My preschooler had been peppering me with questions and statements and demands and stories and random animal noises all evening and it was easy, so easy, to tune her out and go about my business with an obligatory “Mm-hmm” and head nod every once in awhile. But as I was brushing out her hair in the bathroom before bed, I felt a pang of guilt. I needed to listen to this child. She was being sweet and curious and I could almost sense the pliability in her young brain, ready to learn.
I opened up my ears, and closed the doors in my mind to outside distractions. I simply focused on my sweet daughter. Her world is rapidly expanding, but right now, I’m still firmly at the center of her little universe. This was a big moment.
“Anna, are you excited for preschool in the morning?”
“Yes! I love preschool!”
“So, tell me about all of your friends. Have you made any new ones?”
“Todd. He has black hair. Not like me.”
“Oh ok, is he a nice boy?”
“Yeah, he’s my boyfriend.”
(This is when the room started spinning a bit. Her boyfriend?! She’s 3! But I know this is normal. Right? Right?! Don’t freak out. If you freak out, she’ll be afraid to tell you about things in the future. She has nothing to be ashamed of, but I want her to know she’s not old enough yet. And I know it’s innocent and cute, but it’s just not appropriate. It’s not a big deal, right? But it is. Because this conversation will start a series of conversations for years to come. I didn’t want to screw this up.)
“Okay…did he ask you to be his girlfriend?”
“No…I’m going to tell him tomorrow.” (Oh my, I have an assertive little girl on my hands.)
“Well, sweetie, I’m glad you have a special friend, but having a boyfriend or girlfriend is for when you’re older. Like a grownup.” (She calls teenagers grownups.)
“But, he’s just a kid boyfriend.”
“Yes, he can be your kid friend, or special friend, but not your boyfriend. Okay? You’re not in trouble.”
“Okay, mommy. Can he be my brother?”
“Um…sure. You can call him brother.”
She ran out of the bathroom into the living room for “tooth inspection” with daddy (our nightly ritual). I wanted to let my husband know about the conversation we’d just had, and I wanted my daughter to know her father was on the same page. She seemed to comprehend our agreement, and didn’t seem ashamed or embarrassed. She just seemed happy and innocent, and still a little girl for just a brief while longer. She’ll probably come home with a different boyfriend tomorrow, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.