Last week my 13-year-old son and his first “girlfriend” broke up. I use the word girlfriend in quotes because we’re talking about a seventh-grade relationship. It mostly consisted of texting and talking to each other in class and on the school bus. The “relationship” lasted about a month and both are doing fine post-breakup.

But I’m not fine. And not because my son’s first girlfriend is history, but because I heard about the breakup from his father. “Why wouldn’t he just tell me directly?” I asked my husband later that evening after our son and daughter were in bed. My husband shrugged his shoulders and advised me to not overthink things.

I’m a mom. It’s my job to overthink things! This isn’t the first time my son has shared items with his dad but not me. They’re not all dramatic tidbits like relationships ending. When I ask how his soccer practice was, he’ll dutifully answer, “fine,” only for me to later hear him describing to his dad a funny incident from practice that has them both laughing.

Once a year, studies resurface that ask: Do parents favor one child over another? The findings vary as much as the potential reasons why. One theory is that mom favors the child she feels is most capable of taking care of her when she’s old. But I’m curious if there’s a study asking if children favor one parent over another?

Even if there is such a study, at the end of the day, what’s the point? Other than to make parents question themselves? We’re already questioning ourselves enough as it is.

So here’s my approach going forward.

1. Keep the Conversation Going

I’m still going to ask my son about soccer practice, new “girlfriends,” and anything else I can think of. Not offering the information to me firsthand doesn’t always mean that he doesn’t want me to know.

2. Ask Open-Ended Questions

If I ask a yes or no question, I’m going to get a yes or no answer. Had I asked if anything funny happened at soccer practice, I might have enjoyed the story, too.

3. Respect His Privacy

It’s important to understand the difference between your 13-year-old shutting you out and wanting privacy. We’re negotiating this difference.

4. Let Him Know I’m Here By Just Being Here

We don’t always have to talk.

I finally did ask my son why he didn’t tell me about the breakup. He said that he knew how excited I was about him having his first girlfriend, he didn’t want me to be sad. How about that? He was actually looking out for me!

Things aren’t always as they seem.