As parents we always worry about making mistakes. And with the media attention given to parenting these days with stories about how we can damage our kids by the food we feed them or how much TV we let them watch, how can we help but wonder if we are doing the right things for our children. We live in a constant state of always questioning what we're doing and how we do it. I think that is, in part, why I totally lost perspective during an unexpected conversations with Sweet Pea, which, I just wish I handled differently.
Here's what happened:
As I arrived at school to pick of the kids, I quickly noticed "something" had Sweet Pea all excited and gitty. She was running around with her friends and wanted me to pick up her brother first, which she NEVER wants. And there was whispering going on. When I went over to give her a big hug and kiss hello she told me to go away. Something was going on. When I ask her what was happening she replied, "It's a secret. I can't tell you." Okay, well, she's entitled to her secrets and so I didn't press her.
When we finally got in the car, she obviously wanted to tell me her secret. As I buckled them in she said, " 'A' kissed me." (A is a five year old boy in her class.) Now, this alone may not have sent bells off in my head, but that coupled with the fact that as I was buckling them in, this very boy was waving to her saying, "Bye sweetie."
"Are you talking to my girl?" I thought. Who do you think you are Mr. 5 year old boy, who incidentally has two significantly older siblings whom clearly he has learned a thing or two from.
As I got myself in the car and we headed on our way, I responded to Sweet Pea, "Don't you think you're a little young to be kissing?" This is where I wish I said something differently but for now, I continue on with the story as it happened.
"No," she said, "I'm 5 and half." Oh yes, that's right, well glad we cleared that up.
At some point I think I asked how this came about. She replied, "He wanted to." Now I was getting agitated.
"You know Sweet Pea, Your body is your body and you should never let anyone touch you in any way you are not comfortable with."
"Well, I wanted him to."
"Oh, I see." I feel so much better now.
"Where did he kiss you?" I asked. "On the cheek?"
Now at this point I may be saying all the wrong things, but I am trying very hard to at least SOUND casual about the whole thing.
"Well," she asks, "Where would be the hardest place for him to kiss me." To this, I do not know how to respond. The hardest place? What exactly is she asking me?
"What do you mean?" I ask.
"I mean, what would be the baddest place for him to kiss me." Now, I don't know if now she thinks in her mind she did something wrong or she's simple afraid I will think she did something wrong. And because I didn't want to put any ideas in her head, I was afraid to ask too many questions.
Finally she came out with, "He kissed me on the cheek." Sigh...."Oh the cheek. Well, that's sweet." But it came too late. Now she's mad at me for "being mean to her friend."
"What do you mean?" I ask. "I didn't say anything mean about your friend."
"Yes you did. You said we were too young to be kissing."
"Well, it is my opinion you are a little young. But a kiss on the cheek can be sweet. I'm not mad. I'm glad you told me." To which she replied, "I wish I had never told you." She might as well have stabbed me in the heart.
Now, before I explain what I wish I had said, let me explain why I think had the reaction I did. We have friends who live right next door and their oldest son started kindergarten last year. I remember there had been an "incident" where he and some girls were kissing, or were thought to be kissing, or he was being chased by girls who were kissing him, I don't remember the details. But I do remember it turned into this whole big deal with the principal, parent conferences, etc. So this was at the forefront of my mind.
While I do believe a kiss at this age from a sweet boy (which this boy is, though perhaps a tad precious...do ya think?) is harmless, I didn't want her to think it was always appropriate to run around kissing other people, or for them to kiss her.
But I see now that this was just a simple sweet harmless kiss that she wanted to tell me about and share with me. And I totally ruined it for her with my own anxieties. (Pause for a moment while I run to take my Celexa I forgot to take this morning......)
Okay, so what I wish I had said was, "Oh, that's sweet. He must like you?" End of story. While I did later on in the conversation say this. That is, once I learned it was a simple kiss on the cheek. It was too late. I had already made her feel bad about it. WHY DID I NOT SAT THAT IN THE FIRST PLACE? Why did I not even think to say that. Why was I feeling so threatened and alarmed by what she shared. I didn't really think they had done anything wrong. I was just so worried about sending out a message that to go around kissing is okay. I mean in some situations it might be....but not in all. And, she's my baby, and hearing this boy say, "Bye sweetie," to my five and half year old, just rubbed me the wrong way.
But now I am afraid she won't confide in more anymore or share these important moments with me. That my response felt too judgemental for her and she'll think twice next time before sharing. Sweet Pea is very sensitive, and very intuitive. She sensed my anxiety, despite what I said in the end.
I've thought about bring it up with her again but I don't want to make a big deal about it. And despite this long post, the whole conversation didn't last that long. Maybe 5 minutes.
Deep down I don't she'll think twice about what I said, but it's one of those moments I wish I could do over. Next time I will take a long pause before responding, and try not to think about what would be the "right" or "wrong" thing to say, but think about, what does she need me to say.
And to all those experts out there writing about the do's and don'ts of parenting, "bug off!" "Do you know where YOUR kids are today?"