The worst thing that ever happened to my son wasn’t the time he got hit by a car crossing the street. It wasn’t the time his appendix almost burst and he was rushed into emergency surgery. It wasn’t even the time his only pair of prescription glasses flew off his face into oncoming traffic.
No, the worst thing that happened to my son ended up being a teenage girl named V. She was also the greatest life lesson he’s ever had.
V was pretty and seemed nice, at least in the beginning. Just two weeks after they started going steady, she told my son she was pregnant with another boy’s baby, an ex-boyfriend who she claimed had been strangled by her stepfather for trying to kiss her.
Later, she told my son she was just kidding and that she was still a virgin. She also told my son she wanted him to be her first and went into graphic detail about the sexual things she wanted to do with him.
Did I mention that both of them were only 13 years old?
When she came over to visit, she told us that her parents were cruel and would threaten her and break her things whenever she made the slightest mistake, like failing to clean her room properly. We felt sorry for her and played right into her continued manipulation.
When I wanted to speak to her parents about some of her behaviors that I found troubling (like numerous attempts at sexting), I hesitated, believing her parents would fly off the handle if they knew.
V told my son she loved him, tried repeatedly to get him to sneak out at night and meet her, and then would punish him for not doing so by ignoring him and openly flirting with other boys.
My son, who was once carefree and silly, became sullen and depressed. He was her puppet, yanked left and right on her whim.
What V didn’t know was that the entire time this was going on, my son was telling me all of it, in full graphic detail. He trusted me, and since we fostered an open, honest relationship, he didn’t feel the need to hide the details of their relationship.
I deeply disliked this girl. When I made the mistake of telling my son this, he immediately pulled away from me.
No matter how strong I felt our communication was, I realized if I pushed too hard with my opinions, my son would cease including me in the goings-on of his relationship. So in an effort to stay in the loop, I told my son I trusted his decisions but worried about his happiness.
I told him I would respect his choice to stay with her, as long as his safety wasn’t an issue. But every time V came by to visit? I clenched my jaw, feigned a smile, and welcomed her in my home.
One of my hardest moments as a parent was smiling and chit-chatting with a teenage brat I wished would get sucked into an eternal abyss. It was an agonizing nine months.
When they finally broke up, I went into my bathroom and did a silent jump for joy. My son had caught V in a lie that she couldn’t talk her way out of, and he discovered his breaking point.
She tried to do damage control, blamed others for her mistake (including her parents), but in the end my son finally saw her for what she was: a dishonest, cruel, and uncompassionate young woman who thrived on creating problems and pain for others.
It hurt to see how sad my son was after all the time and energy he had invested in their relationship, but what he gained from the experience was ultimately worth it.
Due to that experience, my son recognized the difference between a healthy and unhealthy relationship. He knew he never wanted to date someone who made him feel like crap — or left him wondering if she even cared about him at all.
He understood that respect, kindness and honesty were qualities he would never compromise on again. He also came to the realization that dysfunctional drama queens, no matter how pretty, weren’t attractive at all.
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V ended up being an amazing teacher for my son. She taught him what he didn’t want, and thanks to her he’s much more selective of the girls he lets into his heart.
So V, wherever you are, I thank you. You were a total jerk to my son, and I couldn’t be more grateful.
Bryanne Salazar is a freelance writer and passionate human rights activist and cultural enthusiast. Follow her on Twitter.