By E.J. Gordon
I had my first boyfriend in fifth grade. His name was Greg. He marched up to me at the beginning of the year and said, “Will you go out with me?” I said YES. Then we didn’t speak again, neither live nor via phone until six months later when I chased him home yelling, “Can we talk?” He finally stopped his bicycle long enough to hear me say, “I think we should just be friends.” That was the end of my six-month relationship with my first boyfriend.
A lot has changed since the ‘80s though. The biggest change in dating is the cell phone.
Who knew that one day you could have an entire relationship via texting?
The kids these days are giving the Victorian-era love-letter writers a run for their money. In 100 years, our great-grandchildren will be able to digitally access their grandparents’ first love words to each other, which will read:
Him: Whaz xp?
Him again: *up
Him: (thumbs up emoticon)
Her: (smiley face emoticon)
I know. It’s riveting.
I came home one night, and my 10-year-old son was waiting up for me. I went to tuck him in, and he said, “By the way, I’m dating Jordyn.”
I was utterly shocked. First of all, he’s only 10. Secondly, NONE of the other boys in his class have girlfriends. Thirdly, just a month earlier he was squirming around when my husband was pressing him about who he’d ask for his first “snowball” dance if his bar-mitzvah were today. I told my husband that our son was simply not ready for that kind of talk, and it clearly made him very uncomfortable. I said that he was putting too much pressure on him, and there was nothing wrong with not being interested in dating at such a young age.
Just weeks later, he’s all, “I’m dating.”
The biggest surprise was that he didn’t EVEN consult me!
I never got a chance to discuss with him the pros and cons of asking a girl out at this age, being the first one in his class to do it. I didn’t get to warn him that others may not follow suit, and they might be the only couple. I didn’t get a chance to give him the heads up about the shit his buddies would give him. I didn’t even get asked permission! He just ASSUMED it was fine by us that he go and get himself a girlfriend.
I flashed forward to 20 years in the future, and my son calling to tell me he’d already proposed to his girlfriend without any input from me about how to do it or what to say or where to buy her a ring. I couldn’t warn him that marrying a girl is marrying her family, and do you like her family? And will she be a good Mom? And will she let you stay in the Chicago-land area?
My big boy actually demonstrated signs that my aim at making him self-reliant is actually working, whether I like it or not!
But, I still had work to do, because if your kid is the first at anything in his crew, there are going to be ripples …
Like with the phones … last year I started wanting him to have a phone. My son wanted one forever, but it was in fourth grade that I kept saying to myself, if only he’d had a phone I could text him that I won’t be at pick-up, and he should walk home, or, if he’d had a phone I could text him at his play date, wanting to know if he was done or not, without his friend’s mom speaking for him.
So I convinced my husband to get him a phone, but he said to me that after looking into it, it was actually less expensive to give our boy his old iPhone and add him to our plan than to go buy him a new flip phone. He told me there was no way he was just going to do the flip phone because I didn’t want my son to be the first boy in the grade with a Smart Phone. So we concocted this whole idea that the phone would be the family’s third phone that our son could borrow when we thought a phone would be helpful, like when we dropped him off at a Lacrosse practice. What if his ride never showed up? He could call us, and he would be safer. Despite that it wasn’t his phone, we still had quite a few parents say to us, “I heard you bought your son an iPhone. Thanks a lot. Now my kid is all over me about it.”
So there I was in another position with my kid being the first at something, and I just knew I’d get some judgmental comments.
And I hadn’t even prepared for them with something like the whole family Third Phone idea … given some time, maybe I would have told him to just start texting with this girl without “asking her out”, and she could have been a new friend. But no, I was not consulted, so I was stuck waiting for the comments. And on top of it, my son specifically asked me not to go calling two of my best friends, both of whom have daughters in his grade, so I couldn’t even control the narrative, in which I would have made clear that I didn’t have the chance to talk him out of it.
In the end, it wasn’t so bad. I did get a call or two with, “I heard about the girlfriend … I was very surprised!” I tried to pre-empt every conversation with, “Isn’t it silly? They’re just texting. It’s not like they actually see each other outside of school. They’re just trying the whole girlfriend/boyfriend thing on for size, just to play a role. You know at the other elementary school there are a whole bunch of fifth grade couples. It’s not that big of a deal…”
But I also had some work to do with my kid. He knew nothing about being a boyfriend, and I was not going to let him be an Accidental Asshole. I told him that as a boyfriend, he had certain responsibilities to treat her a certain way:
- If she texts you, always text her back timely. Don’t wait six hours.
- If she texted you first the last couple of times, text her first this time.
- Show some interest in her activities. For example, ask her how she did in her dance competition.
- Don’t ever talk badly about her behind her back. (This one is relevant, because as I mentioned, two of my best friends have daughters in his grade, and they are quite close to my son.)
- If and when you decide you want to end the relationship, man up and have the difficult conversation. Don’t be like your father who ended relationships well into his 20s by just not answering his phone. Have a live conversation and tell her, “I think it’s time for us to break up. I think you are great, but, you know, we’re 10; this was fun, but I think it’s ending.”
So far, he’s following my guidelines. Because it’s my right as a parent of a 10 year old with a phone, I’ve gone through his conversations a few times. My favorite was when she asked him what position he played on his hockey team, and he responded, “Left wing. What position do you play on your dance team?” And she responded, “We don’t really have positions in dance.” But he was showing interest, and I liked that.
He doesn’t seem to have any intention of ending it any time soon, but I don’t know anyone who is married to his fifth grade girlfriend, so I’m sure it will eventually. If it’s not on his end, I’ll be here to help him recover, because that’s a skill too.
They haven’t asked to spend time together, and I’m certainly not going to be the one to push that; he’s nowhere near ready to be kissing. Because if he’s going to kiss her, it would mean he’d have to be better about brushing his teeth, and well … he’s only 10.
Lisa Barr, Editor of GIRLilla Warfare: E.J. Gordon is a freelance writer, a regular contributor to GIRLillaWarfare, and “Sexpert”. Have any questions or topics that you would like her to address? Remember: No subject is taboo, and Anonymity is accepted. Contact E.J. at: EJGordon529@gmail.com.