Ellie is really flourishing and learning in kindergarten. Her vocabulary has tripled, and some of the phrases she says, she’s five going on fifteen. While I’m embracing the change, there is one word I was not expecting to hear for a while; boyfriend.
One day when I picked Ellie up from school she clearly and happily stated, “I have a boyfriend!”
Actually, she didn’t say boyfriend. She said, “boooooooyyyyyyfriend <3<3<3.”
Uhhhhhh… What? Did I just hear the word I thought I heard? The “B” word. B-B-B-Boyfriend!?
Boyfriend was not a word that I registered coming out of her mouth yet.
Stumped, not knowing what to say I replied casually, “Oh yeah?”
“Yes his name is Johnny! Jooooohhhnnnyyyy. I like him!”
This comes just a few days after Aya watched Dirty Dancing for the millionth time. The same way Aya said “Joooohhhhnny” is exactly the same way Ellie did. The kids were well into a deep slumber so I know she didn’t over hear Aya or the movie. But whatever qualities Patrick Swayze has, Ellie’s classmate Johnny does too.
I wanted to gather some intel on this kid. Was he a rough kid from the other side of the tracks? Or was he one of those clueless kids with messy hair, dried snot on his sleeves, and his fly constantly down.
“What does Johnny look like?” I asked (as if that really mattered. The big difference I’ve noticed in five year old boys is whether they are wearing a Spiderman shirt or a Batman shirt).
“He’s a boooy (sly smile) and has brown hair like this (giggle),” she said as she moved her hands into a point on the top of her head while smiling ear-to-ear.
A Mohawk!? This kid has a mohawk!?
I know mohawks have come a long way. They aren’tjust reserved for punk rockers, Mr. T, and Muppets. From mohawks to faux hawks, they are pretty mainstream these days. And most of my friends find them super adorable on little kids. “Aww, look at Jackson with that mohawk and his ‘I’m a little rebel’ t-shirt!”
Call me old-fashioned, but I hate mohawks. Even on little kids. Yes, I said it. I’m using the word hate here. Mohawks are like neck tattoos of hair. No matter how artful they are, they send a certain message. Mohawks don’t project an image of “I’m a nice boy who does my homework and goes to bed early.” Am I right?
“A Mohawk?” I asked non-chalantly. I had to play it cool, I wanted her to be comfortable talking to me. I was being breezy on the outside, just making chit-chat and letting Ellie talk about her new friend, but inside I was Freaking. Out.
Luckily, when I spotted Johnny at school during pick-up the next day he did not have a Mohawk, a faux hawk, or a neck tattoo and his fly was up. He looked like a regular normal five year old boy. Phew.
After the initial shock wore off, I began to relax about it. One of my best friends in kindergarten was a girl. Although, I wasn’t trumpeting that she was my girrrrrlfriend. I just remember playing tag, thinking that her toys were lame yet intriguing, and that her room smelled good. Even though Ellie is announcing her boyfriend status, she doesn’t even know what a boyfriend is. He’s just a friend that’s a boy. Yes, that’s it. A friend that’s a boy. My friends laughed it off and told me their first crushes were when they were five and six years old. This was all a normal phase and it would pass.
After school I would stay open and relaxed when Ellie gave me her daily Johnny report.
“Daddy, I LOVE Johnny. He’s awesome!”
“Johnny is afraid of girls, except for me because I’m pretty.”
“I was chasing him to give him hugs, but he ran away. Why did he run away?”
“Johnny is my boyfriend. He likes me because he draws pictures of me with a mustache and a mohawk.”
I’d force a smile and say, “Oh really!? I think I’d run too. Mustaches? that’s silly!” just waiting for the phase to pass. As harmless as it is, I just wasn’t ready for it all.
During a fall field trip where I was a chaperone, I kind of got the sense that Johnny was a favorite of most of the little girls. I had three girls in the back seat, and one said, “Hey look, there’s Joooohhhnnny!” They all giggled and said, “Jooohhnnny.”
Wow, Johnny seems to have captured the hearts of many. The interesting part is that when I saw Johnny with a swarm of girls (two) around him, it looked like he was freaking out. I’m very familiar with that look of panic in a boy’s eyes when a girl talks to him. Actually, I’ve never really seen it, I’ve only felt it. The blank stare, immediately wanting to break eye contact. Not having a clue what to say. The silent anxiety. The “it’s just a matter of time before they regret talking to me” feeling. It was all too familiar to me.
As time went on, the Johnny talk subsided. I knew it. It was just a phase. She was just excited that she had a friend that was a boy. All this boyfriend talk, all this nonsense Johnny talk was now over.
And then this happened. Sometimes words aren’t enough to describe something. See below…
It’s shocking to see “Johnny, I love you,” written out like that. It makes sense though. Everyone she knows she loves and they love her back. She hears, “I love you,” a million times a day. She’s always writing cards to her friends. “Dear Evelyn, I love you. Love Ellie.” So it makes sense she doesn’t differentiate with Johnny. Sorry, I mean Jooohhhnny.
I think I’m going to start nudging some new language in her direction now though. At bedtime instead of saying “I love you,” I’m going to say, “Good night Ellie, I like you like a friend. You’re alright.”