As the mother of a teenage son, I buy a lot of supplies. There are the clothes, the toiletries, the books, the bags, the computers, the shoes, the food! I buy it all, happily, because that's my job. (Though admittedly having to restock the fridge every second day does get a little bit tiresome.)
But would I buy my son condoms? Is that my job too?
I wondered about that, as I read an article about a mother and her unusual thirteenth birthday gift for her child. Zephy Mahlis created an 'Emergency Kit' for her son, including deodorant, wipes, batteries, movie vouchers… and condoms. In case of sex.
My first thought was, 'Wow, what a super cool present to give your son as he becomes a teenager.'
My second thought was, 'Condoms? Really? Is that a mother's responsibility?'
And then my third thought was, 'Absolutely. Yes.'
Now, it's likely my son would be horrified and mortified if I presented him with a box of condoms. And it is certainly true that, at eighteen years of age, he is more than capable of buying them himself. And there is certainly an argument that a kid who is mature enough to have sex is mature enough to go to the chemist and buy a packet of condoms.
Having said all that… many teenagers aren't particularly mature. Many teenagers don't buy condoms. And many of them are still having sex.
As well as my son, I have two daughters, and I'd have no hesitation in organising contraception for them. It seems like the responsible thing to do, to protect my girls from unplanned pregnancy, just as I'd protect them from illness or injury. And sure, my teenager could take herself to the GP, but why wouldn't I go along to offer support?
Mothers of girls consider the possibility of pregnancy from the moment our daughters get their period. How can we not? There is a reminder, every single month, that our child is potentially fertile. And we imagine how we'd feel if our teenage daughter fell pregnant. What would we do? How would we deal with it? And what would she decide?
But it would be more difficult, I think, if my teenage son impregnated someone else. At least I could talk to my daughter about the options available, make decisions together, be a team. But I'd have no input into someone else's decision, and neither, of course, would my child. What if the girl decided to keep the baby? What if my son became a teenage father?
I know that teenagers do become parents, and that some of these young parents thrive. But it is a life changing event, and it is fraught with problems, and it is not something I would wish for my child.
And that's why I applaud Zephy Mahlis and her Emergency Kit, even if it was created partially in jest. And I would totally buy condoms for my teenage son, as well as for my daughters.
In fact, I'm considering making my own Emergency Kit to present to both of my teens. There would be Panadol and cash and spare undies and a condom and a phone charger and a pen and some chocolate.
I'm just not sure about the movie vouchers. I'm perfectly happy to buy my kids contraceptives, but they can pay for the cinema themselves.