Dear Auntie SparkNotes,
My mom and I have an okay relationship—not perfect, but we get along alright. But my friends mom's gave them "the talk" forever ago. I'm fourteen and my mom hasn't even approached the topic. Anything like that (sex, dating, boys, etc.) is completely taboo in our house. I NEVER ask my mom anything personal or tell her anything that I do, and I resort to the internet or some other means to get info.
Just recently I was offered a cigarette for the first time. I refused, which is something you would normally tell your parents about so they could be proud that you made the right decision, but I hid this fact from my mom because she would freak out no matter what. She also freaks out if she sees me so much as holding a boy's hand, and I'm not allowed to text boys, or date them, or invite them to birthdays, and if I'm inviting people to go somewhere, it has to be girls only.
All my friends openly talk to their parents and aren't afraid to discuss things with them, but I am. If it's not a light topic my mom won't talk about it. My mom got pregnant with me when she was just 15 (only a year older than I am now), and I'm not sure if that has anything to do with it or not. I just don't know how to approach her about this.
The answer, Sparkler, is that you approach her as you would any wild animal hell-bent on protecting its young at all costs: with the greatest possible caution, without looking for a fight, and with the understanding that even the most careful approach may still result in you getting clawed in the face.
Figuratively speaking, of course.
Because as these things go, it sounds like your mom has let fear overrule any of her better instincts in terms of forming a relationship with you—and has adopted a poisonous combination of the world's two most terrible parenting tactics: excessive restrictions based on her own youthful regrets, and zero communication due to her discomfort with discussing them.
And if you're going to get rid of the former, you're going to first have to tackle the latter.
So, pick a calm moment—one in which there's no argument in recent memory, and no conflict brewing on the horizon—and ask your mom if you can talk to her. And then, give her an in-your-own words version of the following wakeup call:
"I understand that you don't feel comfortable talking with me about sex and dating, and I've done my best to figure this stuff out on my own in order to avoid upsetting you. But making these subjects taboo at home doesn't mean I never have to deal with them; it just means I can't talk to you about them when they come up. I want to be able to tell you about my life and ask your advice, and I'd like you to trust me enough that I can do normal teenage things like kiss boys or have male friends without feeling like I have to hide it from you. Can we talk about this?"
And then, talk! With the following guidelines in mind:
- Express your sympathy for her point of view without saying anything judgmental about her having gotten pregnant as a teenager.
- Demonstrate to her that you've made good choices thus far (you can use specific examples, like having declined a cigarette), and remind her that you've never given her any reason not to trust you.
- Stay calm. The more this discussion upsets your mom (and considering the history here, you can probably expect some initial blowback), the more you have to be a paragon of maturity. Do not yell. Do not whine. Do not match her panic with one of your own. And if she starts to freak out, then take a deep breath and say, "I don't want to argue about this, I just want to discuss it. Please don't punish me for trusting you with my feelings."
And then? Depending upon your mom's own levels of confidence, self-awareness, and maturity, this conversation may be the thing that pushes your relationship into a place where information, affection, and guidance all flow freely... or, alternately, it may be the equivalent of banging your face repeatedly against a very unyielding brick wall. But you won't know which it is until you try—and as long as there's a chance to open the lines of communication, you owe it to yourself and your mom to explore it. And even if you don't get an immediate change, you'll still have three important things: a precedent for approaching her in the future, the knowledge that you can handle a tough conversation like the young adult that you are, and—of course—an open invitation to send any and all questions your mom won't answer to yours truly.
Because in case you hadn't noticed by now, here at Auntie SparkNotes Headquarters, no subject is ever taboo.
Have you ever had to initiate a tough talk with your freakout-prone parents? Tell us how you handled it! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.