Kaylee received a handwritten letter from a male classmate representative stating as vaguely as possible that “somebody in the class” likes her. The mystery of the situation has been a hot topic in the Sibley household for weeks. She’s even had a little bit of kid-stress around the issue, but strives to keep her cool because she gets playing it cool from her dad. Boys are becoming interested in my daughters. Even Karlee has received heart emojis in the Zoom chat during virtual school and got asked on a date to McDonald’s by another kindergartener.
With my fifth grader, these peer likings are giving her a new kind of swagger and attitude; but because I am a woman, I recognize the stage of life we’re embarking on. Kaylee’s changing.
No longer is she ashamed of the lovey dovey stuff. She’s not covering her eyes the way she used to whenever someone puckered up to kiss on t.v. Feelings and curiosity have surfaced. One morning, I stopped and stared at her primping her hair in the mirror the way young Ashley did when she came back home from the date with Tevin Campbell on that birthday episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
To be a mom and watch your kids develop romantic interests can be a sweet and beautiful thing once you cut through the cringe and paranoia to see the nervousness of adolescents— a parent can tell when the innocence is still there.
Watching the puppy love unfurl has been an interesting reminder that on the road to womanhood is something we kinda avoid unpacking: girlhood… the beginning of menstrual cycles, the attitudes and body language, the body changes, the emotional highs and lows, the gullibility and giddiness… (and our oldest hasn’t even been introduced to social media yet!)
My goal has always been to be a mom that my girls can talk to about anything without feeling misunderstood or overly embarrassed. I am an open-book with chapters that might blow their mind. When it comes to boys, human relationships, and insecurities, I’ve got the footnotes. I’ve written the book! All I need is for them to come to me. To promise to come to me. Most times, I’ll be ready. Sometimes, not quite, but I guarantee I’ll get there and not shut them down. (It’s just surprising to realize that they know as much as they know.)
Keith texts me when he hears the girls talking about the boys in their class. I can’t imagine what fathers must feel knowing their daughters have piqued the interest of young men. Girls getting wisdom from great men matters as well, and can even help set a standard for what a respectable boy looks like.
By creating an atmosphere of openness and honesty, and constantly showing our kids examples of healthy love (platonic or romantic), my husband and I are becoming more and more comfortable with the idea of our kids growing up and dating. Keith and I were together in adolescence so we have many examples to offer, and again, they know we’re an open-book. I believe wholeheartedly that parents have to be accessible and allow our children/tweens/teens to learn from our memoirs.
In my pages, Kaylee and Karlee will learn that before I was their mom, I was a mess; and while I am not and never will be defined by the worst things I’ve ever done, my errors are still essential to my evolution. When it comes to boy-girl relations, here are twelve tips for my daughters— for our daughters:
1. Chase your dreams, not boys.
2. If he grabs girls, even playfully, consider it a big red flag.
3. Don’t be duped by mind games and don’t indulge in them either.
4. Drama and conflict isn’t a sign of love.
5. Go for the good guys.
6. Let him come to your door, and not your window. The front door is the standard.
7. Date within your age group or just slightly outside of it. Dating older guys doesn’t give you cool points for maturity, it puts you at risk for emotional manipulation. One thing older guys are aware of when it comes to younger girls is their lack of life experience, which makes you, my daughter, extremely vulnerable– and not in a good way.
8. Don’t become so unnerved by him that you end up having a nervous breakdown because of him.
9. Don’t shrink to make him feel important. You’re equals and everyone has the power to find and travel their own path to greatness.
10. If your heart says no, don’t say yes with your mouth.
11. Keep a spiritual center. Once a boy becomes the center of your universe, you will lose yourself; and it can literally take an entire lifetime to get back to yourself.
12. You’re in school to learn. If ever you feel awkward around boys in a classroom, get a book out of your bag and read. The book will remind you to stay focused.
Like the beautiful mind-body-soul of my queen daughters, this list is in development.