My ten year-old son’s best friend (also ten) has turned girl-crazy. Lots of my son’s other fourth grade buddies have crushes, too, but none of them are keeping up with this particular friend in the fantasy department. This particular friend talks openly about “inappropriate dreams,” and claims that all he wants is to see his girlfriend wear a bikini to the swimming pool. He wants my son to hook up with his girlfriend’s best friend.
My son isn’t buying into it. He’s skeptical about the whole girl situation. He covers his eyes with his hands at the kissing scenes in movies (though he peeks through his fingers). The other fourth grade girls flirt with him all the time, but “Mr. Cool” doesn’t give them the time of day. So far, he expresses passion through sports—he’s a consummate jock. His idea of flirting with a girl is to start a game of It-Tag.
In his full ten years of life, he never breathed a word to me about a crush. I know lots of his friends have crushes because I’ve got big ears. But I’ve never overheard him mention a crush of his own. I even made multiple attempts to pump his twin sister for information on the subject, but she’s either amazingly consistent in her loyalty or she’s just as clueless as I.
Crushes will figure prominently into my son’s life someday. My hope was that we’d have a conversation about crushes so I could put in a plug for being careful and safeguarding his heart. But given my son’s reticence on the topic, I was resigned to the likelihood that our first crush conversation would probably end up being after the fact and consist mostly of emotional triage.
So nobody was more surprised than I at how the first crush conversation first came up.
My son and I had just taken a tour of this new health club we’d joined. Everything about this club is big. It took me several days before I stopped getting lost in its serpentine hallways. Once I got my bearings, I took my son for a look around. Jock that he is, I knew he’d be excited.
The centerpiece of the club is “The Pavilion,” a huge multi-sports complex with basketball courts laid out in a four-square arrangement. Retractable walls divide the space into four individual basketball courts for games; when the walls are raised, the space is a gigantic paean to basketball. They also play volleyball, badminton, table tennis, and dodgeball in the Pavilion.
It doesn’t stop there. We took in three swimming pools, two floors of crystal-clear racquetball and squash courts, three dining areas, a gazillion big screen TVs, miles of fitness equipment, and a kick-ass weight room. But who’s counting?
We were walking through the club a few days after I’d given my son a tour of the place when he first broached the topic to me.
“How did you first feel when you saw the Pavilion?”
“How did I feel?”
“Well, I liked it. It’s pretty cool.”
Pause. “Did you feel nervous?”
“Um. Not really. Did you feel nervous?”
Shrugs. “Sort of.”
“Oh. Well.” I scramble to connect with him. “Maybe I felt a little nervous around all the basketball players. There are some pretty big guys playing out there.”
My son nods his head. Pauses. Slips his hand into mine.
“I love the Pavilion.”
His voice is soft and earnest. It’s hard for me to not giggle at the seriousness of his declaration.
And all of a sudden, I love the Pavilion, too. I love it because my son loves it. I love it because it’s unlikely (though not impossible) that my son will have any inappropriate dreams about it. I love it because he will never see it in a bikini or want to double date it. I love it because he doesn’t have to safeguard his heart against it. Not yet.