My 6-year-old has a boyfriend and yes I mean that in the traditional sense of the word. That said, I do recognize other people might find my kindergartner's relationship status uncomfortable, or even inappropriate, but in my view, it is that very perspective that makes it weird at all.
Perhaps I should explain what this "relationship" actually looks like. For instance, on the day we took this picture, as I busied about the house getting things ready for dinner with our friends, my 6-year-old daughter Daphne was busy with her own preparations. She ran in and out of my bedroom with various dresses and hair bows. She brushed her soft blonde hair until it shone (or became shockingly full of static, but what’s the difference when you’re 6?), and even asked to borrow my lipstick (that was a hard no). She only paused her primping long enough to ask when her boyfriend, Cristiano, was expected to arrive.
Once our friends came, the kids went off to play, separating themselves by gender as they often do. It was only later when Cristiano was tired and wanted to play on his mom’s phone while the adults talked, that my children noticed his disappearance, and Daphne came to join him on the couch. It was an adorable moment. She perched beside him, watching as he conquered an alphabet game. He glanced up shyly from time to time to see if she was still interested. I snapped a photo.
Later, when Cristiano’s dad showed him this picture of him and Daphne, Cristiano said, “Hey! That’s me and my number one!”
Adorable, right? I thought so, but not everyone seemed to agree. Almost as soon as I added the photo to my Instagram story my DMs filled up with well-meant warnings and friendly teasing.
“Watch out there, mama!”
“Looks like trouble!”
“This is cute, but doesn’t it make you a little uncomfortable?”
The responses were full of ha-has and silly emoji’s to soften the message, but the message remained: Daphne has a boyfriend and that leads to sex!
They were right, my 6-year-old has a boyfriend, but for the love of sweet, baby Cupid, can we please stop making it weird?
This 'oo-la-la' attitude perpetuates the narrative that kids can’t just be kids without some adult baggage as well.
Kids try out adult behaviors and that’s probably all this is. When I was Daphne’s age, I too, had a crush. His name was Brandon and I had a single conversation with him about the unlikely existence of the Power Rangers. It had less to do with real feelings of attraction, sexual or otherwise, and more to do with my older sisters telling me it was time I found myself a boyfriend like the kids on TV. That said, I don’t think it’s my place to analyze my daughter’s real motives, and it certainly isn’t anyone else’s.
I get it though. Often watching our children dabble with ideas and dynamics typically reserved for adults is cute by the mere fact of its existence, and it can be terrifying for the very same reason — they’re just like us — but in miniature!
But there is a difference between acknowledging that a child’s relationship is adorable to ourselves, and being the ones to actively insert sexual tension into a dynamic where it didn’t previously exist. This “oo-la-la” attitude perpetuates the narrative that kids can’t just be kids without some adult baggage as well.
What that baggage looks like varies from one person to the next, and there is no telling how little kids will interpret it. Teasing can create shame, warning might create fear, discouraging it might make kids curious about things they aren’t ready to understand, and encouraging their little relationships is just kind of gross.
So, here’s my novel suggestion: maybe we don’t need to have an opinion on these things at all. Maybe we should let our kids experience their emotions and experiment with new ones without getting involved and directing the drama. This is a level of respect we are expected to extend to adults, and our kids deserve it too.
Because sure, it’s cute, but we don’t need to make it weird.