I've been a parent for about six years now, and during that tie period I've realized how much children need explained to them. It's kind of amazing, actually. Things we think of as intrinsic knowledge are, in fact, learned. For example, when I asked my school-age kid to talk about dating, he had no idea what I was talking about.
"You don't know what dating is?" I asked.
"No!" he exclaimed, sounding equal parts entertained and intrigued. "What's that?"
I opened my mouth to explain, but then I realized something: I had no idea how explain dating. Like, first of all, in this day and age, what even is dating? Growing up, I was raised (and socialized) to see dating as a stepping stone to a heteronormative marriage. Umm... yeah, no. And was I going to make a distinction between "dating" as in going out on dates and "dating" like "two people in a committed relationship are dating?" Or do I talk about love in this discussion? That feels disingenuous since I certainly haven't loved everyone I've dated (and absolutely haven't loved everyone I've gone on a date with).
I didn't even really have any good examples of dating to go off of, either. All of my friends that my son would know are either married, happily single, or in long-term relationships that would feel cheapened by calling them "dating." So I asked some friends who also have school-age kids to see what their children knew about this concept. Turns out, their knowledge and interest (and willingness to talk about it) ran the gamut... but they were all pretty entertaining.
"Dates should be at Starbucks because they have hot chocolate. Dates should hold hands. If the boy talks too much, the girl should say so."
Evangeline's mother shared that her daughter thinks about dating a lot, and has for a few years now. In February, she detailed her plan to marry Gabriel when she's 15, but we cannot confirm if that's still on as of publication.
When Jonah's mother asked him about dating, she said that the tips of his brown ears turned red as he asked suspiciously, "Why are you asking?" Then he hid under his bed.
“I think it’s great... for you guys.”
She probably didn't, but I imagine Mikaela said this with a dose of sassy shade. Like "It's great... if you're into that sort of thing, which I'm not."
Despite being asked multiple times, Tegan's answer was steadfast and resolute: “I don’t think about dating.” Apparently, however, there's only so much grilling a girl can take and the last time gave her mother a "heavy dose of attitude" when she exclaimed, “Why are you asking me this?!”
Aubrey "has" boyfriend and they "date when he comes home from his dad's." (Aubrey's mom explains that his mom is their neighbor.) "We also date at school. We aren't allowed to kiss, but maybe in second grade."
"Oh my gosh, I don't even know what you're talking about right now!"
Plausible deniability is the name of the game, Aidan. You're a smart kid.
“When people go out and date, it’s bonding a relationship, and I think that’s good.”
Am I the only one who is cracking up over how diplomatic and positive this answer is coming from an 8 year old? Like, if a presidential candidate were asked about dating during a debate this is the kind of answer I would expect. I also love that this child is aware of the concept of bonding.
"I don't think about dating ... I'm too young."
"It's when people go out as boyfriend/girlfriend and stuff ... Hmm. That'd be a tense moment."
“Are you serious? Mom, I’m 8. I’m not dating anybody.”
The indignant pragmatism of the boys in particular is hilarious.
"Hmm. That'd be cool."
No one tell Ashlynn that dating can actually be hell on earth. I'll not dash her youthful optimism.
An exhange between Adelaide and her mom, Dawn.
Dawn: "Adelaide, what do you think of dating?"
Dawn: "Yeah, dating. Do you know what dating is?"
Adelaide: "No." (Turns back to her train set.)
Dawn: "Well you how how Auntie Christie and Uncle Jeff got married? Before they were married, they were dating."
Adelaide: "Oh! So it's something where people like each other, then they get to know each other, then they become a couple because they like each other... And then they ask each other, 'Can we go on a date?' and they say yes. And then they have to become a couple."
According to Addison, dating is one you "go to a restaurant and eat, drink water, and sit there and talk." Her perfect date would be to Red Robin or roller skating. "We would talk about stuff. But I think a good age to start dating is 20. I would hold hands with a boy but not kiss them because kissing is disgusting."
Madilyn thinks dating is "nice and pretty because you have lots of flowers, and then we play games at the wedding." She initially said she would probably start dating when she was 18, before clarifying, "I'm just kidding! Like, 8 maybe."
Madilyn thinks hotels are a good place for dates, and that both people should pay. "Me and him," she asserted. "The other, um, I don't know can I just make up a name? Me and Avery. ...but not for real though."
"I'm not really liking it, because I don't really think I'm old enough yet, and the people at school will probably laugh at me. [I'll probably start dating] in my teens, like probably 10 years old." When his mom asked where he thought was a good place to go on a date, he astutely pointed out, "Probably Virginia because there is a beach there."
Virginia is for lovers, y'all.
He also points out that his parents should probably be the ones to pay for his dates because, "I'm not paying $600.00 for just a little date." (I have no idea where he came up with this number.)
He concluded this line of questioning with expressing confusion over what the whole point was before asking, "Can I go get a piece of cheese now?"
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