When I was a child, it was common for adults to ask me, “Do you have a boyfriend?” or “How many boyfriends do you have?”
Lots of people asked me this – grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends of my parents. I hated it.
Now, some of those same adults are raising these same types of questions with my Elliot. I don’t know if it’s because he’s in kindergarten, and they know he is surrounded by many other children – yes, some of them, girls – his age.
I think I hate it even more now that he has to deal with these rude questions than when I was a kid.
Do people really think he has a girlfriend at 5 years old? If so, why in the world are they encouraging this at such a young age? Is there, embedded in the “Do you have girlfriend?” question, an insinuation that, if he says “yes,” he is more handsome, more popular, more intelligent than boys who don’t have girlfriends?
If he answers “yes,” he gets more questions. “What is her name?” “What color is her hair?” These inquiries focus on someone else – perhaps leaving Elliot to believe that his worth is found in whether he has a girlfriend or what she looks like.
If the answer is “no,” the conversation ends. Is he then left feeling as though his lack of a girlfriend means he is not popular, not handsome, not intelligent?
Is that really what we want to be saying to our children? Even if it is some sort of hidden message? No, it’s not.
Granted, I never want Elliot to think his worth is found in popularity, beauty or intelligence. It is not. We are loved by God unconditionally. We are created in his image, and there is nothing we can do to make him love us more. We don’t need to strive for God’s love.
Also, I know I cannot control what other people ask or say to my children. I fully realize it’s my job to explain to my children what I believe, especially if someone says something that is contrary to the way we are raising them.
But this boyfriend/girlfriend question is ridiculous. It is one of those inquiries that people blurt out without thinking, similar to the dreaded are-you-going-to-have-another-baby question I endured for months.
So, much like when I asked people to quit questioning women’s fertility, I would like to request that we stop asking children whether they have boyfriends or girlfriends. You may think it’s harmless fun or that it’s not affecting them, but I am now a 30-something mom, and I still think about how that question made me feel like a loser when I was a child.
If you’d like some good ideas for alternative questions for young children, I would be happy to recommend some. Here are a few with which to start:
- What is your favorite book?
- Who is your favorite author?
- What is your favorite part of the school day?
- What is your favorite color?
- What is your favorite number?
- What is your favorite letter?
- What do you like to build when you play with blocks?
- What do you like to draw?
These questions challenge kids and make them feel like what they are learning is important. There are many, many more age-appropriate things to ask. Please feel free to share your ideas for great conversation starters with children.
Finally, from now on, if anyone asks either of my children the girlfriend/boyfriend question, I am going to butt in and say, “He/she is too young for that.” Go ahead, call me a helicopter parent. I’m OK with it when it comes to this.
Originally published on ovparent.com.