First Dates

May 6, 2010

L~ is almost 12.  She is in 6th grade.  She is absolutely adorable (no bias here), and really fun.  She has a great sense of humor (although I am often concerned about the laughter that spews out of her evidencing a clear understanding of double meanings that I don’t think my baby should understand), she’s kind to others, and she is strong.

L~ has always been a social magnet.  Starting in kindergarten, her teachers told me that all of the kids loved her, wanted to be near her, wanted to sit with her, wanted to be her friend.  Sometimes, it caused arguments, and the teacher had to step in.  I have been proud of the fact that even in our most recent parent/teacher conference, the teachers continued to assure me that L~ treats others – all others – with respect and kindness.

But yet, I am surprised.  I am surprised that I am the first in my L~ circle of mom-friends to have a daughter with a “boyfriend.”   This snuck up on me.

See, while I’ve known that L ~ knew how to be kind to boys, and to get along with them, and to work well in groups with them, I’ve never been able to get her to admit to being friends with ANY of them.  When we’ve passed boys in her grade [which consists of all of 60 kids, by the way] on the sidewalk, she looks the other way.  Even while they smile and wave.  When she was super-young, it seemed like she was reacting out of shyness.  But in the past few years, she made her opinions known.  “he’s mean.”  “he’s obnoxious.”  “he’s a jerk.”  There was usually a story to go with each comment.

“He was so mean to me in 4th grade when I accidentally dropped a full water bottle out of my locker onto his head.  He yelled at me and he even swore, and he told me he wanted to put me in a microwave until I died!”

[true story – microwave & all.]  I bet the water bottle did hurt, though.

When we were at a school event a few months ago, and I walked up to her and her friends to hear the friends saying “did you see him looking at you??!  He was all, ‘awwww!'”  I may or may not have freaked out a wee tiny bit.  With a little, “whatareyoutalkingaboutwhodoyoumeanwhatisgoingon!?”  The friends informed me that L~ was going to the dance* with a boy.  She was aghast, and said, “we aren’t going to the dance together!”  “oh, right,” her friends corrected, “they’re going to dance together at the dance.”

Because of L~’s up-until-now refusal to acknowledge that she doesn’t go to an all-girl school, I know very few of the boys in her grade.  And this boy who she was “dancing” with was not one of the ones those few.  Her friends decided to find him so I could know him … but they attempted to accomplish this by walking into a crowded auditorium and SCREAMING his name.  I’m pretty sure he fled as fast as he could the second he saw them standing there with me [I had a public role at the event we were attending, and had to speak to a crowd and introduce myself, so he definitely knew I was L~’s mom].

The dance was the following Friday night.  Writer-Dude, S~ and I had dinner plans for the duration of the dance, and when L~ left to meet her girlfriend who lives across the street to walk to the dance, WD and I left to go buy some dessert to bring to our friends’ house.   When we drove back around the block, we were met with a gaggle of girls heading to the dance.  Like … 20 of them.  I scanned the crowd, but didn’t see L~.  I opened the window and said hi to the girls, and one them informed me: “they’re right there – see??!!”  And I saw L~, and I waved and said, “hi honey!” while practically hanging out the car door.  Then I saw that The Boy was walking with her.  Huh?  He doesn’t live on our block!?  What’s going on??

I found out from my neighbor that as all the girls had met up in the street to walk to the dance, The Boy strolled around the corner [he lives ridiculously close, just not on our street], and right up to L~.  The neighbors were impressed with his bravery, to walk through the crowd that had gathered for dance-walking, and to approach L~ and say hello.

[But … does this mean they were going to the dance together?  And she just didn’t tell me?]

After the dance (where they slow-danced for all 5 slow-dance songs), they were then officially a “couple.”  Or, as they’re saying this year, they were “dating.”

Earlier this year, there was another “couple” who was “dating.”  They met at the park once, and were swinging on the swings.  It didn’t last very long.  Otherwise, most kids – according to their parents – weren’t “there yet.”  Including L~.

But after this dance, and all the slow dances, almost the entire grade seemed to be “there.”  Nevertheless, L~ and The Boy were one of the first “couples” in the class – enduring beyond the dance into “dating” territory.  (I miss the old phrase of “going out” – it sounds less mature than “dating.”)

And I felt pretty darned uncomfortable.  And shocked.  And confused.  How did this happen so fast?  What does “dating” mean?  Does she really want to do this, or is it peer pressure?  What will we allow her to do – as far as “dates” are concerned?

