Charlie turns 7 next month, and he has a girlfriend. The thing is, I’m not sure she knows she’s his girlfriend.
I’m not surprised it’s started so early, I got “married” in Grade 1 to Stacey Connelly. I was always (and still am) more friendly with females over males. This could be Charlie just being like his dad, but it has still brought up more serious conversations more sooner than you’d might expect.
On a recent field trip, the kids in his class were allowed to sign the venue’s guest book. Charlie took the opportunity to use it to share his affection for his classmate.
A parent chaperone on the trip texted it to us. She thought it was cute, my wife and I were horrified.
“We need to talk to Charlie,” my wife wrote when she texted me the picture.
This is the second crush he’s had, he keeps a diary with names in it in his room and draws hearts next to certain girls. Last week he put an X next to one and drew a heart next to the new crush. I don’t even think the other kids know who he ‘loves’ but he mentions it often to us.
So, after school, as Zacharie ran ahead to the park, Charlie and I talked about what he wrote. I didn’t scold him for having affection for his classmates. I asked him how the girls felt about him. We talked about how love is a reciprocal thing, and how we need to respect other people’s feelings.
I explained how notes like this in very public books that the rest of his class could read might be embarrassing to him (and to her) if the girl didn’t feel the same way. I explained that he’s not even 7 yet and has a lot of time for love. I explained that class Christmas cards, or Valentine’s cards are better avenues to privately express affection.
We talked about how to nicely play with each other on the playground as he told me how the girls are trying to give the boys ‘makeovers’ by chasing them with lip gloss.
And so it begins, in Grade 2.
I’m not shy about talking to my kids about heavy issues. I use age appropriate language and scenarios to lay the foundation for a greater understanding. I’ve talked about war, death, politics, religion, bullying, sexual identity, erections, and homosexuality with my boys. All of the conversations leading them down a path of acceptance, consent, respect, and empathy.
“The talk” is not one big event you have with your children and then you’re done with it, it’s small conversations solving minor issues every day that teaches your kids how to treat each other. Still, today is a good day to bring up, when the time is right, a discussion of boundaries, consent, and respect.
November 25th is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. It’s about turning the deplorable phrase “20 minutes of action” from the Stanford rape case on its head by encouraging dads to take 20 minutes to talk to their sons about consent and sharing with #20MinutesofAction4Change.
It doesn’t have to be explicit. It doesn’t have to be heavy. It just has to happen. Ask about how the kids play, ask if people have boyfriends or girlfriends, ask how they treat each other, and then explain to them how to show respect.