I was dropping my daughter off at pre-school the other day, which is always harder on me than her, when another parent stopped me. It took me a moment to give her my full attention because I was still distracted by my daughter and making sure she had everything she needed for school. Backpack? Check. Hat and mittens? Check. Snow pants? Crap, did I pack her snow pants? Yeah, phew, check. You get the picture. She’s also, always, the first student in line. While all the parents tend to huddle together and chit chat, and the kids run around playing, Barrett is all business. She’s got her game face on, in line, and ready to learn.
So I was running through my checklist and watching Barrett in line when this mom stopped me.
“You’re Barrett’s dad, right?”
“Um, yeah. Sorry, yes.” I recovered, smiling and trying to be polite. Snack? Crap, did I pack a snack? Check.
“I’m ********’s mom,” she informed me. I smiled. Sneakers? check.
“Nice to meet you.” If you can’t tell already, I’m usually not in the huddle. I guess that might be where Barrett gets it from.
“So, I’m always asking ********* when he gets home who his girlfriend is,” she starts, and now she’s got my full attention. What? She’s not going with this where I think she’s going with this, is she? Seriously? They’re five, lady. FIVE!
Inappropriate parental coaching? Check.
“…he always tells me Barrett.” Oh, I can’t believe she just went there. Did I say “five”? I said “FIVE”, right?
“Um, wow, that’s, um, way earlier than I was planning on ever hearing that,” I manage to get out.
“Yeah, I wasn’t planning on having to think about that for another 8, 10 years, maybe? So, yeah, thanks,” I add. I’ve lost my smile, she’s still maintaining hers like she just told me my daughter has nice skin.
Okay, so this is when my brain starts spinning out of control. All we hear about today, in whatever medium you prefer, is that children today grow up too quickly. Kids, girls in particular, are more susceptible and influenced by the media about physical appearance, style, behavior, status, and the list goes on. Children are having sexual relations at younger ages than ever before, teen pregnancy is back on the rise, and this lady wants my five-year old to be her son’s girlfriend?
Don’t get me wrong, I know at this age they are completely innocent and they don’t even know what those terms really mean. But, for me it’s more about it being an identifier. I don’t want my daughter to be anything other than who she is until she figures out just who she is for at least the next decade. She doesn’t need to be So-and-So’s girlfriend until she knows who she is, even in a playful, pre-school way.
And I realize I might be over reacting here, but again, let them grow up on their own schedule. I’m all for schoolyard crushes. They help kids figure out their emotions, how to express them, and deal with the frameworks of relationships and rejection. I get that. I’m not saying I’ll be perfectly okay with it then either, but I know I’ll have to deal with it. I’ll be there for her when her heart aches or when it swells just the same, and I won’t let on just how much mine is aching all the while. But let it happen on their terms, not now, not in pre-school.
So, lay off, will ya, Lady? Let them be kids for as long as they need or want to be kids. Humans are living well into their 80’s and 90’s now, they can afford to have a decade or more of just being kids before they need to start pairing up, can’t they?