Monday, June 9, 2008

It's Almost That Time

Hot on the heels of my discussion with Em about how it's OK not to be 'into' boys right now, came--today--a declaration of affection from one of the boys in her grade. She waited until we got home, looked at me with eyes brimming with tears, and told me she needed to talk to me. I'm not sure either of us will ever really understand why it was that she cried through this discussion, but she did. She didn't think she'd be in trouble; she didn't think I was going to tell her she's too young to date. (She is...but she wasn't asking me if it was OK to go out on a date, so that wasn't the issue.) I think it was mostly a mixture of shock and happiness and discomfort and fear. They weren't sad tears; they were "I'm so uncomfortable and unsure of myself that I just don't know what to do with my emotions" tears.

We had a long talk about how she can or should handle this, and I kept stressing to her how vulnerable this boy had made himself by expressing his feelings to her without being sure of her feelings. We talked about the importance of honesty and of thinking about the other person's feelings and not being unnecessarily mean, even if you're doing something that may be hurtful. We talked about how it's OK to have mixed feelings...or even to change your mind about something you said you felt just a week ago. We giggled a bit, too, as I shared some of my own experiences, though even as we giggled more tears slipped down her cheeks.

I have to say, though: In all the scenarios I expected when I thought about this day--the day she officially enters the world of boys, even if it turns out to be only long enough to say, "I'm not ready for this yet"--I never visualized tears. Having seen them, they make sense. I understand them. But I wasn't ready for them.

Still, none of this is what I meant when I titled this post. Yes, it may be almost that boy-girl-drama time, and yes, it may be very much that puberty time. But what I meant was that it's almost that time where I really can't blog about these things any more...or if I do, I need to do it in the most general way possible. What I really wanted to do here was to talk about this boy, and why I think it's so wonderful that he's the one to have approached her. What I really wanted to do here was to tell you about what he said to her, because it's all so heart-rendingly sweet. What I really wanted to do here was tell you what she said to me, and show you inside her very large, very good, very young heart so that you could love her the way I do.

But I don't have that right. At some point, her story will become hers to tell, and not mine. Except, of course, I have a strong feeling that "will become" actually has become, at least regarding this topic on this day. It is that time. I feel like I still have the right to ask you all what kind of curfew to set for her first date (not for a few years yet!) and kvell to you about how beautiful she looks when she goes off to prom (not for even more years!). And when she says something especially cute or especially insightful that doesn't require privacy-breaking background, I'll still share it. I can talk about how I feel about all of this...but not about how she feels, or what she's doing in her own private world.

My daughter has her own private world. Holy shit.

I don't know what it was about this, about today, that made me realize I couldn't write the post I was already composing in my head as she left the room after our talk. I think maybe it was the tears. I think the tears told me just how serious this all is to her, and how my putting it all out there on the internet would break the trust she's putting in me by letting me in and taking me on this journey with her, step by step.

All of which sounds ridiculously solemn, considering I'm talking about a couple of 10-or-maybe-11-year-olds. Trust me: It's not that I think the romantic intrigues of preteens is OhSoSerious. But Em does. It's OhSoSerious to her. It's headline news to her. And for me to make light of it here would be a disservice.

And so I'm sharing with you my part of this story--the part where she came to me, where we talked, where she cried, and what that means to me as a parent, how I need to handle it, how unsure I am that I'm handling it right.

The rest is up to her. I think she's ready for it.


Anonymous said...

I SO applaud you for realizing that your dughter has entered a phase that requires a whole new level of privacy. The intimacies of an adolescent are precious, and the most important part of parenting at this state, I have found, is how carefully we need to hold their experiences- in the deepest regard, with respect, with awe, but at the same time, lightly enough that they don't feel overwhelmed by our presence in their private world. I think a major reason teens stop talking to their parents is that they think thier parents don't truly respect what is to them, the immensity of of their experience. She's lucky to have you.

Ambre said...

But you're going to tell ME, right? RIGHT?

po said...

OMG, *I* am going to cry. Weren't they all just babies?

kristenspina said...

Slips by in a heartbeat, doesn't it? Em is so lucky to have you...

Anonymous said...

As the mother of a 12 y/o boy who's had his heart stomped on twice since he was 10, I just want to thank you for talking to your daughter about the boys' vulnerability and feelings in all of this. I suspect that many parents of girls aren't doing that, b/c it's easy to forget that our boys have feelings, too. And having dealt with my son's tears--and not the excited, unsure ones, but the heart-wrenching, devastated ones--I wish more parent's handled the conversation the way you did.

Lisse said...

I think it's awesome that you talked to her about the boy's feelings. Most of us probably had no idea how to handle it when someone we weren't interested in turned out to be interested in us.

It sounds like you have an amazing relationship. Congrats!

David said...

Beautifully written, beautifully done. Thanks.

Green said...

Thank you. It really pissed me off royally when I'd come home from school and find my mother in the kitchen on the phone talking to one of her friends about me.

I'm probably never going to have kids, but I am 31 and very worldly (having been to Canada once) and have lots of worldly advice to spew. So please tell Em when you ask someone out, you're paying them the biggest compliment a person can give. It's as if you're offering everything you've got about yourself to someone else. Proceed with caution. Thank you.

P.S. I was once talking with a guy friend and told him a skeevy guy had just asked me out, and included in why I said no the phrase, "Ugh!" My friend got quiet and angry at me, and finally I just said, "You once asked a girl out and she said that to you?" Yes, and over 10 years later he was still sensitive about it on behalf of another man he'd never met, even though he'd agreed on the skeevy factor.

(Sorry so long.)