Every once in a while, a father’s parenting experiences a monumental shift. Something happens – either to him, around him, or because of him – that thrusts his relationship with his kid(s) into a new light. These are the stories of those moments. This time, John, 48, from New York gets busted by his son for having a hidden stash of hand-me-down nudie magazines, and learned a valuable lesson in the process.
When I was about 16 or 17, my father gave me his collection of Playboys. I guess it’s sort of an old-school tradition, ‘The handing down of the nudie mags.’ I thought it was the coolest thing ever at the time. I’d bring my friends over and show them off. All of this was kept secret from my mother, of course – I’m actually not even sure if she knew my dad had them, come to think of it.
Anyway, years went by, I left home, and started my own family. I kept the magazines – partly for sentimental reasons after my dad passed away, partly because I thought they might be worth money someday. But, when we moved into our first house, I just hid them away in my closet and really didn’t give them a second thought.
READ MORE: The Fatherly Guide to Porn
When my oldest child, my son, was around 12 or 13, I walked into our room and caught him looting through the entire stash. My jaw dropped – partly out of anger, and partly out of embarrassment, I think. Our eyes locked, and he knew he was in trouble. “What are you doing in here?!” I yelled. “What are you doing looking at those?!”
“But Dad,” he said, “they’re your magazines.”
Damn, I thought. Checkmate.
I could’ve hit him back with, ‘You’re right. They’re my property, and you have no right to be going through my stuff…’ But I knew what he meant. How could I get bent at him for looking at something objectionable when it was, in fact, mine to begin with?
So then came the talk. Not the sex talk, but the talk about what the magazines were, and why I had them. I told him they were passed down from Grandpa, which made him laugh, for whatever reason. I didn’t say that it was a ‘guy thing’, because I didn’t want to promote chauvinism or anything, but I told him that they were very special to me because they were a gift from my father, and another way to remember him.
The part that struck me – and, to be honest, scared me a little – was that he seemed almost unfazed by the actual photos. I asked him if it was the first time he’d seen a naked woman before, and he said it wasn’t. Of course he and his friends had Googled ‘boobs’ at some point. Like, obviously. I was naïve to that, I guess. But it was good to have this talk.
After a few minutes, I wasn’t pissed or embarrassed anymore. So, I used the situation to talk to him about women. But I told him that women should be respected, and that some women – a lot of women – find stuff like those magazines disrespectful. We also talked about beauty standards, a little bit about pornography, and stuff like that. I don’t know how much of it sank in – I think he was just glad he wasn’t in trouble anymore. But, I like to think I was able to turn what could’ve been an awkward situation into something a little less awkward, and possibly teachable.
My wife – his mom – knows I have the magazines, so I didn’t have to swear him to secrecy or anything like that. I just hid them in a new spot, a much better spot, and told him that if he ever had any questions about ‘stuff like that’, he shouldn’t be afraid to ask me. Based on our conversation, I don’t think he will be.