Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Question: I've heard that other parents have kids who think the opposite sex is gross until they're preteens, and I am jealous. My beautiful 7-year-old daughter had her first "boyfriend" in preschool. Her best friend's mother was always joking about how cute this or that boy was, so that's my best guess for where she got the idea.
Now I find out my daughter gave notes to her latest "boyfriend" in school saying she can't wait to get married and have his babies. I know she doesn't understand what she's saying, but I still think it should be addressed now.
We've talked about focusing on just having friends now, and leaving boyfriends for when she's older, and how being in love is special and for when you're older. How much stuck I don't know. Any advice on how to handle this? I don't think I'm doing it well.
Answer: Eh, you're probably doing just fine, as long as you aren't harping on it as something you need to fix now (or at all) and aren't pointing and screaming at the best friend's mother like a scene from Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Go easy on the blame in general. Kids pretend to cook like grown-ups, work like grown-ups, drive like grown-ups - so when they pretend to pair off like grown-ups, there's no need to launch an inquiry into "where she got the idea."
Keep an eye on any boy-craziness, sure, and even talk about it with a veteran teacher to help you figure out when to be concerned and when not to, but otherwise it's OK to treat your daughter's behavior as a phase unless and until you're confident it's outside the range of normal. (Teachers see so many kids over the years, they're great for getting a sense of what's age-appropriate.)
My boys also, for what it's worth, never stopped being friends with girls, even in the peak the-opposite-sex-is-gross years.
From readers, more arguments on the remain-calm side:
I had crushes on boys starting in second grade and that didn't hold me back in the (very) late bloomer department. In my experience, there is a big gap between having a crush on someone and actually acting on it. I would say keep doing what you're doing, gently.
Laughing out loud! I "married" my boyfriend in second grade - he even carried me across the classroom threshold! I caught up with him on Facebook a year or so ago (some 45 years later) - and we had a good laugh, joking that because he eventually married someone else, he is a bigamist now.
"Too Young's" daughter is perfectly normal. I don't recall a time when I wasn't "boy crazy," and around the age of her daughter, I took the bull by the horns and proposed . . . to my four-year-older cousin. It's just a fond family story now, and when I got married last year, my cousin and his wife were there to witness the blessed event. "Too Young," your daughter sounds absolutely delightful. While you're understandably cautious, please don't worry too much.
Chat with Carolyn Hax online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.