A couple of weeks ago, we went to Southern California to visit my husband’s family. We stayed with his sister and her husband, who have two grown children, both in their twenties and living out of the house: Amanda is newly married, and Alex is engaged to a woman named Katie. During our visit, Theo fell hard for both Amanda and Katie.
I realize that Theo is only 4, but he was behaving more like a teenager than a preschooler, exhibiting all the signs of a legitimate crush. When Amanda came over, he wanted nothing to do with anyone who wasn’t her. Except when he was too shy to speak to her directly; then he would come to me and ask me to serve as his messenger.
“I want her to push me in the stroller,” he whispered to me one afternoon, while we were out for a walk.
“So go ask her,” I said.
“No, you do it,” he replied.
At the playground he wanted only Amanda to push him on the swing. He wanted her to watch him climb the rock wall and slide down the slide. When Amanda left to go back to her own house, he looked heartsick. “Is Amanda coming back?” he asked. “When? Do you think she’ll go in the pool with me when she comes back?”
It was pretty much the same with Katie. She would hardly be in the door, and he would be running outside to put on his swimsuit. He planted himself next to her at meals and showed her his karate moves. He performed his best somersault. He was using all of the tools in his four-year-old toolkit. How do you seduce a girl? You build her a Lego robot, of course.
When neither Katie nor Amanda was around, he moped. When they were there, he was like a circus dog, riding a unicycle while juggling and honking a horn. It was funny, but it was also kind of painful to watch. And not in the way I’d expected.
I had always imagined the worst-case scenario when I thought about my sons growing up and dating girls (if they do, in fact, end up liking girls – and do people still “date” anymore? Oh god, I’m a hundred.). Anyway, I worried that I would turn into Jane Fonda in Monster-In-Law, that I’d transform into a jealous, manipulative nutcase and be tormented by the thought of “losing my baby.”
Again, I realize that Theo is only four and that I’m probably getting way ahead of myself here, but: while watching Theo swoon for other women did tug at the old heartstrings a bit, what I primarily felt was empathy. I remembered what it was like to be tortured by my feelings for someone, and I felt for the little guy. I wanted, very badly, for him to be happy. And if being happy meant spending all of his time with Katie and Amanda, then that’s what I wanted, too. So when I finally gave in and agreed to ask Amanda if she would go swimming with him – like I was in seventh grade and crossing the cafeteria to ask a guy if he liked my friend – I was a little nervous on his behalf.
Amanda DID go in the pool with him (phew!), and both she and Katie were incredibly kind and generous with him. He had the time of his life. And watching him smile so hard and look at them with eyes full of adoration, all I felt was… happy.