Sunday, May 06, 2007

Young Children in Love

My six-year old boy has fallen in love. The object of his affection is a very sweet young lady in his class who apparently likes him, too. Still, I was a bit surprised when David came out of school Thursday afternoon with the girl’s phone number. “Mama, I have to call her! She told me to call!”

On the way home, somewhat shell-shocked that this was already happening in David’s life, I had a mental debate with myself over whether to allow him to call or not. I am friends with her parents so that weighed into the equation as well. I felt comfortable with him calling their house, but I wondered whether her mother actually wanted a little boy calling her daughter!

I don’t want my child dating until he is sixteen but I know that at this age, there is nothing sexual in his feelings. He simply sees her as being someone special. I also know that his feelings are real and to dismiss them would be to do him a disservice. Eventually, I did allow him to call. I told him how to ask politely for her on the phone, and they ended up having a very pleasant three-minute conversation. He was so happy! The following day, I saw her mother at a social function and asked whether she minded that David had called. She said that it wasn’t a problem and that it had made her daughter’s day as well.

This is not the first time David has fallen for a girl. At age two, he fell in love with a girl a year-and-a-half older than him. They played together from the time he was born and they were great friends. When she moved away, he was truly heartbroken. Whenever we would get pictures of her from her family he would look longingly at them and insist that they go in his scrapbook. The mere mention of the state she moved to would bring him to tears. This lasted for three years! I’m somewhat relieved that he is moving on.

I never had a crush at such a tender age, but my husband did. He can recite the list of girls he liked from the time he was in first grade. Even now, at age 39, he remembers them with fondness. As he states, “I never thought girls had cooties!” I guess I know where David gets it from.

Lucy Emerson Sullivan, writing for “Sesame Street Parents” (, states that

Experts agree that a child's primary caregiver is her first love object. But then your little baby starts to grow up, and one of the ways she does is by focusing on someone besides, well, you. "This generally starts to happen in kindergarten or first grade, at ages four, five, or six," says Elyse V. Goldstein, Ph.D., a psychologist in private practice in New York City who specializes in relationships and intimacy.

These early romantic yearnings are all a part of a child's first effort to move beyond the circle of her family. "A crush shows a child's willingness to separate from her main love object," explains Dr. Goldstein. This looking outward, in turn, helps a child define herself, to see herself as a person who exists beyond the family.

It is good to know that this process is normal. I know in David’s life there will be many crushes. God gave him a very loving and sensitive heart. I also know that he will be heartbroken many times as well. As much as I hate to see that happen, I know that all these experiences will help him grow to be the man he will eventually become. The best I can do is to be there to celebrate in his joy of a new-found special friend, listen to his feelings, and be there when it ends to hug him and tell him I love him.

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