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February 18, 2013
We the Parents
Young Love
by Melissa Howell

My daughter couldn’t stand it anymore; she demanded to know the object of her brother’s affection. He’d been holding out on her, but finally proffered a trade:

“Fine, I’ll tell you if you tell me who your boyfriend is.”

Before I go any further, may I point out that they are seven (she) and nine (he). You will notice the absence of the word ending –teen in their ages.

“My boyfriend is one of the BYU dancers, the one with the blond hair,” she admitted.

(The BYU Contemporary Dance Theatre had just been in town and we saw them at a community show, and then they performed two days later at our elementary school.)

“That’s not a boyfriend,” my son said. “You’re in first grade and he’s in college!”

My son then admitted his crush on a girl in his class we’ll call Meg.

“Mom,” he later said to me, “you know how Charlie Brown is around that red-headed girl and he gets so embarrassed and nervous and he can’t talk to her? That’s how I am around Meg.”

The Charlie Brown theme continued when I told him about a time I was in seventh grade speech class, and we had to put on a play. I was cast as Lucy (was it the voluminous dark brown hair and big mouth?), and a boy on whom I had a terribly big crush, we’ll call him Casey, was cast as Schroeder.

I, Lucy, had to lean on Schroeder’s piano, bat my eyelashes, and say sweet nothings to him. As an insecure junior high girl, this was mortifying. Surely my face blushed such a vibrant hue of red it cast the appearance of a glowing heart suspended in the air between us.

Awww, sweet, innocent, young love.

It’s fascinating to watch my kiddos make the foray into the world of very early love, which by design doesn’t look much like love. Nonetheless, they have stepped on the path that someday will lead them to real love, marriage and family.

I have been giving much thought to my role as their mother, and how I (along with my husband) can teach them now what they will someday need to know, while keeping it sweet, young and innocent, an increasingly difficult challenge by today’s standards.

My evolving list of lessons I want to share with my young children includes:

And so for Valentine’s Day, my son decided to declare his feelings for Meg in the language of a giant Hershey bar and a sweet note. I gently warned him of the potential fallout from this, but he persevered. And then a few other students got wind of the love offering and were on to him, causing much drama in his young love.

And then we had another lesson in love: that sometimes it hurts.

But for now, I’m happy if he continues to follow the Charlie Brown example of young love, rather than the plethora of other less-than-desirable examples out there for children to follow.

Especially if it keeps the proverbial red-headed girl out of reach. For now.

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