My son has a girlfriend.
They met at a home-school event. I saw them hanging out, and I asked him her name.
“K,” he said, which is a big deal because he never asks anyone their name. I’m pretty sure he has friends he’s known for years he can’t actually identify as anything other than “You know, the girl with the curly hair whose mom teaches art at the co-op.”
I asked around and found K’s mom, who turned out to be (gasp!) a normal, pretty awesome human being.
“And K has a kayak like me!” my son, Blaise, yelled as he ran past. That got K’s mom and I talking about paddling, which we both do avidly. It turns out that they not only hang well together, they have the same interests, and they also like the same obscure TV shows (the new Scooby Doo, some secret agent doohicky, Doctor Who). They’re both gluten-intolerant. They both believe in the Loch Ness monster. It’s a match made in heaven.
He asked her to marry him while they were out paddling together. They haven’t agreed on a timetable yet (he’s for sooner, she’s for later), but “…she totally said ‘yes,’ Mama,” Blaise insists.
My son is 6. So is K.
I’ve always had major issues with childhood romance stuff. I thought it contributed to the sexualization of children. If you’re boyfriend and girlfriend, what naturally follows? Don’t tell me it doesn’t. My cousin kissed Travis by the sink in kindergarten, and we were all wildly jealous. I never kissed my preschool sweetheart, Christopher, but I pretty much wanted to. I know it’s all innocent; no one’s making out under the monkey bars. But still, there’s a sense that boyfriends and girlfriends kiss. And I totally didn’t want my kid thinking he could kiss anyone on the lips who wasn’t a family member.
I also frankly thought their imagination was best used for other things. I think kids should spend their time running around, pretending stuff, and hitting each other with sticks, rather than proposing to each other — which Blaise apparently did while they were out on the lake without adults nearby. (To all the Nosey Nellies out there: Adults were on the lake, and everyone was wearing a properly adjusted PFD, so there was no drowning threat.) I thought I’d rather my kids be using their imaginations than thinking about when their nuptials would take place. (He says when they turn 8; she says when they’re in college.)
And frankly, I was just a little skeeved out by the idea of grade-schoolers saying they had a boyfriend or girlfriend. I felt like it told girls their highest goal was to grow up, get an MRS degree, wear a white dress down the aisle, and start popping out babies. I didn’t want my son to have any part in making a girl think that way. I felt it was partly my responsibility to stop this kind of thing.
And then it happened.
Blaise and K spend their time playing. They pretend to solve mysteries, play with the toy kitchen, and run around. I’ve only seen them do a few mildly couple-y things, which are really just friend things: They both used their mama’s phones to take pictures of each other (good ones, by the way), and on the last kayaking trip, went slowly down the river together, forcing an adult to go slowly down the river with them. They splashed each other and ran into each other’s boats and talked, it seems.
They weren’t pretending the baby was their baby or planning some walk down the aisle. They are friends. Boyfriend and girlfriend was the “best friend” model they’d seen for adults, so they said they were boyfriend and girlfriend.
If you ask Blaise, he’ll say that K is his best friend, and I’ve heard her say the same. It’s just incidental that he’s going to marry her. I don’t think he’s schooling K in the patriarchy. They don’t kiss each other, though they do hold hands (Blaise holds hands with everyone). I don’t think they’re going to sneak off and kiss under the twisty slide anytime soon.
And that’s the kind of grade school relationship I can live with.