What do Dan Marino, Arnold Schwarzenegger and my son have in common?


Almost on a weekly basis, I talk about condoms with my son.

I tell him, “rain or shine, wear your raincoat.” My son thinks my condom crusade is hilarious. He doesn’t have girlfriend, he’s only 15, and he says he hasn’t had sex so he finds this obsession of mine to be “ridiculous.”

I may be crazy, but as parent, I feel my window of opportunity to make an impression on my son is now. Catching a your teen at the right time in the right mood to absorb your words of wisdom is a huge challenge. You need to be physically and mentally being there at that rare moment when your teen wants to talk or listen.

My recent obsession with “the condom talk” came about from the NBC show Parenthood. I love that show and one of the characters, Drew, reminds me a lot of my teenage son. A few episodes ago, Drew, who is still in high school, got his girlfriend pregnant. It was torturous to watch him visibly upset and waiting around while his girlfriend decided how she wanted to handle the situation.

It made me realize that should my son decide not to wear his raincoat one night, for whatever reason, he has absolutely no say in the life-altering decisions that follow. That comes with the territory of being male.

Football great Dan Marino has learned this the hard way. So has Arnold Schwarzenegger. So has John Edwards. All are fathers to children they had while married to another woman. Whether they were intentionally trapped by these women who preyed on their wealth and stature, we will never know. What we do know is that their mistakes have cost them dearly.

What does their situations say to our sons? What can we teach them from this? Everywhere you turn in the news these days there is some high profile man being accused of lying or cheating in sports, in business or in life. When the news leaks, and they finally come clean, they apologize and say they made a big mistake.

When my kids are caught doing something wrong, they usually respond,“But everyone else was….” There is a reason generations of parents have dished out that famous line, “If all your friends were jumping off a bridge would you do it, too?”

But somewhere along the line of growing up, we mature and realize that “everyone is
doing it” is not a logical argument and that avoiding mistakes takes smart split-second decision making in the heat of the moment. That’s not easy, especially for teens.

Like most parents, I have worried about a lot of things as my kids have grown up — from their playground antics to their Facebook antics. Watching them step out into their own lives and make their own decisions and mistakes might be the hardest part.

When the news broke yesterday about Dan Marino’s extramarital affair and his love child, I jumped on the chance to use Dan’s story in my condom crusade, making it dinner table conversation. I’ve accepted that my son may think I’m crazy mom — at least right now.  But if my voice can creep inside my son’s head, and guide his thinking when the brain turns off and the hormones or alcohol kicks in, then all my efforts to be present as a parent will have paid off.

Parents, how do you approach finding the right time and right method to drive a point home with your teens? What news events have you used as your teaching moments?


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