Pucker Up

How much do you know about your teenager’s social life? How much does he or she know about yours?

I can’t remember ever catching one of my sons in a furtive lip lock. (I suspect that both are smart enough to retreat to the leafier areas of our yard, to their rooms, or to a friend’s house.) I’m also all about respecting their space – at least I think I am, though I haven’t asked about their personal lives lately, which is… well… about respecting their space.

I kept a closer eye when they were younger, of course. And also made sure there was protection – in their bathroom.

As for my own social life, as a single parent I prefer to be certain of someone’s affections before they meet my children. And what about you? When do you tell your kids you’re in a relationship?

Some time back, I was caught in a goodnight kiss at the door. At that point, I’d been divorced for several years already. But the concept of my dating wasn’t the norm for my kids. My son chuckled, I blushed, and other than good-natured teasing, that was that.

Casual Sex? Relationship Sex?

Apparently, seeing me smooch was a source of amusement and admittedly, a small measure of embarrassment for me. But I was also relieved. There was no particular push back; my kids felt secure in our relationship, and the stability of the home we shared – just the three of us.

I am also of the school of relationship sex when possible, rather than the revolving door variety. I’m certainly not against casual sex (what divorced man or woman hasn’t had their adventures after a long marriage?), but my preference is something more connective, intimate on a deeper level, and consequently, considerably more rare.

Want sex? Want variety? I say go for it – but safely and discreetly.

Bring it home to your children? Not the example that I, personally, find advisable.

Managing the Single Parent Social Life

I confess. My social life has been pretty scanty the past few years. (Thankfully there were moments that wasn’t the case, and I still have a few delicious relationship memories to make me smile.)

My focus has been on raising kids and keeping our household intact – no small feat. That has meant long periods without dating, so when and where I might pucker up was entirely moot.

We each have a different tolerance for being alone, a varying set of guiding principles for what constitutes a relationship, and whether or not that warrants involving children. We also sense how much or how little our kids will expect of a new adult presence in their lives.

Will he or she become part of the daily landscape? Will our attentiveness to their needs suddenly be compromised? How might this “stranger” alter the dynamics of the routine, much less their emotional security?

Marriage, Divorce, Affection and its Absence

Not long before the end of my marriage, one of my sons explicitly asked why his dad and I didn’t kiss more often. He wanted to see us show affection in front of him.

To say that I was dismayed by this remark is an understatement. He gave voice to something I already knew, and didn’t want to face. And while I realize that the defection of affection is all too commonplace in marriage, I believe that the presence of touch between adults is not only good for them, but excellent for the kids.

According to an article in Psychology Today:

Recently, a therapy client told me that when she was growing up, she never saw her parents display affection towards each other. When her dad came home each evening, he gave her mom one quick, stiff, perfunctory hug-and that was the sum total of the “affection” she ever saw them share. There was no juice in that hug. No love; no joy. Her parents were civil; they were polite; they were friendly. But they weren’t loving to each other. And my client grew up wondering what was wrong in her home… When you model affection for your kids, it promotes a more positive attitude which makes them more resistant to challenges in their lives… It models for your kids what healthy love looks like. Parents teach much more by example than by words. And kids imitate what they see much more than what they hear.

Do I think my sons missed out?

Yes.

Do I wish I could have given them the model of a man and woman living together – happily?

Absolutely.

Their Turn, My Turn, Your Turn

Have I never caught my kids in an embrace because there weren’t any, or because they’re discreet?

I assume it is the latter, and not the former – precisely because I respect their privacy, and do not pry.

I hope the times they’ve seen me in a relationship, they’ve experienced a model of healthy affection. Not too much, and not too little.

These days, my teenagers are actively encouraging me to date – to go out, to meet men, to get involved. I take it as recognition that they’re spreading their wings, and wish to see me spread mine. I’m happy to oblige, if I can.

  • At what point do you leave your teenagers to manage their own romantic adventures?
  • And what about you? Ever been caught in a lip lock on the front porch by one of your kids?
  • How much affection do you display in front of your children or in public - with your spouse or significant other?

 
© D A Wolf

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Comments

  1. I need to work on not deflecting my husband’s affection sometimes. It’s just hard for me to “get into” the embrace from behind when I am making turkey burger patties. Raw meat and affection – don’t really mix for me…

  2. “Some time back, I was caught in a goodnight kiss at the door.” Well, how about walking in on sex? The classic situation, and perhaps one of the best experiences a child can have, if handled properly. Deal with it as a natural situation, and explain it to the child afterwards, positively. I remember my experience with my parents, after the initial shock. “Wow, they’re still at it. And I’ve got their genes. Good for them. Good for everybody.” My step kids have walked in on us. Perhaps their biggest shock may be in discovering that folks in their 60’s are still active (which is rare among our friends however). One of my daughters said that she knew the marriage was over when my former wife insisted on separate beds and there wasn’t any activity going on. She got that right, all right.

  3. p.s We show healthy affection in the home in front of our children (now adults) – sometimes kiss or hug and do some silly things. Nothing that should embarrass anyone, but be seen as a good or natural sign – parents (and serious relationships) have a loving life. We always kiss goodbye when we go anyplace. But no PDAs. This mirrors my experience with my parents. I remember how my mother would sometimes sit in my father’s lap when they discussed things or were relaxing (he was 6’4”, she was 5”1”).

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      PDA (Public Displays of Affection) are a whole other matter, aren’t they? (And cultural as well.) There are certainly PDAs that I find completely acceptable when I’m in Paris (and engage in) which I wouldn’t do in the US. Environment and context are all so important – in this, as in so many things. Love the example of your parents, Paul!

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