My soon-to-be 10 year old daughter got a phone call from a boy last week. As I listened to the very thoughtful, obviously well rehearsed message he left her, it took a moment for it to register with me that he was calling her because he liked her. The call wasn't a homework help request or to check the due date of a class assignment. It was a call to chat, to see how she was doing and to arrange to "hang out" together at a school function. It was the start of what I (think, fear and yes, for her sake, even hope) will be years of messages from (to quote my best Blanche DuBois) "gentleman callers" which will be left at our house. Not to mention the hours of phone time or cell minutes that will be burned up as tweens and teens try to negotiate the ins and outs of adolescent body changes, hormonal flux, crushes and first (not to mention, second, third and fourth) true loves.
The following weekend, my daughter rendez-voused with caller boy at the park. As they strolled around (always within our view), Nicole, who is usually a frenetic bundle of energy who can barely keep from bursting out into dance moves or stop from talking long enough to let another human get a word in, walked calmly and quietly next to caller boy, listening intently to him talk, nodding when appropriate and laughing a cute little laugh which clearly she reserved for him because it was a far cry from the snorting that she does at the dinner table despite repeated demands for her to stop. Whenever she passed us, she'd give a small smile which screamed, "I'm so happy right now," but would continue walking with him, self possessed and demurely, in an almost (dare I say it) flirty way in the playground area. Calm, soft spoken...AND flirty? Whose child was that? Certainly not mine.
Aside from the fact that I need to sit down with her and have a chat about being yourself around boys or anyone else, I was struck by (and yes terrified by) how easily and early attraction starts - even before they understand what any of it really means. Later that day, another boy from school started talking with her and told her he wanted to be her boyfriend. As she told me this, I tried to keep my head from exploding and instead, calmly asked what she told him. She said, "That's very nice of you to say, but we should just be friends because I'm too young to have a boyfriend." I was so proud of her for saying that without my prompting and it made me hope that perhaps some of the things we've been trying to teach her were actually absorbed and have started to work in action. But then she told me what she added as he started to walk away, supposedly to keep from hurting his feelings. She said, "Maybe in the sixth grade," to which he replied, "What school will you be at?" My head hasn't explode yet, but listen closely for the boom.