The other day, my son, N, looked a little distraught. My wife, KayEm, asked him what was wrong.
“A girl at my school said I was ugly.”
“Don’t pay any attention to what that girl said,” KayEm responded. “She was just being mean. Do you think you’re ugly?
“Of course not,” he said. “I’m the most handsome 5-year ever.”
Judging by the way girls respond to him, you’d be inclined to believe him.
I took N to school one day and as soon as we walked into his classroom, all of the girls screamed, “Good morning, N!” and rushed to help him with his coat and backpack. The teacher told me that this display was a daily occurrence.
Girls are constantly kissing on him, chasing him, and fighting over him (yes, you read that right). Other parents tell my wife and I how their daughters go on and on about N at home. He inhabits their thoughts dreams.
But one little girl seems to have risen above the pack and captured his heart. Her name is Emma. My wife first noticed his affection for Emma while waiting in the carpool line. N is usually bouncing all over the place and yelling out of the window to his friends. On that particular day, he was quietly ducking behind the seats and secretly peeking through the window. My wife asked him what he was doing.
“Nothing,” he replied.
“Then who are you looking at?”
“I’m looking at my friend Emma. I see her in her minivan.”
“Who is Emma?”
“Just a girl at my school.”
“Why are you hiding?” “No reason. I’m just looking at Emma.”
When Emma exited the van, N jumped up and waved and darted into school behind her.
Later that evening, KayEm told me that I needed to talk to my son (he always becomes my son when she disapproves of his behavior) about his relationship with Emma.
After dinner, I asked N about Emma. To my surprise, he replied, “I fell in love with her.”
“Why did you fall in love with her?
“I don’t know. I just did. She makes my stomach feel funny.”
“Do you think she is pretty?” I asked.
“Yes,” N replied with starry eyes.
Before we could continue this conversation, my 7-year old daughter, Nee, interjected.
“N,” she said with a stern voice. “You are too young to fall in love. You’re not even in kindergarten yet. You can’t have a girlfriend.”
After Nee’s thorough tongue lashing, N sat perplexed and looking to me for some direction. I sent Nee away so N and I could talk man-to-man.
I recalled my first crush. I was also five when I fell in love with Keisha, my next door neighbor. She was older and walked me to school every morning. I couldn’t wait to go to school and have Keisha hold my hand. I told N, how seeing her each day made my stomach feel funny, too. I let him know that it was okay to like a girl and that his feelings were normal. At his age, I know that his “falling in love” is nothing more than a simple crush. I have already taught him to respect girls and to always treat them kindly. But my words will be meaningless unless I model that behavior in my relationship with his mother. It is my job to show him what true love looks like.
In the meantime, I’m going to have to guard my son from your daughters. It seems as if they cannot resist his charms.