Tuesday, September 14, 2010

IN THE NAME OF LOVE (Diva's first crush)

It was the last night of the last vacation of summer, and my husband and daughter were snuggled up for bedtime story when she dropped a bomb. “Daddy,” she said, “I love someone here.”

My hubby tried to play dumb. “You mean Daddy and Papa?” Nope. She shook her little curls and waited, wanting him to guess. But he didn’t need to; he already knew.

Though there were six families sharing the rental house, not all the kids were created equal in Lily’s eyes. She was clearly smitten with Cole, a boy her age who boasted all sorts of magic qualities: he ran as fast she did, needed to be active just as constantly, and was willing to play Baby Cheetah, a chase-and-growl game that she’d invented and never wearies of. All weekend, she had maneuvered herself next to Cole at the table or at the beach. And when nine kids settled in for a movie viewing, she snagged the spot nearest him on the floor.

She’s 5.

Let me pause for a moment here to hyperventilate. She’s crushing out on boys at five?

Thankfully, it was her Daddy on the mattress and not her Papa. I might have been tempted to tell her that it’s not appropriate to chase after members of the opposite sex until she’s, I don’t know, 25. And then I would have changed the subject to puppies or cheetahs or something.

Her Daddy went the gentle, liberal parent route instead: asking what she meant by “love” and what she thought people did when they felt that way. Even when she said boys and girls who love each other kiss on the lips—demonstrating that the girl has to turn her head sideways—Daddy did not leap up off the floor shrieking, nor immediately start shopping online for future scarlet letter sweaters. He softly explained that kissing is for older people and that she could show her love in lots of other ways (all of them lip-and-hand-free). He was a model of parental calm.

Of course, as soon as she was asleep, he poured himself a stiff drink.

When he recounted Lily’s bedtime confession to me, we were both flummoxed. How did we end up here? We don’t have cable. We limit her TV viewing largely to PBS and Disney. And she sure as hell isn’t seeing a lot of girls tilting their heads to kiss boys in our house.

We began to second-guess ourselves, considering all the exceptions to our careful media monitoring—we had after all, let her watch High School Musical, and, ok, she may have seen Hannah Montana once. Even old Disney movies might have been the culprits, what with smooth operator Tramp using his artful lies to woo Lady, or Mowgli following a human girl into her village after she summoned him with that horrifying come-hither gaze.   

Or maybe it’s just the age. When my husband sounded a note of disbelief that a five year-old could actually have a crush, I reminded him that I knew I was gay when I was six. I knew because I got caught playing an elaborate kissing game that I had orchestrated with a neighbor boy, Coty; the older kid who discovered us called us pansies. While that was the day I got a name for what I felt, I had been convinced for months that I would marry this particular boy next door. Which means, yes indeed, my first crush was also at age 5.

This is not comforting exactly, since I never relented in my ardor. The object of my crushes changed but there was always some boy I adored, from grade school into high school, and on into college and grad school, where I could finally date guys instead of worshipping them from afar. When I got married, my husband stood at the end of an aisle I started walking down two decades before. So I can be forgiven for already obsessing about my daughter’s romantic inclinations—can’t I?

I know, I know: what all this really means is that I need to learn to breathe out and accept that she’s going to keep growing up, no matter how much each new stage startles and unsettles me. Freaking out, overreacting, and nakedly quashing her emotions will just make me the reincarnation of my grandmother, who washed my mouth out with soap when I told her I loved a boy. I must instead resolve not to be afraid of my child’s very natural feelings.

At least that’s what I’ll tell myself until we buy a mountain compound with a nice perimeter fence and a cozy guard house, where any suitor who wants to pass will have to get by Papa first.


  1. Not to mention her uncle is a combat vet Marine who will let you borrow his rifle, course I'll haVe to teach you how to shoot...:) Love your blog bro keep it up!!

  2. Well, well, she is acting just like a 5 year old girl. Walking the beach I heardtwo 5 year old girls talking, "Would you rather marry a rich man who didn't kiss you or a poor man who did. Answer: I'd marry both and get a man in the middle too."