The other day on the way to gymnastics, J told me that it had been a “big gossip day” in 5th grade. Apparently it was a day of confessions and accusations. . . a day of all sorts of rumored love affairs. Ah, finally! I thought. Some interesting intel!

J reported that in fourth grade, none of the boys seemed to be aware of the girls yet, so while the girls had crushes, they were unrequited. “Now that some of the boys like some of the girls, it’s definitely getting more interesting,” she explained. I found out, belatedly, that one of the reasons J had found a particular fifth-grade girl irritating was that she was always pairing up J with a particular boy. J professed no romantic interest in the young lad (although, let’s be real here, I am her mother and would therefore be the last to know. Well, second-to-last, because there’s Cute W), but this other girl simply couldn’t stop talking about them as a couple. But that’s blown over: the boy has a crush on someone new, and the girl who likes to analyze prospective romantic relationships has turned her focus away from J for the moment. Phew.

This discussion moved onto the fifth-grade boy population in general, and while there were no super-standouts in terms of romance, clearly some of them were at least less irritating than the others. We discussed the fact that some people are likely to continue to be irritating well into high school, but I suggested that moving into middle school might offer up a little relief. They’ll have new people to hang out with, plus all the dating-crazy kids will get together and she can sort of. . . ignore it. Which is what M mostly does in 8th grade. And, she’s even friendly with some boys without it being such a huge deal, I told J, like middle school is light at the end of her particular tunnel. No sense in telling her that it’s out of the frying pan and into the fire!

But then it came up that in middle school there were still plenty of irritating boys. At least, according to M. She likes to come home and complain, and I’m usually doing that thing where I say stuff like, “Gosh, it’s too bad he didn’t help with the project at all, I wonder if everything’s okay at home?” or maybe a concession: “Well, okay, that was inappropriate to say in class.” Because that’s what mothers are supposed to do. We look on all with benevolent kindness whenever possible, until it’s time to email someone. But I do hear the names, and sometimes it gets downright comical (although I sometimes fear that it’s like that Shirley Jackson short story, Charles). And here’s what’s funny: there’s a kid who tends to be pretty disruptive in class, and M’s always coming home and complaining, and she says this kid’s name the way Seinfeld used to always say, “Newman!” So that kid’s name came up, and I imitated the way M says his name, and that triggered a revelation. You know how sometimes on Facebook or LinkedIn someone tries to connect with you, and you’re like, I don’t know who that is. Wait. . . do I? And then, if you’re me, you can’t bring yourself to either accept or refuse their request because you keep hoping you’ll remember, one way or the other? Well, I said this name out loud and I was like, “OH! That’s why that guy’s name sounds familiar!” And then I remembered a whole school-related email exchange, and I went home and accepted the kid’s father.

But anyway, I got the sense from J that there are many girls who are deeply involved in romantic pursuits, while J is still mostly in the “boys are for playing kickball with” stage. I love that. Again, not that she’d tell me if she were sighing rapturously over someone. Apparently I don’t raise confessional daughters (dammit). In fact, the only sighing was the general state of affairs of boy-girl relations in the 5th grade. “I wish that we could just be friendly with boys without someone trying to act like everybody’s in love with each other,” J complained. “I mean, some of the boys are really funny.”

I hear ya, J.


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