Oh Boy

Last week, Flora asked me to keep a secret from her daddy. And I did. She has since told her father the secret — about liking a boy in the other second grade class. So that cat’s out of the bag.

Flora has liked boys since day one. She’s already been in love at least twice that I recall. At one point, she was “caught” nearly kissing a boy at her former daycare. While part of me is doing a total freak out (BOYS? YOU CAN’T LIKE BOYS! YOU’RE TOO LITTLE! YOU’RE MY LITTLE BABY GIRL! ARGH!), most of me has been very calm and, I like to think, helpful about these situations.

So: the conversation took place in my parents’ car after I had picked them up from the airport. We were talking about Valentine’s Day, and the VDay parties at school, and so on. I planned on taking the kids to the store on Saturday to get the supplies we needed. As we talked about it, Flora asked, “Can I buy B* Pokemon cards and a card for Valentine’s Day?”

This is their main interaction: at recess they play Pokemon.

I hesitated. I wanted to talk to Dan about it — this is where she asked me to keep the secret. Once I agreed to that, I said, “Well, what happens if you give B a card, but he doesn’t give you anything?”

“That’s okay!” she exclaimed. “I don’t care.”

We’ll see about that, I thought. But I didn’t contradict her.

“You and B are friends, you know,” I said. “You can’t be more than that at 8-years-old.”

“I know. I just want to give him a card for Valentine’s Day.”

Deep, quiet breaths. “Okay, Flora. That’s all right with me. We’ll pick it out this weekend.”

Much like Halloween, I like Valentine’s Day again, a day of hearts and candy, of little gestures of love for family and friends. It doesn’t have the weight of being overly romantic, and there’s certainly not the pressure (and disdain) I used to feel as a single gal who usually wore black on the day. (Sixth grade boy, braces and broken hearts, long story.)

I would like Valentine’s Day for my children to be a day of hearts, candy, and small gestures of love and kindness. For years to come. I would like Dan to be my girls’ only Valentine, again, for years and years. Most of all, I would like to save my children from associating a Valentine’s Day spent alone as a day that is lonely. I don’t know that I can do that. I am not more powerful than the culture.

More than that, though, thank goodness my friend @jayesel wrote about this, because I’m just going to quote from her directly:

“But I didn’t let my shock and fear and ZOMG! reaction show. I couldn’t. I knew that this was one of those moments. A moment when everything can change. It SEEMS small and minor to us, but for them? (rpm note: This is *exactly* how I felt when Flora asked me not to tell her daddy about buying B a card. She knew it was a big deal to her, and she knew she wanted me to know, but wasn’t sure about Daddy yet. I’m glad I kept her trust.) This is when it starts. This is the age where things can change, and we need —*I* especially, as her mother — to be careful to make her comfortable talking to us. About EVERYTHING.

“The boy is not important. She’s [8], after all. But when she’s 15? I want her to want to tell me who that boy is. I want her to want to talk to me about the Stuff in her life— the crushes, the heartbreaks, the first kisses (OMG HOLD ME). I KNOW there will be a time when we’ll both be stewing in Teenager/Mother silence, angry with each other over whatever drama we just had between us. She may even storm off to her room and give me the finger through the wall (NOT THAT I EVER DID THAT TO MY OWN MOTHER. AHEM.) But I want her to always feel like she can share these things with me, talk to me, and I won’t judge (too much) and I’ll give advice if it’s wanted. And yes, I’m her mom first, always. But I also want to be her friend, at least on some level.”

“Some level” for me includes being trusted, being a confidante, being someone to whom she can turn when she is hurt or confused or sad or angry (or, for that matter, happy, overjoyed, etc.), knowing that I will 1. Take her seriously, 2. Listen to her all the way through (note to self: get better at this now) and 3. That I will not tease her, condescend to her, dismiss her emotions. I will be calm, I will be safe haven. Even if (when) I’m doing the Internal Freak Out Over MY BABY.

Happy Valentine’s Day, all! Whether you wear black, red, or pink; whether you make the grand romantic gesture or have take-out Chinese and chocolate (our plan); whether you’ve got a secret admirer or a known sweetheart; I hope you get a little and show a little love today.

*B for boy. That’s not even his initial.

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10 thoughts on “Oh Boy

  1. Kudos to Flora: she has way more self confidence and guts regarding boys than I did at 8. I would have melted myself into the floor before doing anything to let a boy that I liked him, or letting anyone else know that I liked him

    • She was actually nervous about it. I’m going to go ahead and take some credit here for being very matter-of-fact (saying they were friends) and listening to her. I worked to make it a not very big deal, and so I think I gave her the courage to go through with actually buying him something.

      I’ve no idea if she gave it to him yesterday. Haven’t checked the bookbag yet. ;)

  2. I agree with Katrina- on one hand, it’s AWESOME that Flora is all, yeah I think this boy is cool, I want to buy him a present! (because, let’s face it, at this age, the boy is likely clueless, heh) But on the other hand: OUR BAYBEEEEES!

    I guess all we can do is just be there to listen and help them to not feel judged or uncomfortable as they figure out these feelings? As much as it pains US to know that they’re having them, the fact is that it’s COMPLETELY NORMAL! So, you know, that’s the good news. heh The bad news? It’s only gonna get worse as they get older… ;) *passes the wine*

    • Exactly, Jennifer. It’s so tough to navigate the crazy feelings that go with growing up. I want home (and me, and her dad) to be a safe place where they can talk about them — or at least emote them. ‘I HAVE THESE FEELINGS! YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND!’ We do understand, it is normal, but (recalling some of my own experiences growing up) *being told* you are normal doesn’t help. Sometimes, just listening is all they need. No reactions, no judgement, no fixing (that’s gonna be hard for her daddy). And that’s okay. It’s good we’re getting practice, right??

      Frankly, I’ll be happy when my children are safely in their late 20s. The ages of 13 to 25 are not really the most reasonable of times. I’m just gonna hang on for the ride.

    • Yes, NOW I am her culture. But I remember hating Valentine’s Day as a teen and young adult because of the whole romantic angle. I was not a boyfriend-having, boy crazy, romantically minded kind of chick. So, hated it. Wore a lot of black (which, let’s face it, I did anyway). I would like Flora (and Kate and Michael for that matter) to not *hate* it, to treat it lightly starting now and continuing into adulthood, to focus on agape rather than eros. ;)

  3. Do not fool yourself. You will be second guessing yourself about how you respond to these things for the rest of your life (my mom informed me this after I stopped dating my first non-Anglo boyfriend… she knew about, three years after getting divorced and when I was over 30). My wild child daughter decided to run off to live with a young man in Eugene Oregon and the only thing I knew about him was that he made her happy and had a number of very obvious and dramatic tattoos and piercings. Thank God I was appropriately supportive, because at one year this is the happiest and most stable she has been in all her 23 years. What I wanted to say was “Oh my God, can’t you find someone stable locally without horns?!” There’s a reason you can’t judge books by covers… (The horns are hyperbole, but only just)

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