Boy, this is going to be a lengthy post...
There is this little boy who has been calling Summer.
He (we'll just call him "D") is very polite to me on the phone, and I closely monitor the phone call and the amount of time they talk...OK, actually, I set the timer on the microwave for 5 minutes. When it goes off JD comes bellowing into the room yelling, "IT'S TIME TO GET OFF THE PHONE...GET OFF THE PHONE RIGHT NOW!! TIME IS UP, HANG UP RIGHT THIS MINUTE!!!" I understand the intensity of JD's voice because I want Summer to be in the same room with me when she is talking to "D", so I get to experience JD's drama first hand.
Now, some may read the above paragraph and think that it's a little over the top to make my daughter be in the same room with me while she talks to a boy, and to set a time limit...well, it's not over the top, it's called "parenting". I know you are very interested in my reasons, so here goes...
First let me say, Summer is not allowed to have a boyfriend at this point in her life, and "D" is not her boyfriend. I encourage my children to build great friendships with their peers, both boys and girls. It is much easier to be yourself with a friend than a boyfriend...especially in the 4th grade! When "D" started calling, I sat down and talked to Summer about some boundaries in conversation and a time limit. We agreed 5 minutes was plenty to talk to him because he was quiet anyways and she was doing most of the talking...sounds a lot like my relationship with my husband!
We decided on the things that were OK for them to talk about (homework, teachers, lunchroom, sports, siblings, snow days, television shows and movies, etc.), and she and I also laid out the boundaries regarding things that were NOT appropriate to talk about including gossiping and badmouthing other classmates, along with the obvious R rated conversations. We decided that if "D" ever had a girlfriend, then it would not be OK for them to continue talking because the girlfriend would not appreciate that. And lastly, I asked her if it would be OK, at first anyways, for Mommy to be in the same room while she was talking, she agreed. The next time he called I was in the kitchen cooking and she came right in there and sat at the bar while they talked. I continued fixing dinner and never interrupted, but at one point as they were talking she said, "Mom, what happened that time...." It made me realize that she felt very comfortable talking to him with me around, it maybe even eased things for her to know that I was there.
If we don't socialize our children in a way that is in alignment with our values and beliefs, then the world will socialize them. The world would tell my daughter that it is OK to have a boyfriend at 9 yrs old, it is OK to go behind close doors and talk to him, and it is OK to talk about inappropriate subjects...it is a slippery slope, and not a direction that I can let my little girl travel down. By setting up boundaries, I have actually empowered her to converse about topics that she is interested in, topics that she is comfortable sharing her thoughts and feelings, and even giving them things to laugh about. They are both able to be themselves and be comfortable talking to each other. And I know that "D" is realizing what a cool person Summer is because she has taken the initiative to nurture this friendship in the right way.
Yesterday, word got out at recess that they had been talking on the phone to each other in the evenings. Some of the girls started saying, "You like him, he likes you, you two are going together." I was so proud when they both told their peers that they were just friends, and when he called last night they even laughed about it. They agreed that some of their classmates were trying to start trouble, and no matter what anyone said they liked being friends and talking on the phone. I was so proud of them! I was proud of Summer for understanding the importance of building friendships. It is becoming less awkward for her to strike up a conversation with him, and more and more I hear them laughing and cutting up about silly things.
I never understood why it was that parents feel like we have a right to be involved in every aspect of our children's lives (we help them choose what they wear, we remind them to take a bath and brush their teeth, we help them pick their activities and educational choices), but when it comes to relationships, we throw them to the wolves. How are our daughters suppose to learn to interact with boys if we don't guide them? How are our sons suppose to learn how to treat girls if we don't teach them?
My son most always will hold the door for a female. Jeff and I started telling JD along time ago, "Girls first, boys next." That may sound old fashion to some, but I want JD to be a hero in the eyes of his future wife. I want him to handle her gently and speak to her kindly, and that all starts by teaching him the most basic of manners. We talked the other night at the dinner table about saying unkind things to girls. Summer is currently dealing with a very disrespectful little boy at school and he has said some very mean things to her. I was able to include JD in that conversation by asking him if he thought it was OK to say those kind of things to a girl. It was an opportunity for us to, again, teach JD how we expect him to behave toward the opposite sex, and an opportunity to help Summer think of ways to handle disrespectful boys. We want our kids, all four of them, to know that they have self-worth and that self-worth shines thru in the way that you treat others and the way that you allow others to treat you.
When Summer came home and told me what this little punk had said to her, my first reaction was to tell her to hit him in the mouth! Actually, I did tell her to do that! But after talking to a good friend of mine and asking for some suggestions that would be more non-violent, I changed my tune and ask Summer to try another route first. Her and I went into the bathroom and shut the door. I made her look in the mirror with a serious face and pretend that "punk-boy" had just said something hurtful to her. I wanted her to use her mean voice, even be loud if she wanted to, and practice saying things that would affirm her self-worth, and hopefully, teach this little brat that whatever he is learning at home from his parents is not acceptable in the really world.
I made her point her finger and say things like, " Don't talk to me that way!" "You are not to say things like that to me!" "It's not right to say that and you know it!" "You don't have any friends because of the way that you treat people!" I told her that the louder she got, the more negative attention HE would get and finally he would shut-up!
...but, if he keeps this crap up, she has my permission to hit him square in the mouth...and we practiced that too!