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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

Kids’ Crushes May Not Be Serious But Kids’ Feelings Are

By Paige Wolf

The other day I found my six-year-old son coloring the most elaborate picture, complete with hearts, rainbows, and the words “Sam + Lydia.” (Well, it was actually “Sam + Liyda.”) He informed me that the little bespectacled blonde was his crush and that he loved her. He wanted to give her this proclamation of his admiration at school the next day. And that was just fine with me.

Lately I’ve read a couple articles chastising adults for asking children about their “boyfriends,” “girlfriends,” and “crushes.” Parents have been put off by the discussion as too sophisticated, inappropriate, and even borderline sexual.

I’ve also spoken to parents who refuse to participate in any discussion of crushes, insisting that they simply are not ready to accept their children as old enough for “relationships.”

Personally, I think parents need to get over it. There is so much we need to protect our children from, and I think a little childhood romance is the least of it.

Realistically, the preschoolers who speak of engagement and marriage aren’t aware of what any of that really means. My son spent his preschool years alternately engaged to a dozen different girls and boys, several of which were in tandem. We took that time to explain to him that marriage was about choosing someone to spend your life with, and that someone could be a boy or a girl—but his final decision wouldn’t be made until they were adults. No, he could not marry his sister and mommy and daddy were spoken for.

I had a preschool “boyfriend.” He would pretend to be Superman and I, Lois Lane. Years later we reconnected on Facebook and giggled about our childhood romance. He told me my daughter looks just like he remembers me, and it warmed my heart.

Throughout elementary school I remember the girls being far more interested in love than the boys. I spent those years pining for many of the little boys who sadly did not return my affection until I turned 12 and sprouted breasts.

Nonetheless, notes were passed and several couples paired off for roller skating dates and awkward slow dances. While these may not have been mature relationships between likeminded adults, it doesn’t make the feelings any less real. And I’m OK with acknowledging them.

Maybe my son thinks his classmate is pretty and nice, or maybe he’s just incredibly impressed because she got “student of the month.” Right now they just like to smile at each other and then run away shrieking with embarrassment.

It’s not for me to dismiss chatter of boyfriends, girlfriends, or even love, admonishing them for being too young. But it is my responsibility to use this opportunity to talk about boundaries.

“No, she does not have to like you back.”

“No, you may not kiss or hug her without her permission.”

“Yes, we can invite her to your birthday party.”

He understands that parts of his (and her) body are private. And, quite honestly, he still thinks babies are made by just holding hands and wishing—probably another conversation I need to have sooner than later.

I remain entertained and amused by the playground gossip. I like to hear who is crushing on whom, which crushes are “broken,” and whose wedding is currently being planned.

And I will take it seriously if his heart gets broken. They call them crushes for a reason, and being little doesn’t make the hurt any less painful. 

Paige Wolf is the author of Spit That Out: The Overly Informed Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy Kids in the Age of Environmental Guilt (New Society Publishers, 2016). Follow @paigewolf on Twitter.