Will and I were just talking about how we want our kids to stand up for themselves. We’ve been referring to Wildling as the honey badger, as in ‘honey badger don’t give a shit’. She doesn’t care what others think of her, she just does her own thing and is happy about it.
When I was in first grade, I had my first boyfriend. Not my first love, not my first kiss (that would be creepy). My first boyfriend. But I was six, so I didn’t really understand the concept, all I knew was I had a boyfriend and I was profoundly uncomfortable with that. His name was something like Jon. And one day he told me he liked me and asked me to be his girlfriend. I was six, and not great with people, and I didn’t realize that saying ‘No’ was an option, so I became his girlfriend. Then he started righting me notes that said things like ‘I love you very very (insert very 100 more times) much’. And even though I didn’t love him or have any feelings whatsoever for him, I played my societal role and responded with the same kind of notes. I remember that even at that young age I felt really silly and kind of uncomfortable doing that.
My parents and teachers seemed to think it was cute. Look, they’re boyfriend and girlfriend. Isn’t that adorable? So cute! No, no it wasn’t. It was terrible. I had to invite him to my birthday parties. My parents took me to watch some of his football games (not real football, I assume it was just touch football, or whatever version of it that was played by six-year-olds). But because my parents and teachers encouraged it, I felt obligated to consider myself this little boy’s girlfriend and write him love notes in response to the ones he sent me. In third grade, when we were in different classes and had grown apart, he broke up with me. I didn’t care, I felt relieved. And at the time I couldn’t understand why people expected me to feel sad and cry. I was eight. Eight! That’s far too young to be emotionally attached, far too young to have a ‘boyfriend’ or even really understand what that means.
I don’t want Mellow and Wildling to ever feel like they have to be in a pseudo-relationship with someone like that. I don’t want them to ever feel that they have an obligation to someone just because that someone likes them. I want to teach them that if a boy (or girl, I’m open minded) likes you, you don’t owe them anything for it. Someone else’s desires don’t create an obligation on you. When a little boy writes them notes professing love, I don’t want them to feel trapped into saying it back.
I don’t understand why some adults encourage boyfriend/girlfriend type relationships in young children. I assume the same grownups that encourage it are the ones who point out a smiling baby trying to interact with them and say ‘look! That baby is flirting!’ Babies don’t flirt. And it isn’t cute or adorable to try to impose dating relationships on children.