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My Son’s First Girlfriend

Photograph by Getty Images

My 12-year-old started his second year of middle school — his first year alone without his big brother, who has moved on to high school.

I listened to him share stories about his classes, his friends, the clubs he joined. One day to my surprise he called me with some news.

“Mommy, I have a girlfriend,” he told me, and I beamed with pride knowing that his wishes always come true. This past summer, he had confidently told me that he wanted a girlfriend this year.

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“Well, tell me about it. How did it happen?” I prodded him.

“OK. She’s in a lot of my classes. I went up to her on Friday and I asked her to be my girlfriend and she said she would have to think about it,” he shared. “Then on Monday she came back and said that she wouldn’t want to be my girlfriend only because I have a good friend named DeMario and he always ranks (teases) anyone who has a girlfriend and she didn’t want him to talk about her. So I told her OK. But then the next day she said never mind and that she would be my girlfriend anyway.”

“Aww! Sugar plum! How do you feel?”

“I feel okay.”

“Are you happy?

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“What is she like? Is she lots of fun and crazy or is she really smart and studious?”

“She’s both.”

“Do you guys talk?”

“All the time.”

“What do you talk about?”

“Anything.”

“Do you hug?”

“Sometimes.”

I forgot that at that young age we tend to believe the first person who likes us is going to be with us forever.

“What’s fun about being a boyfriend?” I asked him.

“Well, I teach her stuff and she teaches me stuff,” he replied. “Like I taught her about Google Plus because she didn’t know about it and she said she is going to teach me about Minecraft.”

“Aww. That sounds fun,” I told him.

“It’s fun,” he said. “But it can be hard. It's kind of like owning your first business. You're starting out and you don't really know what to do and you're afraid you might mess up and fail.”

“So what do you tell yourself when you are afraid you are going to fail?” I asked him.

“Nothing,” my son said. “When I think about that I just remember who I am. I can’t fail.”

That made me smile. Who taught him that? It had to be his father. Watching his single father date, women marching in and out of his life, has given my son a sort of confidence that was absent from his own father’s childhood.

It’s good to see my baby interact with girls with confidence. He’s always, and I mean always, wanted a family of his own. Sure, he also wants to be a chef and to have his own business, but what he has talked about more than anything is having his own family. At 12 years old, I know that sounds a bit weird, but he adores his dad and all of the experiences he has while living with him, and he wants to recreate those experiences in his own life.

I’m grateful. We all know how it is to wonder about that first love, that first experience. When we’re little and we’re experiencing our first “stirrings” we wonder if someone will ever like us. A few years ago I assured both of my sons that they will have many, many chances at love and they were shocked. I forgot that at that young age we tend to believe the first person who likes us is going to be with us forever. I burst that bubble for them, but I didn’t make it seem like a tragedy.

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I want my sons to enjoy each person that comes their way because each person brings a gift and adds to their lives in some way. I want them to know that when it’s time for that person to go, it’s a signal that you've grown and it’s OK to move on. One day you'll meet someone to grow with. Until then, be happy that someone took the time to recognize your value and appreciate you.

“I like her already,” I told my son. “If she likes you, I like her, because she has to be pretty smart.”

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