My daughter, as of several minutes ago, has nine boyfriends.
It took her most of the ride home to get the number sorted out. First she said five, then seven, then six, and finally, just a block from our house, she settled on nine.
I knew of one. A little boy in her Pre-K class.
Yes, Pre-K. Just in case you are new to this site, my daughter is four.
Back to the boyfriends. There's the one, Z, in her class. She said the others "don't live there any more; they live next door." To the daycare. Oh.
She is so casual about them. She speaks as if nine boyfriends was the norm. And, I guess, if you're a pre-schooler, maybe nine IS the norm.
Their names, besides Z, are, if I remember correctly, Chewie, Lar, Pretty, Cutie, and four others that rhyme with each other but I can't remember the rhyming root, so I couldn't even make them up. I don't think she's known them as long. Pretty and Cutie are, as boyfriends for my daughter, a bit questionable. Lar – I don't know where he came from, his name sounds Skandinavian or something, except he's missing the "s" I expect to hear on the tail end of his name. And Chewie…well, I guess a big, strong, gun-toting space pilot is someone good to have in your corner…but I would have hoped she might have gone for Han instead. Ah well. And that brings us back to Z. The only one with a "regular" name, which is why I'm just giving you the initial. He's real. And she's been with him the longest.
She and Z like to climb trees and – according to Julia – lick the bark. I would bet he's a sweet, quiet boy who is perfectly content to let her boss him around. Just a guess.
O, to be four and in love.
Of course, that's all going to change in a couple of years.
Alex, my son, who is six, is no way in heck going to hang out with a girl if he can help it. At least not at school. At this age, girls are icky. He and his friends spend some of their recess running from the girls. You know, so the girls can't touch them and give them cooties, or whatever it is the toxic girls are icky with these days.
Just last year, when he started Kindergarten, his first best friend in the class was a girl. He attended both boy and girl birthday parties, and boys and girls attended his.
But that's all changed now.
And I wonder how they handle it. This sudden separation of the sexes. After all, kids grow and change and – eventually – mature at different rates, and how frustrating and sad and confusing it must be, as a girl, especially, to discover that you are no longer just a kid, playing with whoever was in your neighborhood. Even if you were the only girl and played with a whole mess of boys – first it didn't matter, and now, all of a sudden, this year, when you are six, it matters.
You are no longer invited to play ball, but you haven't figured out how to play with the girls, because before, it didn't matter. So you stand there, on the playground at recess, fitting in nowhere.
And then, because you started out playing in the rougher world of boys, you communicate as best you can in a way you think maybe they'll understand.
You shove one of them. Or you hit one. Because, well, he's a sweet boy and you thought he was your friend.
You say HEY, look at me! I want to play ball, too!
Unfortunately, they no longer understand what you're saying.
I tried to explain this, sort of, to my son yesterday.
He, the recipient of physical miscommunication this year.
But he's gone over now. He's six, and a boy, and if there are other boys around, he can't be friends with or play with a girl. Not right now, anyway.
She will have to figure out how to play with the girls. At least for now.
Until the boys learn – again – that girls aren't icky at all.