Last year, S~ was in 7th grade, and the kids were starting to “date.”  We talked about what S~ would be allowed to do, if presented with an opportunity.  This was the decision:  She was allowed to go out on a “date,” but only during daylight hours.  She could stay in our town, or go short distances on the train to see a movie (our favorite theater is 2 stops away).  We said that as time went on, we would consider allowing her and a “date” to stay in our town center after dark.

But L~ isn’t in 7th grade. She’s in 6th.  I mean … she’s eleven.  School events?  Fine.  But what else?

The first time we were confronted with the decision was about a week and a half after the dance – L~ and The Boy wanted to get pizza with two other friends after school on a Wednesday.  They wanted to go to a pizza shop that is across the street from the school, and approx. 3 blocks from our house.

We said yes.  She was home inside an hour from when school let out.  She said she had a good time; she said the other “couple” didn’t talk at all, so she was the one who had to do almost all the talking, although The Boy did his part.

And then I started to hear grumblings from other parents.  Some directly, some through the grapevine.  People were “nervous” that there were kids that were so “advanced” in the class.  That I was allowing L~ to go “out on dates” was scaring people.  As if an 11 yo boy were driving up to my house in his racy car while my 11 yo girl, decked out in a mini skirt and fake fingernails hopped in, and they raced off to some secluded spot so they could make out all night.

No.  They got pizza.  In a place with plate glass windows where all teachers, parents and other close-knit community members could see.  And then they went to their separate homes.  45 minutes later.

About 2 months after the pizza “date”, they started to make plans for their next outing.  That was this past weekend.  They went to a park (again, about a block away from our house, and in plain view of the universe).  It was just the two of them this time, and L~ brought popsicles. Because they’re eleven.  They hung out and talked for almost 2 hours this time.

Otherwise, their relationship has consisted of hundreds (and hundreds) text messages, and whatever conversations they have at school.  Both WD and I have been known to pick up her cell phone now and again and peruse the text messages.  Guess what we see?  That The Boy is very sweet to my girl.  That they are definitely age-appropriate:  They complain about homework;  They talk about having to run home from the park in the rain;  They talk about their siblings and their pets and their teachers.

My initial freak-out is over, and I’m fine with the situation.  WD’s theory is that after years of this grade’s gender segregation (which did not exist in S~’s grade, by the way), the only way they know how to be friends with the opposite sex is to call it something romantic.  I’m not sure I’m 100% in agreement.  Something definitely happened in the past few months with these kids.  Some sort of mud was cleared from their eyes, and they realized that they have a larger class to be friends with than they’d been operating with before.  L~ isn’t only hanging out with and talking to The Boy.  She now talks to, texts with and hangs out with the other boys in her class, as well.  There is a lot of talk about who “lyks” who, and they’re definitely new at all of this and fumble around awkwardly at times.  But it’s okay.

I think some parents are still freaked out that L~ is “dating” a boy.  But I care a lot less than I did in the early days.  If they  have different ideas in their head about what it means to be “dating” in the 6th grade, I can’t change that.  There is really no reason why they aren’t talking to me about it – some of those who have expressed concern to others are people who could talk to me.  They are far from strangers.

And now that I’ve come to terms with it, I think L~ has become tired of the situation.  Texts go unanswered, requests to get together are blown off.  Then I’ll go back to being a non-scary mother.

I guess.

*  Our town has several small elementary schools, that are K-8.  Those schools don’t merge until high school.  The town’s recreation program has a pretty robust “teen” program that helps to intermingle the kids from the various middle schools starting in 6th grade.   They organize trips (ice skating, skiing, beach, Red Sox games, etc.), they have “open gym” times, and they have dances.  In 6th grade, the dances are only for 6th graders, and there are 3 throughout the year.  They are casual dances – kids wear the same thing they wore to school (i.e., athletic shorts & grubby t-shirts – running pants or jeans if it’s winter), a D.J. plays nasty music, and the kids have a blast.  At the first dance, there was little to no slow dancing going on.  For the second dance, there was a little bit more, and by the third dance … well, yeah.  There were 5 slow songs played, and most kids participated in all 5.


One comment

  1. […] however – she’s very different.  As I’ve mentioned before, she has always been not only social, but relatively magnetic.  I guess my take is: “Mouse […]

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