(This happened a year ago, but it's still relevant... Like I can't believe I hadn't shared this)
Our sport fertility vehicle (mini van) serves as our thought bubble. At any moment it becomes a confessional, a counseling office, an advisory committee office or an executive suite. Who knew that upon buying this minivan it would serve so many mental and emotional purposes for our family. Considering that their father and I are not together anymore, I make certain I use the driving time that I listen to them and pay attention to their emotional needs and deep pressing intellectual queries on life. It has been the best way for us to stay “together” and to continually reiterate family values, spiritual beliefs and emotional intelligence learning opportunities. This day was no different…
I pick up my 5 year old from school. It’s freezing, we are just barely beating the bell and both of her sisters are in the worst possible mood (primarily because they were roused from a nap). So we grab up the oldest and I begin throwing kids in the van to head over to their father’s house for the weekend. As we are warming up the van, buckling in and preparing to head out my 5 year old strikes up a conversation:
5 y/o: Mom, my hair looks amazing. Everyone loves it. They all told me how beautiful I looked. I was saying thank you all day… thanks mom for doing my hair like this.
Me: You’re very welcome. Ok so we are gonna head to your dads now.
Everyone: Yes! This is gonna be awesome!
5 y/o: Oh my god mom now I get to play Mario Cart. The boys at school can’t believe I play it. But yeh I tell them I’m good at it and one day I’ll show them and beat them.
Me: That’s cool. Well I am glad you guys are excited to see your dad. You are going to get some much needed quality time.
5 y/o: Yeh and so excited for Mario Cart.
She tails off and I can’t hear her very well from the backbench, but the conversation then shifts.
5 y/o: Mom Cory told me he loves me. He asked me if he could be my boyfriend.
(I’ve changed the boy’s name to Cory for obvious reasons)
Me: Really? So what did you say?
5 y/o: I told him no. I mean I don’t need a boyfriend. I mean he can be my friend that’s a boy but… I don’t know.
Me: So were you cold as ice or how did you say it?
5 y/o: I wasn’t mean. I just told him that I wasn’t interested right now. That I don’t need a “boyfriend”.
Me: Ok cool. How did he take it?
5 y/o: He kept asking me. But I kept saying no. I mean, relationships are complicated. I don’t need that right now in my life. I have my whole life ahead of me. And honestly, I’m trying to be friends with everyone or at least get along with everyone. I can’t be tied down right now….
I mean I kind of saw this coming. “Cory” is the cutest little boy ever. He makes a point every day to say goodbye to my child as we all walk away from the school. And he says her name in the most adorable sing-song way I’ve ever heard. She also says goodbye to him EVERYDAY and makes a point to give him her own sing-song version of his name. So upon watching this all school year, I assumed that one day someone would say something to someone else.
Needless to say a swirl of emotions filled my heart. I am very frank with my girls about life, love, relationships; I don’t hide anything and I don’t dumb anything down. With girls you can’t because they are smart and eventually when that oxytocin kicks in, intelligence goes out the window.
It was like she has been listening to me or something. I mean she was more adult about it than I was at her age. It got me thinking about gender roles and how school is honestly your first initial interaction with real life. It also had me think about heterosexual love interests. How is it that these two have come to just “like” each other so much? As an adult watching this interaction each day, it’s cute, adorable and puzzling. It’s inevitable that they are learning about the opposite sex through their interaction with each other and they are learning about appropriate interactions and communication and boundaries. What made today the day he asked her? How did he muster up that 5 year old courage? What really made her say no?
So I had a nostalgic moment. We’ve all gotten those affectionate ultimatums, nervously scribbled with pencil on white and blue ruled paper. I think back to the times of kissing a boy under the table in 1st grade or playing “family” near the jungle gym or the groups of girls wildly attacking the group of boys they “like” (and visa versa). So with fondness and bittersweet thought I began to see the disintegration of my daughter’s innocence slowly fading into the gender stratification of the day, as she begins to delve into societally coerced heterosexual “norms”. I see her integrating theory (home/van talks) into practice (real world experiences). I’m proud of her choices and am curious to see how all this talking and learning will pan out when it counts- high school, college and adulthood.
Despite what is going on between her father and I, both of us just want our lovernauts to have healthy and meaningful relationships and friendships. We want her to feel empowered enough to walk away from a bad relationship; work hard in a worthwhile relationship; and be alert to a potentially abusive relationship. I think that’s what every normal parent wants any way. I want her to revel in her innocence and relinquish all naivety. I want her to have friends, lovers and heartbreak. I want her to grow and feel. But for now I’m just glad that her confidence in self, allowed her to make the decision that she wanted and convey that in a respectable and dignified manner.
I'm a former teacher and former college athlete, currently working to make life more equitable for all people. My mission is to get parents to partner with their child's teacher.