When I was growing up, I never had to “deal” with boys. I spent 14 years of my life in an all-girls’ Catholic school, with one unofficial soiree in Grade 7, and an official school sponsored “interaction” in 3rd year High School. Nothing really came out of those as most of the girls stuck together, and most of the
guys boys kept to themselves and their video games (or whatever games there were back then).
When I was 7, I had one neighbor who would come play with me after school. Not long after we decided we got along, our yayas started teasing each other and he turned mean. We stopped coming out to play soon after and he eventually moved away. I never saw him again.
I had one other male friend Paolo, the son of my mom’s friend. He would come and bring over his He-Man collection and Gray Skull castle. I had the She-ra figurines and for a time, copying clips from the cartoon was our common ground.
Eventually I spent more time with my other female cousin who loved to play Barbie, dress up and fashion, and who at the time, would fight with her older brother and keep him out of our lives. Needless to say, my exposure to boys (and their toys) at a young age was very limited.
You can imagine the how “new” Sam’s public co-ed environment is to me. Dealing with what she’s going through is unfamiliar territory!
So I pick her up one day from school and she says to me: “Mom, I played with Adam* and when Aurora* saw us she said he was my boyfriend.” I almost ran the car into a tree after that.
I asked her if she meant “friend who’s a boy”, and Sam went on to explain that’s what she thought too, except Aurora gave her an alternate “definition” of a boyfriend. And Aurora then proceeded to tell Sam of her own boyfriend and how many times they’ve kissed (which I find out later on, is not at all true — thank heavens!).
My first instinct was to tell her to stay away from Aurora forever. What kind of six-year old has these notions already in her head! And she’s corrupting my innocent daughter! (Warning: frantic, panicky, conservative Catholic mother talking here) I purposely haven’t exposed her to those things yet because I feel she’s still too young.
I knew from all those #BetterMe seminars that the best thing to do was to ensure a safe, open line of communication and not exaggerate my reaction, despite how I was really feeling inside. I gathered my thoughts and parked the car (lest I really steer myself into a tree) for a semi-casual discussion on the topic.
Thankfully, Sam is logical and very smart, and can truly be reasoned with. And thankfully, if only by the grace of God, she really listens to whatever it is I say (Dear Lord, let this be true ten years down the road!).
We discussed that boys are ok to have as friends, just like it is having girls as friends. They’re fun in different ways. “The boys like playing with me because I run faster than them mom,” she said. At six years of age (and seven and eight and beyond), we said to focus on what’s important, which is making friends and getting to know other people. So when someone asks her if Adam or Brian* or Tom, Dick and Harry are her “boyfriends”, she can reply “yes they’re friends, who just so happen to be boys. I play with them because they’re fun.” End of story.
Kissing was something we would leave only for members of our family as a sign of respect. And kissing on the lips? Well that’s just for dad ;).
I didn’t stop her from listening to her friends talk about their “boyfriends” because — let’s face it — some first graders are more open, and maybe are more exposed than others. All I told her was to simply, always tell the truth. I hope it’s enough to keep her from trying to outdo them with their “fake” kissing triumphs.
For a while it brought out a genuine interest in all things boys. She learned about Marvel from her cousin Rocco and loved the story of Captain America. It was nice because I felt she was opening up her world beyond the usual girl toys, and taking an interest in other things. In fact her 6th birthday was Captain America-themed.
She and Jamie were quite thrilled to meet him and Thor at Disneyland too.
We all fell in love with Big Hero 6, and Sam started taking an interest in the motion picture’s toys. They are pretty cool if I do say so myself.
Most recently, her cousins introduced her to Lego’s Chima and the Animal Tribes’ battle over the CHI. That has since been her current interest.
I thought that our “boyfriend troubles” were over, and my husband did not need to buy a shotgun off Amazon.
Until one bedtime not too long ago, Sam whispered to me, “I like Chima and Marvel mom but I want to keep it a secret.” When I asked her why she said, “because they* said that since I like those things then I must be a boy. But I’m a girl, right? So do I need to like only girl things?”
Deep down I wanted to find out who this kid was and pin him (or her!) to the wall and give him (or her!) a piece of my mind.
Thankfully there was wine, and thankfully (again), my daughter is very logical. It was easier to sort out with a few examples and the confusion was abated. I also supported her decision in not wanting to discuss it with others if only because she didn’t want to have to keep explaining herself. “I’m open-minded Mom”, she said, “but what if others aren’t?”
“Then,” I said, “that’s their loss and not ours.”
Which essentially sums up how I feel about these two situations. And my only wish (and prayer) is that we as parents consciously teach our kids about the right kind of open-mindedness. I know that some of us try, and it’s not easy. So let’s help each other through it. Maybe it starts with being open-minded ourselves, and not getting caught up in the world’s predisposed notions of who we should be or what we should like.
I’m grateful that Sam is truly open to everything and anything, and that she sets a wonderful example for Jamie. In Sam’s innocent unbiased eyes, there’s nothing that is just purely for boys or just for girls. She’s always been allowed to do whatever both boys and girls can do or play with whatever boys and girls play. Hopefully, as we try and encourage her both ways, she will develop a little sense of how the world could work better (just my opinion).
When Sam’s school opened their after class enrichment program, she chose basketball. “I want to play with Daddy someday,” was what she said. As it turned out, she was the only girl who signed up for the program. Her coach says she shows promise too — so we are signing her up again this spring.
There are days when she likes to dress up in her sparkly skirt and fancy jewelry, and will do nothing but be a princess in a Royal ball. There are other days when she wants to save the universe and beat the boys at their own game. Personally, I love it that she can do both.
* real names and people changed for confidentiality purposes.