Monday, April 18, 2011
My Son's First Crush
Now...it's nothing new for Daniel to like a particular girl. By my count we are actually up to girl crush number five with the phenomenon beginning in second grade. The difference between those crushes and this one seems to be significant. In previous times I could ask what he would do if the girl liked him back and wanted to hold his hand? This would usually make all the blood drain out of his face and he would scurry into the other room and try to wash the offending proposition out of his mind by any means necessary. Then he would be free to eventually return to claiming that he loved his crush-de-jour and would someday marry her....all without dad's pesky observations about what actually having a wife and family would entail of course. Also,...it should be mentioned that Daniel has often fallen in love with a cookie. Those are usually very short affairs that end in a delicious tragedy.
So I was somewhat surprised when my son, the many times over cookie widower, asked me how you know your really in love with someone. I had to admit I struggled a little bit with this one since we were in the middle of dinner and my mind was anywhere else but how to explain to my ten year old son how to know he's genuinely in love. However, the very fact that he can ask that question signaled to me that he had crossed a major threshold and I was watching it unfold before my eyes. First I tried my dad trick of making consider the realities of having an actual...versus imaginary...girlfriend. "But Daniel", I said, "What would you do if she liked you back and wanted to hold your hand or do girlfriend stuff?" To this he just shrugged and waited for the answer to his question. Uh Oh....he really wants to know...now what?
This isn't like the Santa/Easter bunny conversation where I can just fail to confirm or deny the reality of the situation. Daniels figured that one out on his own but if I fail him in this....the consequences may be much worse. But how to explain romantic love to a ten year old when millions of song writers can sum it up in the entire history of recorded music?...much less explain it on a ten year old level. In the end I settled on telling him something that I learned long ago when I had never been in love before...love is undeniable. When you are in love you will know it from the top of your head to the souls of your feet. If your head gets in the way and your asking yourself if what your feeling is really love than maybe should should slow down and take it a little more cautiously. It wasn't a perfect explanation but I was truly at a loss in that moment. After the fact you always think of the super awesome parent things to say but I was just too caught off guard in that moment to come up with something wiser.
As time went by, the situation continued to develop. Daniel sent her a note....she ripped it up and threw it away. She began throwing food at Daniel....and Daniel began to lose hope. It was confusing to Daniel when I explained to him that sometimes, when a girl likes a boy...and vice versa...sometimes they do mean things. They do that to get the attention of the person they like, perhaps because they can't deal with their own feelings yet. But then...sometimes people are just mean so proceed with caution. "But Dad! That's crazy!" he said, "Why would anyone do that?!" Welcome to love and romance in the fifth grade son....It doesn't get any easier as you get older. Eventually the girl put the word out to the playground that she kinda liked Daniel back and Daniels hope returned. Later in the week she confronted him...with another girl flying wingmate of course...and strongly suggested to Daniel that she wanted him to ask her out. Ok...time for dad to pull the brakes on this....ask her out?
Let the parental freak out commence!...
In addition, I can't be sure what these kids are talking about in school. For them, dating may just mean a slightly upgraded version of a play date in which parents take kids to an event like the movies and stick to them like glue. on the flip side, it's also possible that playground talk may be more adult than any of us realise and kids may know more then they let on(now the bloods draining out of my face). That was certainly true in my elementary school years and is a big factor influencing my decision. I trust my son to talk to me if he has questions about what he may hears other kids talk about. We've had conversations like that in the past...but...that doesn't mean I believe he tells me everything. The upside is that Daniel is a capital "H"...HORRIBLE...secret keeper. If he was hearing adult things at school he would let it slip in less than 24 hours and we could begin to talk about it.
In the end it was my Grandmother who helped put it in perspective..."Just let it be friends...let it be sweet", ws her advice. She came from a day when holding hands was actually a big deal for any teenager and while I know that we don't live in that world any longer, I could hear what she was trying to say. It's o.k. to have crushes and like someone else without it having to mean all the things that we might place on it. For them, being boyfriend and girlfriend might be names they are only trying on to see what it feels like. Let it be sweet, let it be innocent, but keep it in strict boundaries...like family attended events or recess at school. Chances are they will make and break alliances so quickly we won't be able to keep up with it anyway.
So while I may not be ready, Daniel is becoming more ready every day and I can't change that. One day. dating and girls will be a common part of his life and nothing to be overly concerned about. But for now...I just want to hold on to the little boy who marries cookies just a moment longer. I'm not ready to say goodbye to those days just yet. While I am proud of the young man he is becoming...and I celebrate each new milestone both my kids reach...it is still hard to grow with them sometimes.
But just because he is growing up...it doesn't mean I have too, and I will continue to tease Daniel about his fear of girls, his marriages to desert items, and anything else I can think of until I know longer have the privilege of having him around to tease. Some of us just never grow up : P
Until next time dear readers....