Wooing The Neighbor Girl

fastcarTo my unprepared dismay, my little super hero announced that he must build a go-kart so that he can drive away to the neighbor’s house and save his girlfriend, because that is what super hero’s are supposed to do. What four year-old has a girlfriend?! According to the rather lengthy yarn my son was spinning for me, he and his girlfriend were going to drive all the way to Radiator Springs so that they could ride in Lightening McQueen together. And hold hands. But definitely not kiss.

Mom: Say, what?!
Son: Yup. But I’m not gunna kiss her. Kissin’ is gis-stusting. I’m not doing any of that kissin’ business.
Mom: Kissin’ business?! Huh?!
Son: You know what, Mom? My girlfriend is sooooo pretty. And she likes snow. And she has a pink jacket. And I bet she likes fast go-karts just like me.
Mom: Does she know that she is your girlfriend?
Son: No. Wait, do I haftuh tell her?!
Mom: Uh…hmm…no?
Son: Phew!

My four year-old son is apparently brimming with toddler testosterone. He likes his racecars to be lightening fast. He likes his super hero cape to fly fast behind him. He likes his jumps to land so hard. His likes to tell me that his muscles are so strong. He likes to holler so loud. He likes his herbal tea at room temperature. He likes a nine year-old girl who lives next door.

A nine year-old girl! That’s a five year difference. 20 years from now this won’t matter. But right now, this could prove fatal to my son’s ability to court his ladylove. For starters, she can read. Also, if I had to guess, her bedtime probably does not start around 6:30 on a cranky night and extend to a late 7:30 on a regular night. She probably does not insist on only drinking out of a thermos because the straw makes the best chocolate milk bubbles ever. She probably doesn’t need to read the same Curious George story 7 times in a row every single night.

My oldest son is breaking all the seals of parenting experience for me. I thought boys didn’t like girls until middle school. Or was that high school? College? But sucker punching me with this girlfriend business at the ripe old age of four has got me all kinds of confused as a Mom.

My first reaction was to laugh punctuated by the occasional aww! And Oh, my goodness, this is the cutest damn thing ever! But now my reaction is more concerned about my apparent ignorance over basic boy development stuff, specifically, that part about boys liking girls.

So, I had a little Mom to son chat the other day. I gently explained some basic rules of conduct around girls. Here was my big chance to begin imparting some feminist values. Since chivalry is dead, I explained that he should treat girls no different than he would want someone to treat him. I talked about the Golden Rule and empathy and compassion.

And then I talked about girls. I tried my best to clarify that while he might have mushy feelings for the neighbor girl (who really is a lovely and sweet kid) he can’t just go save her. Girls don’t always need saving. And further more, just because she evokes this wild yet-to-be-identified-feeling it really isn’t very nice to tell his other girl friend that the neighbor girl is more special.

We have set tentative plans to get together with the neighbors once spring is warm. In the meantime, while my son pines away for his girlfriend, I have a tiny bit more time to plant some seeds of gentleness in my son’s heart of hearts. If he is going to grow up to be a good man someday, then I see it as my job to mold my son’s view of women starting now.

Sure, he can hold a door open for a lady, but I hope he does the same for a dude. That’s just courtesy. At some point he will (oh, dear god) go on a date. I hope he offers to pay for dinner for the sheer pleasure of being nice and certainly not for any expectation (heart palpitations!) of a romantic outcome. There may also be ample opportunity for him to be with other boys who are talking about girls in that locker room sort of way. If I have any influence on my son whatsoever, I hope he uses respectful language (holy hell, I’m having a flipping stroke here!) and sets a good example to his friends.

But all of that heavy stuff takes time. Today, I should start with explaining that Radiator Springs is not a real place. And besides, you can’t get there with a go-kart.

Sarah Cottrell

About Sarah Cottrell

Maine-based writer Sarah Cottrell is the voice behind Housewife Plus at the Bangor Daily News and is a regular contributor to Disney’s Babble and Momtastic. She is a co-author in six books including I Still Just Want To Pee Alone from the New York Times Bestselling series. Sarah’s work has also been highlighted and featured by SELF Magazine, National Public Radio, Washington Post, and VICE Tonic.