Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Do You Like Me? Circle Yes or No

Last night my 8-year-old son, lover of all things boy and self proclaimed hater of girls, girl cooties or anything associated with girls, did something that I wasn't expecting for at least another four years or so...

He called a girl on the telephone.

(Insert dramatic soap opera music here.)

Yes people, he has a new "friend" and her name is Janie, which I think is just the cutest little name ever. They both love Pokemon and Nintendo DS and she has been helping him "level up" in the game, which I think is fantastic, because he is already not afraid to let a woman tell him what to do. The first time he was talking about "his friend Jane," I thought I must have heard him wrong and said "Your friend, James?" which was met with one of those stares your children give you when the subtext is "Oh my God, parents are so stupid." "No, Mimmy, JANE, as in a GIRL'S name." I tried to hide my shock, not wanting to make a big deal out of it and make him feel uncomfortable while in my head I wanted to jump up and down and sing "Big Boy and Janie sittin' in a tree..." because yes, I am all immature like that sometimes. Whatever, I am a lot of fun at parties.

So he has been going on and on about his new pal for the past few weeks, and a couple of weeks ago he said he told her that he would meet her at the store up the street, because she said she would be there buying something for her brother and he needed her to "show him something" on his Nintendo DS. I thought this was cute, but wasn't about to get the toddler all bundled up and both kids in the car to go to the store where this 7-year-old little girl "said" she and her mother would be at "around 4." So today he came home with her phone number.

He placed it on my laptop table and said "I got Jane's number."

I looked at the tiny scrap of paper with the little girl handwriting, the 3 written backwards, the pencil scratches uneven and crude, and it made me nostalgic and teary eyed. Memories came flooding back of the first boys I had crushes on that I dared to call, giggly and nervous, my stomach full of butterflies. I couldn't quite believe that he was actually going to call this girl on the phone, and even more so that he was so nonchalant about it. Which reminded me, again, that the difference between boys and girls is so much more far-reaching than their genitalia. In his mind, he was calling this girl to have her help him with something; he has a need for her in his life that satisfies his interest. But I couldn't help wondering if Janie was sitting impatiently by the phone at her house waiting for him to call her, with higher hopes of her first glimmer of romance.

"I told her I would call her RIGHT when I got home from school," he said quickly. He went in the other room and got the phone to dial. I sat there, just staring, disbelieving. He has never even called up one of his male friends on the phone before, so this was a barrage of firsts for me to be witnessing. And it was just so adorable watching his face transform from calm to nervous when someone picked up and he stammered out "Is Jane there?" Then, when she got on the phone, he said "Hi, it's B., you know, from school?"

My mind fast forwarded to years to come when I would be picking up the phone to various pimpled, awkward boys and girls calling my house to talk to my kids, who wouldn't be kids anymore, but teenagers, young adults, and then full fledged grown people. One day those boys and girls would drive cars and come pick up my children to take them places where parent's eyes cannot see and where secrets would be created and innocence would be lost. I think my heart broke just a little bit as I looked at the squarer features of his 8-year-old face, which would continue to age until barely a semblance of the child he once was would remain. I'm not ready for this, I thought. This is just the first step, and the ones to come would be even harder. How can I let him go?

He began arranging a play date with Jane to go to her house. And when he asked if it was OK with me, I hesitated for just a moment before saying yes. This time, he is just going to a friend's house to play. I am not losing him yet, I tell myself. This is just the first step of many, but it is one we have to take. I can't stop him from becoming a man; it is out of my hands.

I talked to Jane's mom and handed the phone back to B. so he could talk to his friend again. They chatted for a few minutes and then I heard him say "OK, I'll call you later."

And I smiled. Because somewhere up the street, there is a little girl, sitting next to the phone, waiting for him to call. Just like I sat next to the phone so many years ago for the call from the boy who would be the one to hold my hand for the first time. And that's where it all begins...none of us can stop it. Today it is Nintendo DS and Pokemon, superheroes and cartoons...

someday, it will be love...