My Letter To The Woman Who Asked My 7-Year-Old If He Had A Girlfriend

Dear Lady In Front Of Me On Line At The Coffee Place:

It was nice to meet you the other day. Technically, we never actually met. If we had met I would know your name, or know you, which I don’t. So I guess I should say it was nice to stand behind you in line the other day, despite not knowing you at all.

The thing that’s wonderful about waiting on long lines for things like coffee or public restrooms is one has the opportunity to meet the most interesting, talkative people. Personally when I see a long line, I don’t even need to know what it’s for. I’ll jump right in the back knowing full well a line is just a gateway to me getting to know someone new.

It’s always a treat when the person in front of or behind me in line recognizes that I’m a lover of getting to know strangers and turns around to talk. It’s delightful when they share a personal bit of information about themself. They want me to know that they’re on their way to their pap smear, but needed a non-fat cappuccino first. Her daughter has three children by three men. It’s important to her that I know this. He’s frustrated by the duration of time he’s been standing on line. Hoping to stage a coffee coup, he turns to me thinking I’ll share his disdain for lines not realizing I’m right where I want to be, immersed amongst strangers who see my face and think, “This is a woman who wants to be spoken to.”

But my favorite thing about waiting on line, anywhere, anytime, is the opportunity to have a complete and total stranger show their deep-need to engage my young children in conversation. My children are outgoing and occasionally polite. They’re also well versed in the most important rule in parenting, “Never talk to strangers, unless they say something to you in line at Starbucks.” So of course my children and I were delighted when you turned around to talk to us, for no particular reason. It made the already slow moving line feeling like it was going even slower. That made us happy. You know how kids love to wait.

Because children are like celebrities to strangers I’m used to the regular conversations one likes to strike up with my child, who they will never see again. Grown-ups like to tell kids useful hints like, “Be nice to your sister,” which was an issue without your helpful insight. Or, “Enjoy it while it lasts,” because you know some kid wasn’t going to until you said that.

Strangers also like to engage children in a line’s length inquisition as if they are trying to get secrets out of a spy or get a very defensive therapy patient to spill the beans. This comes in the form of delightfully inane questions clearly designed to bore the child to death so you can take his space in line.

What grade are you in? is a popular question and totally fair assuming the child knows the answer. If not, he or she will blush, shrug and look to mom for help. Where do you go to school? I’m never sure why strangers ask. Are you looking to go to elementary school yourself? If not, why the interest? Are you a good boy? I’m always thrilled when my son says, “No?” as if he’s been asked a trick question. Do you have a girlfriend? Wait, what? My kid is seven, as in years old. He’s seven. You just asked a child if he’s in a committed relationship. If we run into in a year, are you going to ask him if he’s married?

The one great thing about being a kid is that you’re a kid, simple as that. There is no technology, invention or medical breakthrough that can change the course of time. From generation to generation, kids are just kids.

Me personally, I’ll do anything to keep my kids young and protected. I’m not talking about dating or girlfriends until my kids are the right age to handle and understand the concept. And I’m not acting like it’s cute when little boys and girls run after each trying to kiss one another, play doctor or go steady having no idea what that means.

I can’t imagine a scenario where a stranger would think it was charming and cute if I said my little kid had a girlfriend. To even talk about young kids in those terms all but objectifies them in the most inappropriate ways. Kids are already exposed to way too much way too soon. As parents we know to protect our kids from images and messages that are too mature for them to understand. We just never knew that we also needed to protect them from the images and messages they’ll hear on the line at coffee.

So if you want to know if my son has a girlfriend, he does. On the way home he said, “Mommy, why did that lady ask if I have a girlfriend? Doesn’t she know you’re my girlfriend?” Kids have a lifetime to be mature and grown-up. While they’re kids, let’s let them be kids. You did say to enjoy it while it lasts. We’re just taking your advice.



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One thought on “My Letter To The Woman Who Asked My 7-Year-Old If He Had A Girlfriend

  1. People learn to ask young children if they” have a girlfriend”etc. on TV, in magazines ads, and in our kiddy porn culture at large. Simon Cowell and many other talent shows regularly asks pre-adolescent contestants that question. Kids are objectified as sex objects because sex sells. (Capitalism at its worst) This attitude and practice is harmful and needs to stop. Thanks for bringing some sanity to this subject with your well said rant.

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