Over the last few weeks, we’ve reached another milestone. Although he hasn’t yet used the phrase “girls’ germs”, I can tell it’s not far off. All of a sudden, he doesn’t want to play “girls’ games”. In fact, girls games are “dumb”.
This newfound reluctance to spend time with the girls is something he’s picked up from his male friends at school. But never fear, Big Brother is joining in with the reckless abandon of a small boy in a crowd of cohorts.
I’d anticipated this stage. I’d mentally prepared to it. I’d done the groundwork. We’ve had plenty of conversations about boys and girls being different but equal. I’m ready to accept that this is a normal stage for a boy, and to let it run its course.
What I wasn’t anticipating was watching him go through his first crush.
About a month ago, I started hearing about a girl in his class that he’d never mentioned before. We’ll call her M.
“I need to drink lots of water,” Big Brother said one morning. “I have to be very fit and healthy so I can catch M at playtime. She’s such a fast runner.”
“Is salad healthy?” he asked the next day. “Because healthy food will make me strong. Then I can climb trees like M.”
Soon, talking about M became a regular part of every day.
“I chased M today, but I couldn’t catch her.”
“M wouldn’t let me play with her today. But I just followed her until she let me.”
(Shhh! It’s not stalking when you’re five!)
“Today I asked M if I could play with her and she said yes straight away!”
And then, last week, I realised what was really going on here.
Big Brother came home from school on Thursday with a bundle of spindly grass. “Look what I’ve got!” he said with much more excitement than I thought dead vegetation deserved.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Grass spiders! Today at outdoor play, M said she’d play with me and we looked and looked and we found all these grass spiders and we were going to use them to weave a nest and then we could have eggs!” His eyes were the size of saucers, and his voice pitched high enough to scare the neighbourhood dogs.
“Wow,” I said. I mean, come on, what else could I say?
His face fell. “But then the bell rang and we didn’t have time to build a nest. So M said I could take the grass spiders.” He hugged them to his chest, and gave me a big smile. “And tomorrow, I’m going to take them back to school, and we can build our nest!”
So the next morning, he diligently carried the nest-building materials into the car with him. The whole way to school, he did nothing bit talk about M. He talked about building a nest. He reminded me that she’s the fastest runner in the whole universe, and she can climb trees all the way up high and she doesn’t even get scared or stuck. He talked about the games she likes to play, and the people she likes to play with. And then he started to worry. What if she was sick? What if she didn’t turn up to school?
“I know,” he said. “If M isn’t there, I’ll write her a note.” (Let’s ignore the fact he doesn’t know how to write.) “Dear M. I’m sorry you’re not at school. I really miss you. Here are the grass spiders to build our nest. We can build it when you get back. Love, Big Brother.”
Having a plan seemed to ease his mind, and he went back to telling me about M’s amazingness and wonderfulicity.
We got to school, and I walked with him towards his classroom. We were almost there when M dashed over the hill next to us and came to a halt in front of Big Brother. “Hi, Big Brother,” she said brightly.
Big Brother froze. He stared at her. He licked his lips. He said nothing. I could see his little mouth opening and closing, but no sound came out. His eyes just kept getter wider and wider. After a really, really long (and uncomfortable) minute of silence, M half-turned to go. She called over her shoulder, “Nice grass spiders.”
Finally, Big Brother’s tongue started working again. He thrust his hands in her direction and blurted, “We can build a nest!”
As pick-up lines go, I’ve heard worse.
Do you remember your first crush?