So, my daughter is almost 11 now and she’s filled with lots of pre-teen angst. I know, right…already? In an attempt to connect with her instead of constantly fighting with her over her messy room and the slime in her carpet, I’ve been trying to initiate lots of conversation about what’s happening in her life. She mostly talks about our cat (because he’s really the highlight of all of our lives), and what her sims are eating for breakfast (eggs, tomato and cheese, if you’re wondering). Just recently she’s been talking more and more about a boy at school. Instead of going with my instincts, which would be to tell her all boys are stupid and horrible and she should just forget all about them, I’ve decided to be that calm and supportive mother who listens without being negative and preachy. It’s actually been really easy, mostly because what she has to say makes me laugh.
When I was 10, I don’t think I even considered boys as anything other than an annoyance. I think Natalie feels the same way now, and it warms my heart. She tells me stories about how this boy in her class likes her. This started awhile ago, and slowly the plot is changing. First it started with her being super annoyed by him. She told me she couldn’t stand him and that he’s basically the stupidest person she knows (aside from her brother). She has a funny nickname for him, and we all call him that now too. She’d tell me about how he wants to be her boyfriend and how she just can’t be bothered with him because he’s sloppy and annoying. I think things are changing though…or at least they are getting more hilarious. The other night she told me that she heard him strategizing with his friend. She said she overheard him saying, “I’m not going to ask Natalie to be my girlfriend for FIVE DAYS and after that, she will like me. I just know it.” We laughed about that. Then it got even better when she told me that he makes up songs to sing to her. He sings to her?!! WHATTTTT?? “I cleaned my desk, Natalie. Do you like me now?” I almost died laughing at this. I told her that in all honesty, the singing would win me over. I mean really, if that isn’t the cutest damn thing you’ve ever heard, we just can’t relate. I also told her that most boys put zero effort into things, so this is amazing. I mean really, how many memes are there about guys who basically do nothing and expect girls to like them? A LOT.
I’m not a fan of the boyfriend at 10 thing. I was raised by parents who didn’t let me date (I did behind their back) until I was 18. When I was a kid, I’d ask my parents if I could go to school dances and my mother would say, and I quote: “Dances are mating rituals. You are not going to be involved in that until you are out of my house.” My father chased a boy (the one I later married), out of our driveway once in his underwear (santa claus patterned), because he knocked on the door. He then yelled at me, “You’re turning this place into some sort of brothel or something.” I was 17 and it was 10 am in the morning. So, that’s basically where I’m at too in regards to my children. I get it. But…I know that I lied and did what I wanted anyway so, I realize that my kids will also do the same. Instead of being crazy wardens like my own parents, I’m going to be open and remind them that I love them and trust the choices they make. I feel like I was smart enough to make pretty good (most of the time) choices, and I consider my kids to be just as wise.
But back to the 10 year old drama… So, I feel like this boy is wearing her down now. She’s talking about him more now, and the tone has changed. It’s like she’s being won over by his songs and his refusal to give up. It makes me laugh. At 10 years old, this is harmless and so I’m OK with it. I actually love asking her how she reacts to him and what she says. She claims she’s mean and heartless. She says she makes fun of him and treats him badly. So, I feel like this is where I need to tell her that she can’t be horrible to someone who is being so kind to her. She doesn’t have to like him, but she can’t be hurtful towards him. I know that she DOES like him, or why else would she be talking so much about some kid in her class? Maybe she just likes the attention. Don’t we all? Regardless, I feel like I’ve now entered a whole different arena in parenting. One where my kids are actually growing up and living lives I know nothing about. That kinda scares me, but I also know that I’ve put a lot of work into them and I have so much faith that they will be just fine. At 10, I’m not concerned about boys liking her. Not at all. I still have all the control in her life. But soon…much sooner than I think, she’ll be pushing the boundaries and I’ll have to remain calm and not chase boys off in my old lady pjs. Trust me, I’ll want to… But I’m not going to do that to her or my other kids. Maybe Amelia, because I actually am lacking faith in her ability to make good choices. She’s my wild child and I’m afraid in a way I can’t even explain yet.
We have open conversations about this boy at night, when we’re making dinner together. I ask Jack what he thinks. In my head, I feel like Jack will be the defender of his sisters. That he will be the voice of reason. He will stick up for them, advise them and protect them always. Right now, that’s not the case. When I asked Jack what he thinks of this kid, he said, “Oh that guy? I don’t know. He’s really good at drawing so…I guess he’s pretty good. Maybe he can join with my friends and we can make the best comic book ever!! YES! Natalie, you should totally like him.” So…clearly Jack just doesn’t give a shit. It will come with time, I hope.
So, I guess this is the time in my life where I just pray for a freeze-frame. Just stop their growing up RIGHT NOW! They are pretty self-sufficient, entertaining to me, and for the most part still love cuddling with their mama. That’s enough. They can just stop where they are and stay this way forever. Sadly, I know that’s not an option. But a mom can dream, right?