Oh Danny Boy

Posted: October 6th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Bad Mom Moves, Birthdays, Friends and Strangers, Kate's Friends, Misc Neuroses, Miss Kate, Other Mothers, Parenting | 1 Comment »

I screwed up my very first relationship at age six.

We were in the line to go the bathroom at school. Boys on the right. Girls on the left. And Danny Palumbo leaned over and whispered in my ear, “You’re my girlfriend.”

This news came as a surprise. I mean, I wasn’t totally clear what being Danny’s—or anyone else’s—girlfriend really meant. But I assumed that if I was someone’s girlfriend, I’d at least have known about it.

So, with the defiance of a budding feminist, I put my hands on my hips and leaned back towards the Boys’ Bathroom Line to inform Danny, “I am NOT.”

Then I spent three years consumed by a crush on him. Ah, the power of suggestion.

Danny had glossy black hair, worn in a bowl cut. (This was a fetching look back then.) It was very Moe from The Three Stooges. And where I was a good girl—walked around by my teacher to the other classrooms to show off my handwriting—Danny was a bad boy. He had a sidekick, Les Dunbar, and their antics no doubt sent teachers home desperate for a drink at the end of the day. Once they went to the bathroom and put on all their clothes backwards. This created quite a ruckus when they were called up to write on the chalkboard. Good times.

The way they rolled was the second grade equivalent of driving motorcycles and smoking unfiltered cigarettes. And I loved it.

Anyway, after much reflection I decided that if I could have a do-over, I’d respond to Danny’s claim on me quite differently. I’d gently help him reframe his statement. “Danny, are you trying to tell me you’d like to be my boyfriend?” I could say. I mean, if it weren’t for my knee-jerk feminist slap-down—I am SO not your chattel, dude!—we might’ve trooped off happily in our respective bathroom lines with the magic of romance tingling in the air.

Well, my little Kate’s in first grade now. Last year everyone in her class was matched up with a second grade “partner pal.” Throughout the year these pals do various projects and activities, in the hopes that their pre-fab friendships will generate some inter-grade community love.

And it totally works. It’s a sweet program. Very smart of the school to do.

For a long while I knew little to nothing about Kate’s partner pal. She told me he was a boy, and I sometimes heard about their craftsy collaborations. Like, Kate mentioned they made masks together at the school’s Festivus party. (What? Your kid’s school doesn’t celebrate Festivus? Weird.)

And for some reason I had the fleeting thought that because Kate’s partner pal was a he, he might not be down with having to hang out with a kindergartener. I hoped—for both their sakes—that their enforced times together weren’t too weird or awkward.

Then, at a school event half-way through the year, I finally met the kid. And in no time I realized that he and Kate certainly are pals. In fact, when she saw him that day she ran up to him and hung on him like those monkeys with long arms that they sell in the zoo gift shop—the ones where you Velcro their hands together and can loop their limbs over something like a lasso.

Although it pained me to see how annoyingly in-his-face Kate was, it seemed that this boy was either impeccably polite, or not annoyed by her attention. Or both.

Perhaps he was more sympathetic to my kindergarten daughter than I thought he might be.

We’ll call him Ted. Kate calls him Ted-Ted. Yes, apparently Kate’s one of those females who’ll call her boyfriend “David” when everyone else on the planet calls him “Dave.” Or worse, she’ll call him some wretchedly-personal pet name for all the world to hear. So I’ve got that to look forward to.

For Kate’s birthday party she made up a list of guests. When given this opportunity she thankfully doesn’t go overboard, wanting to invite 300 of her closest friends (like I do). Instead, she included her besties from school, a couple neighborhood chums, some close family friends, and Ted.

I wasn’t sure whether I should discourage this. He was, well…. older. And Kate’s a young first-grader. Would he really be keen on the scene at a sixth birthday party? For a girl no less?

But I saw his mother—a super friendly, down to earth mama—in the schoolyard the next day. I sidled up to her and mentioned that Ted made it onto Kate’s party list. Then I found myself trying to convince her that it wasn’t weird Kate wanted him to come. “There’ll be a couple other older boys there,” I stammered. “And we’re having a magician—so it won’t be all girly.” Finally I shot out, “I mean, if he doesn’t want to come, that’s totally fine too.”

But she smiled her down to earth I’m-so-centered smile and put her hand on my arm, “Ted is comfortable around kids of all ages.” She scratched her address on a post-it, and handed it to me. “I’m sure he’d love to come.”

These days when I drive Kate to school, if she sees Ted walk by she frantically screams to him from our closed-windowed car, “Ted-Ted! Ted-Ted!!” as if she’s warning him a tidal wave’s about to crash over his head. When I pick her up, if I stop to chat with another parent she’ll sometimes ask if she can hang out with Ted until we’re ready to go. And thrillingly, Ted did come to her party. He was the oldest child there by far, but his mom dropped him off happily, and he was totally comfortable in the scene. He even engaged in brilliant banter with the magician.

Some little part of me still frets that Kate’s annoying this chap. That her unbridled adoration is getting old. That he’s on the brink of getting some playground restraining order on my naive young daughter. But when I emailed his mom to ask for her address (again) so we could send them a thank you note, she mentioned that Ted had a great time at the party. She even commented on how much she likes the “sweet friendship” they’ve formed.

Which just goes to show that my ability to understand the elementary-school male is still apparently broken.

I snapped out of my neurotic mama mode and realized that it is sweet. This Ted fellow is a genuine, friendly, nice boy. Hardly the rogue-ish Danny P. of my younger days. Why wouldn’t he like hanging out with my genuine, friendly, nice daughter?

If anything, I should probably be worried that my assertive girl has leaned this lad’s way and claimed with an air of authority, “Ted-Ted, you’re my boyfriend.”

And for all I know, he’s said, “That’s right, Kate-Kate. I am.”

1 Comment »

One Comment on “Oh Danny Boy”

  1. 1 Jennifer Burden @WorldMomsBlog said at 5:18 pm on October 6th, 2011:

    I’ve gotta say, I’m exhausted, totally run down, but I enjoyed escaping through this story you told!

    My father still brings up my kindergarden crush and his bus #. And, my daughter, who is 4, has a suitor this year in pre-school. He has already given her a flower and candy, and it’s only September.

    I asked her if she liked him, and she said, “Mom, he loves me, but I love everyone!” Oh boy.

    Can I also admit that I sat back and imagined how much you’d enjoy helping to plan Kate’s wedding with Ted-Ted’s mom? She sounds fantastic.

    Jen :)

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