The Fourth-Fifth Grade Dance is this Friday.
Cadence is excited to go. It's got us talking, and me thinking.
The conversation started with us both looking in the mirror. I was putting on make up. She was dawdling before brushing her teeth.
"Mom, make your lips do like this." I copied her expression. She looked at my lips and back at hers.
"We've got the same lips."
"It looks like it, yes. But actually, you've got Nana's lips. Yours are fuller, like hers."
Our banter continued and I purposely made it swerve into different territory. I suggested fuller lips were kissable lips. She smiled big and squirmed. Then I suggested there would be no kissing at the dance Friday night.
Her face scrunched up as I had expected. "Oh no, this dance is a friends dance. The counselors have already talked to us about it. There is to be no dating at this dance."
"That's right. Fourth and fifth grade is a great time to be friends. There's lots of time for dating when you're older--like the last year of college."
I got another look I anticipated.
We talked more and she asked me when she could date. She confided that she would be scared to tell daddy and me when she had a boyfriend. This conversation gave me the opportunity to assure her that it would be all right when the time came. We talked about the boy that likes her now. I heard the hesitation as she admitted that she liked him back.
Be who you needed when you were younger.
A sweet boy called me in fifth grade. He had a mop of black hair, a big warm smile, and a great laugh. He was kind and popular--an unlikely combo. He called to ask me to be his girlfriend. Flustered by this first brush with the opposite sex, I asked my mom. "Tell him no."
Crushed and embarrassed, I passed the message along and we hung up.
There was no conversation, no discussion, no opportunity to hear how lovely it is to catch the attention of someone, to revel in it, and to also understand that fifth grade is too young. These were the messages I really needed to hear then.
And so I conveyed them to my daughter this morning. I told her that this boy seemed like a great kid. That he has the qualities that I want her looking for in the future as she begins to date. I also told her that I expected this future boy to be kind and if not, there'd be trouble for him.
I'm aware of how little I knew about this subject when I was her age and in the years to follow. There's so much that is confusing and nuanced. I want to help shepherd her through those years and the best way to do it is to start when the stakes are low. I am building trust with her and banking on her coming to me later when the stakes are higher.
I want to create a warm, nurturing space for us to have those conversations--now and in the future.
This morning I was who I needed when I was younger. And the heart of that little fifth grade girl inside me healed a little bit more.