My son had recently got into an annoying habit of calling me for the slightest thing, when a text would have sufficed. I’d be in a meeting at work and he’d call me to ask if he could finish leftovers in the fridge. I’d have three missed calls at the gym from him and when I phoned back concerned he’d ask where the Apple TV remote was.
So when I was out one evening and there were five missed calls from him in the space of 10 minutes, I didn’t think too much of it.
We then had a text conversation that went like this:
Me: What is it *Evan? Couldn’t you have text me?
Evan: I think *Olivia is pregnant.
Me: I’ll be home in ten minutes.
And I was 20 minutes’ drive away.
My mind raced as I drove like a maniac. Had I been too relaxed as a parent? Had I given him enough advice on the facts of life? Would I be called Gramps or Poppy?
The main thing I thought though, was that if I was feeling anxious, then he would be terrified. We’re both sensitive characters who worry unduly, and I needed to make sure he was okay as my priority. I’d had pregnancy scares myself as a boyfriend in the past, but not until my mid-twenties. It was a lot to deal with at 16.
Evan was beside himself when I got home, so I hugged him and said “Don’t worry, it’s going to be okay”. Because the truth is, I knew it would be whatever happened. Perhaps life would be difficult in a way that I wasn’t sure of at that moment, but we’d deal with it.
I asked him if he’d talked to his mum yet and he hadn’t. We’re separated very amicably and I knew she’d deal with things in the same calm, loving and reassuring way that I would.
“You should talk to your mum when she gets home,” I said. “So, what’s going on?”
And Evan told me what was going on. That his girlfriend Olivia’s period was late and that she was feeling sick. That they’d had a brief moment of unprotected sex. That they’d agreed she’d have an abortion if she was pregnant. And that he didn’t care about himself, he just hated the idea of Olivia having to go through all this. Having to tell her strict parents.
And I had so much love for him for that.
But as he told me more, I knew that this was a false alarm and I started to relax. Olivia had been on the pill for six weeks until they’d had sex on Saturday. It was now Monday - two days later - and Olivia’s period was officially five whole hours late. They’d used a condom.
Then Evan said: “She’s feeling sick. But we did have a big KFC this arvo…”
And in that moment my heart melted. I could see that my 16-year-old son was really straddling the worlds of childhood and adulthood. On the one hand worried about the psychological effect an abortion would have on his young girlfriend, on the other realising that a phantom pregnancy scare was probably down to a bucket of fried chicken.
I calmed him down, got him to talk to his mum and he went to bed after hugs all round.
The next morning I popped over early and he was in the kitchen, whistling as he made toast.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Yeah, great.” He replied vaguely, concentrating on getting Nutella to the corners of his toast.
“I meant… about Olivia” I said.
He stared at me blankly for a couple of seconds and then remembered. “Oh that. Yeah, she got her period this morning.” And wandered off to his bedroom.
And I wished I was 16 again. When seemingly life-changing dramas can be shrugged off nonchalantly, with toast in bed and an hour on the X-box. When switching between being an adult and being a child is easy and transient.
More than anything I was just glad that he’d been able to tell me as soon as he had a problem, rather than suffering in silence. That there was a clear space between us that allows him to be honest about everything.
But most of all that nobody was going to call me ‘Poppy’ for a few more years.
*Names have been changed.
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