Dear John: I am a single mom with one 12- year-old son. “Tommy” has discovered online pornography. I have installed kid-proofing software, but it has not been totally successful. Due to my son's persistence, I've had to lock him out from the computer entirely, but he has many friends with computers. My ex-husband also viewed hard-core pornography. Can this trait be inherited, or is it just “a guy thing”? I am trying not to overreact because this hits a nerve from my history with my ex. Still, I'd like to protect my son and educate him about loving, committed relationships. What should I do?
— Tough Choices, in Nashville, Tenn.
Dear Tough Choices: Pornography predates recorded history. Even our cave-dwelling ancestors painted more than woolly mammoths on their walls. Your son's interest in the human form is natural for a boy of his age, and his current curiosity in no way indicates that he will assess his future relationships by centerfold standards. Most of our children's actions are learned responses, and we are their first and primary role models. The love and respect you demonstrate to him and the other important relationships in your life are the best lessons you can give him.
Regarding his current hobby: If you make a “big deal” out of it, you'll be encouraging him to hide this and other interests from you out of shame. Instead, let him know that these kinds of photos make you feel very uncomfortable. Ask him to honor your request that no pornography come into your home electronically or through print or video. Go ahead and set your guidelines. Inform him of the possible consequences, and then follow through. My guess is that after the initial fascination has worn off and, as your son matures, he will become more interested in the joys that real relationships bring.
Dear John: “Max” and I have been married almost 30 years. Our persistent problem is his mother. I am tired of her dependence on him! She has her husband who can do nothing to suit her and a daughter and grown grandchildren who she also manipulates. He spends more time with her than with his own family. Recently, she has gotten more demanding and uses guilt to get her way. This has become a very sore subject with us. On our vacation, he called to tell her he loved her more often than he told me. I am ready to disappear. How can I cope with this?