It's an intriguing privilege to watch someone grow up, right before your eyes. I'm not talking about physical growth; often my boys are running around with jeans several inches too short before I've realized they are taller. Since last night I've had something of a goofy, half smile when I look at my eldest son. He is at the beginning of that generally awful stage, puberty.
Last night he came in the house after dark, with his hands rammed deeply into the pockets of his camouflage pants, quite a serious look on his face.
"Mama, you know the girl with the glasses? Well, I told her that I liked her. Not loved but liked. We had a really intense debate. She said she like me too. Then she said she needed a moment and she flung herself on the ground. Why would she do that?"
Amid trying to stifle my giggles he said, "Her friends all giggled like that too! Why do girls do that?"
Once I composed myself I asked #1 if he even knew this girl's name. "Uh, Sheila, I think?" Again, I failed at stifling my giggles but at least had the good grace to cover my mouth with my hand. He just stared me down, waiting for me to explain womankind. Keep waiting, buddy, it's a secret we've been keeping since Eve first batted her eyes at Adam!
I loved this conversation for several reasons. First, #1 has never really acknowledged the existence of the gentle sex. Girls, previously, have just been another form of creation. Nothing more, nothing less. In the last couple of months I've seen a slow shift, first into awareness of their presence and lately, classification into pretty or not. The shift seems to have coincided with a great deal of hair on his legs and the occasional pimple. Hmmmmm. Coincidence? I think not, my good Watson.
The second reason I loved this conversation is that despite 90% of the rest of his obnoxious behaviour it shows me that not only is he physically changing but that he is maturing emotionally. Slowly. Very slowly. He is learning that girls are different and he is questioning the best way to handle them. I stress the world "gentleman" all the time. As long as he's a gentleman, he can't fail.
Another reason the chat was so significant is that even though he made a huge entrance into a more grownup world, he still needs me. He stood in front of me, on the cusp of adolescence, yet very much needing guidance, understanding, and reassurance. I did manage to control myself and ask several leading questions that helped him understand that even though he may like at girl at age 11.5, nothing really changes. He still treats her the same because it's not like he's going to pick her up in his car and go to the movies.
I won't tease him because he is such a serious man/child. He came to me wanting to know if he had done the right thing and if there was anything else to be done. I gave him kudos for the courage and confidence to be forthright. I'm not sure I ever had a boy actually say, "I like you." Usually it was a friend of a friend saying, "so and so likes you." Or a handwritten note with a "check yes or no." He is concerned about what she will do today which required reminding him that he is only responsible for his own actions/reactions, not hers. I did tell him it might be good to actually find out her name!
Right now he is outside playing with her (and her 7 siblings). They are playing tag, the old stand by game if you want to chase someone in a benign way! Am I concerned he is too young?
Not at all.
Partly because I know she is leaving soon and partly because I know he will continue to practice the male/female falling-in-and-out-of-like game for many years. Hopefully he will keep asking questions and we can guide him appropriately. We've already talked about physical limitations and cautioned about not being free with his kisses. Or anything else. Of course, he was aghast at the idea of Actually Kissing A Girl but I expect that will change soon.
Just like everything else!