Since the advent of Pinterest and Tumblr, posts venting parental frustrations have been shared, pinned and reblogged with silent nods of understanding, uproarious laughter and the occasional GPOY tag. Now and then, I’ll come across a post intended as humor that really bugs me. When I look at what the post is really saying, it’s just passive-aggressive repetition of the tropes and assumptions that I don’t want to include in my parenting.
So when I saw a post entitled “Rules for Dating My Son”, I felt compelled to respond with the sort of message I do want to pass on. (And yeah, I feel like all or most of this could apply to any child.)
Rules for Dating *MY* Son:
1. I expect you both to contribute to your relationship. It’s most important to me that the commerce between you be LOVE. If you are in need of cash, I will understand if my son provides that for you, but he should have a firm understanding of what such a transaction may mean. If my son is in need of cash (though I pray to God he won’t be) I would appreciate it if you’d help him out. I’ll try to make sure you’re paid in kind.
2. If you show up at my house scantily clad, I will probably offer you a judgment-free cardigan for your comfort. Please understand, I just want to make sure that you don’t get cold. If your dress is truly disquieting to me, I might ask my son a few questions about you to better understand your personal style. This may be a judgement, but I hope I will learn and grow from a better understanding of you and your tastes.
3. If I see any “sexts” on his phone, I will open up a sex-positive discussion with him about your physical relations. I will offer him STI/pregnancy protection and I will ask him to make sure you have free access to the same. If you don’t, I will help you get it.
4. Understand that if I don’t like you, I might raise these concerns to my son. Ultimately, I will let him choose whether to be with you or not. Because in the end, it’s his choice to make.
5. Understand that I will choose to intervene if you’re engaging in risky behaviors with my son. I may call the police or your parent(s) if you’re breaking the law or a threat to my son’s health/wellbeing. I will offer you pamphlets about how to get help because I want you to get help.
6. He’s his own person. He (hopefully) loves his parents and we love him. If you can’t relate to that, come around for dinner a little more often. We’d love to love you, too.
7. No, seriously, he’s his own person. Respect his individuality the way I expect him to respect yours. Trying to change the person you’re with is a dead-end path, full of heartache. Love the person you chose to be with, or choose to be with someone else. If he is not respecting you as an individual, you tell him so. If it is an ongoing problem, you come tell me and I’ll let him know that I don’t think it’s acceptable, either.
8. He has a heart. I raised him to treat others with respect and empathy. Treat him with respect and empathy, too. If he ever fails to treat you with respect and empathy, remind him of his upbringing.
8. b. You might not be a woman. That’s okay with me.
9. If I act like a harpy, you don’t have to like me. There’s a thing between a lot of moms and their sons’ partners. I get it. You can tell me if I’m being overbearing and I’ll try to respect you as a couple. If I resist, remind me that you are forming a life together.
10. You don’t have to get married or legally committed in any way. Choose the future you want to live together.