Dear Dr. Tracy,
I'm 45 years old and happily married for 25 years. Our daughters live with
us and are 19 & 15. I have brought them up believing that they must seize
life and take from it what they want out of it. In other words, they are in
control of their life's destiny and no one can take that away or stand in
Our oldest is quiet, reserved, and has only had one boyfriend. Our younger
daughter is very sociable, drop dead gorgeous, and a big flirt. They
confide in me about everything including their sex lives and they tell me
that they are so thankful that they have such a cool mom that they can come
to (their dad us quite in the dark about most of this).
I feel a tremendous amount of guilt over this because I enable them to be
what other moms might call promiscuous. I keep a supply of condoms in the
bathroom closet and they are both on birth control pills. I am actually too
embarrassed to tell my friends how free I am with my daughters because I
fear they will think I'm a terrible mother.
While our oldest daughter remained a virgin until she was 18, our younger
one fell in "love" at 14 ( her boyfriend was 15 ) and they gave their
virginities to each other. They broke up soon afterwards and my daughter
learned a huge lesson from it - she isn't old enough to handle such a
serious relationship. But, I worry that I am setting up my 15 year old to
be what most others call a slut or tramp (even though she has a ton of
boyfriends, she hasn't had actual intercourse since the first). She dresses
as she pleases which includes mini skirts and short tops and doesn't care
what others say or think of her... but I sure do. Have I created a monster
here? Is it too late to take some sort of parental control over her, or
should I relax and trust the role models we provide and her own good sense?
Thanks for your advice,
Your daughters appreciate what a great mom you are, and you have opened the door for them to communicate with you. You have also taught them that they are in control of their lives and responsible for their own behavior.
Now you feel guilty for giving them access to you and to birth control. Well, there's nothing you can do about the past, and feeling guilty about what you did or didn't do is a waste of your time and energy. You can't take back the lessons they've learned, and now they are at an age where they are both becoming their own persons, for better or worse.
The fact that your older daughter is so much more reserved than your younger one should demonstrate that your influence, although great as their mother, is only part of the equation. So relax, forgive yourself, and continue to be the mother they love.
Changing now will only confuse them and make them wonder if any of the values you taught them are worthwhile. Besides, there is very little you can do to change teenage girls. You could encourage your youngest by buying her more conservative clothing, but chances are she wouldn't wear it anyway.
Be happy that your girls confide in you. Enjoy the closeness you have. There are so many mothers who would love to have the relationship you enjoy with your girls. Relax and trust the women they are becoming. You can only do so much and then it's up to them. You can't follow them around and be a sex cop 24 hours a day.
Pregnant teenagers often come from homes where birth control isn't encouraged, where parents are strict and conservative, and where sex is never discussed. Take a lesson from your younger daughter, and stop worrying so much about what others will think.
An Extremist Boyfriend
Dear Dr. Tracy,
My name is Jennifer and I am a 21 yr old female college student. The relationship I am in right now is my second serious relationship, though I have never been married. My boyfriend (whom I've been dating for 6 months) is perfect in every way to me on things that really matter to me, he's sweet, attractive, has goals. Even my friends envy me and tell me how lucky I am to have a guy like him. The problem is that he has issues about little things that drive me nuts. He has very radical points of view on things and we tend to disagree on a lot of things.
For example, he doesn't drink alcohol because he believes that by buying liquor you are supporting companies who support alcoholism and drunk driving. I mentioned maybe taking a vacation to the Bahamas and he went off saying he would never go because American tourists have taken over that area and that we have destroyed their culture. He is Lutheran and is deeply religious. He believes any type of birth control is wrong. I've asked him if we could use a condom when we have oral sex and he refused because although we are not having intercourse, it is the 'principle' of just using the condom that is wrong. We were talking about getting married though we don't plan on doing that for a while and he told me he could never marry someone who didn't believe in Christ. I don't believe in Christ (I used to be Catholic) so I asked him why is he with me if there is no chance of us going further. He said that he was like me once and knows that I will change and believe in Christ again.
I don't know what to do. I don't know if I should 'wait it out' and hope he will tone down a little (he only recently has been like this, he wasn't like this when we started dating) or if I should stop wasting my time and find someone like him, but not as extreme. Please help! Thanks.
Your friends may envy you for having such a great boyfriend, but you know in your heart that you and he have serious problems.
One of the most important things for couples is that they have the same values and belief systems. Or if they don't have the same beliefs and values, that they respect each other's. Your boyfriend is starting to show his true colors, and he has told you in no uncertain terms that his values and beliefs are right and yours are not. He has also let you know that unless you change and accept his truths, that the two of you will never marry. And he refuses to use birth control.
What on earth are you thinking of marrying him for? Do you intend to change your beliefs and become a Lutheran? Do you intend to accept his extreme political views and never go anywhere unless he believes it's a "politically correct" destination? Are you willing to never use birth control and simply get pregnant over and over again, popping out babies until you're exhausted physically and emotionally?
Extremists almost always become more extreme in their beliefs, not less. Chances are he won't change. Chances are good that he'll get worse. He's an intolerant person in a world which desperately needs more tolerance.
So don't waste your time waiting around for him to change. Find someone else, who's sweet, attractive and has goals but who doesn't have extreme beliefs that are so opposed to yours. You are too young to tie yourself up in a relationship with a religious extremist who will only accept you if you believe what he believes.
Too Young To Be In Love
Dear Dr. Tracy,
I am 15 and some people say thats to young to fall in love so they don't help me, but I figured you would.
My problem is this: I am in love with a guy 5 years older than me & he loves me to, but he has a girlfriend. He says he loves me & will dump her for me, but I don't want her to get hurt because she is a good friend of mine.
What should I do? Please help me!
---- Lost in Love
Dear Too Young,
I do think a fifteen year old can fall in love, but I don't think you should figure that the love you find at fifteen will be the love that you will want in your life when you're 25. You will change a lot in the next ten years and so will the older man of 20 that you've fallen for.
Mostly though, you should realize that a man who would hurt one woman will easily hurt another one. If he's willing to dump her for you, then he will also be willing to dump you for the next woman that comes along.
Don't be foolish. His girlfriend, who is a good friend of yours, deserves more from you than to think about taking her boyfriend away. You're likely to have her as a girlfriend for a lot longer than you'll have him as a boyfriend. This is a good time for you to develop some ethics and rules about love. One of the most important rules is that you never take a man away from your good friend.
You should be a good friend and tell this man you're no longer interested in having a relationship with him.