

Be Handy – Now this may be impossible as I think it’s more genetic than taught – you’re either handy or your not – but it is my hope, based on the fact that I was quite handy until I met your Dad (who is so handy that I became useless), that you will have some skill in this department. Handy is key. Something is broken? You can fix it. Something needs building? You can build it. I really can’t say enough about this. I remember talking to someone Granny’s age once and she said if she could do it all over again she’d marry someone handy. First quality. I laughed because I grew up with your Granddad who is gifted in so many areas but handy is not one of them. When I married Sean it was such a pleasure to not have to call someone for every little thing. This summer, after 2 engineers, 1 architect and 2 business men tried to put together your swing set at the cottage, your Dad arrived and got it done in 1 day. One day. Get the tools and learn from your Dad. Everyone will be grateful you did.

Change a tire – I am the worst feminist for admitting this, but there are still some things I like a man to do. Changing a tire is one of them. I know I should learn but I still don’t know how. Pathetic but true. But as a man, you better know. My sexism also extends to…

BBQ  – I have a hard time thinking of a man as a man if he doesn’t know how to barbecue. Really dude?! You can’t grill a burger? Not cool.

Pay your own bills – A tough one because sometimes it’s easier said than done, but I feel it’s hard to consider a man a real man if he can’t pay his own bills. You don’t necessarily have to be the provider (sole or otherwise) but you can’t have your girl or your parents or your boyfriend always pick up your tab. We don’t want no scrubs.

Develop Manners – Look people in the eye when you shake hands. Be appreciative. Open doors for people – not just women – people. (Though you should help women on and off with their coats and offer your jacket to a cold girl.) Respect your elders and your juniors. Be polite to waiters and people serving or helping you. And apologize when you’re wrong. The world opens to people with manners. A real man knows that, but would have done it anyway.

Play at least one sport (video games don’t count) – I don’t care if it’s golf, football or anything in between. Sports and men kinda go together. It breeds camaraderie. It bolsters healthy competition. It keeps you fit and it gets you outside. It also helps you shape up to…

Lift heavy things or at least open jars – Please don’t be the guy that can’t open a jar. I don’t want you to be a meat head but at least have enough physical strength to help a friend move or open a new jam.

Finally, Listen – Men are notoriously bad at this. Work against that. Pay attention when people say things. Especially special people in your life. The man that brings you peonies because you said they were your favorite flower, is a man you keep. Try not to be the guy who brings the generic roses with the baby’s breath from the deli.

Here’s the thing: Your Dad was an Eagle Boy Scout. He can make a fire with no match. He can find his way out of the forest with no compass. He can shoot accurately with multiple guns, a cross bow and a bow & arrow. He’s white water rafted and jumped out of a plane. He played football in high school and is now into competitive paintball. He’s a man’s man and you’ll learn multiple skills from him. But he’s also an actor and a dancer and a romantic. He tells a great joke. He knows about wine. He takes pleasure in his appearance. He’s loyal to his friends. He’s a hands-on father. He works his heart out for his career. He remembers my favorite things and puts his family first. He is a loyal, loving man and a person you should be proud to grow up like.

But for goodness sake, avoid being the punk a@# he was in his teens. You blow up an abandoned car and I’ll kill you myself.

xo Mom