At first I thought my son was joking.
Big A had a proposition for us, he said.
To make a long story short, he wanted to use his allowance to take a girl out on "a date".
He suggested going to Carvel. He outlined that me, his mother, would drive himself and his date but I was to sit at a different table, hidden behind the drink machine so he and his friend could have some privacy. The plan was that he would order one huge milkshake with 2 straws.
We were in the car and I was biting my lip to stop from laughing. I wasn't laughing with my son, but at him. My husband began cackling until he looked over at Big A and saw he was quite serious.
What to do?
"Who's the girl?" I ask him.
"Tulip. She's in my class." he said. (Her name is not Tulip. I am merely protecting her identity)
Most of Big A's friends are boys. He's 6, after all. But there are a couple of girls he has deemed "cool" who have slipped into the friends circle.
"Do you think she's going to want to go out on this...er...date?"
"I think so. Can you please call her mom now and ask if she can come on the date?"
I wish he would stop calling it a date. They're 6 for goodness sake. I stalled for time.
"What if she doesn't want a milkshake?" I asked him.
He thought about this. "That's okay. She can get whatever she wants."
I called Tulip's mother. Tulip's mother asked Tulip, who said that she would like to join Big A for an ice cream social. A time and date were arranged and yesterday I found myself driving towards Tulip's house to pick her up.
"Now when we pull up, you stay here." Big A directed me. "I'm going to walk to the door and get her. And I'll say 'Ready for OUR DATE?' " He grinned goofily.
"Please don't say that," I begged him. "It's just two friends getting ice cream."
"Okay," he concedes. "I'll say 'Ready to go get ice cream?' but then I'll wink."
Oh good grief.
We picked up Big A's little friend with no incident. He held the door for her at Carvel and let her order first. She doesn't like milkshakes, it seems, but she got a dish of Mother Earth. I sat across the ice cream shop pretending to read a book but straining to listen to their conversation.
Apparently Big A had taken it upon himself to come up with some talking points that I'm pretty sure he pulled from an episode of Clarence
"So Tulip, if you were stranded on a dessert island, what three things would you bring?"
She thought about this for a minute. "Water, food and a tent."
"I would bring water, food and a laptop so I could watch Minecraft videos."
"So Tulip, if you were being attacked by zombies, what weapons would you want to have?"
And so on.
The rest of the "date" passed pleasantly, the two of them chatting and eating ice cream until we dropped her home 20 minutes later. I have no idea what came over Big A but he suddenly announced "What if I kissed Tulip?" and started smiling at the sheer madness of such a thing. He turned to Tulip and said "Did you HEAR what I just said?" and the wise girl replied, "No" as she got out of the door.
My husband called to find out how the "date" was going. We thought it was all so charming but the two kids seemed to think it was normal. Two friends, getting together, having conversation and having a treat.
My husband and I talked last night about how, (even though it's unusual for a first grader) glad we were that Big A came up with this idea to have "a date." He doesn't see girls as "other", as stupid, covered in slime or not worth his time. And what about Tulip? I hope this innocent encounter sets the stage for her expectations of dating. The guy should plan the date, hold the door and pay. Accept no less, Tulip!
Because soon enough children will age into teenagers and they WILL be dating. And I hope it's nice. And mutually respectful. I hope it means conversation and fun. Not making out at a party and then never speaking to each other again at school. (I know, I know...I'm wishing for miracles here) But it's never too early to teach out children good ways of interacting with the opposite sex.
"This is what dating should be like" my husband proclaimed with a definitive nod. "Doing fun things with different people and getting to know them."
We brainstormed the idea of letting Big A invite 4 boys over this summer and turning our deck into an Italian restaurant. The catch? Each boy would have to invite a girl as his dining partner. Then they could all gather around the same red checked tablecloth, eating spaghetti, drinking grape juice out of wine glasses and having conversation. After which they would likely run around our yard like maniacs and fight over the tire swing like the 7 year olds there are but, still, the foundation for the future would be set.
Our child won't truly be dating until...what? High school? But it's nice to shape his perceptions and expectations now. I still have NO INKLING as to what made Big A come up with this notion of going on an ice cream date with Tulip. He seems to have reverted back to being a 6 year old kid. This morning he was focused on his new lego set, latest baseball game and the thrill of back-to-back play dates with two buddies on Friday afternoon.
But when his Grandma asked him how his "date" when yesterday he told her it was "Awesome."