Boys, Bodies, & Being a Persuasive Girl—by Jamie Levine

Last year, when Jayda was four years old, she had a “boyfriend” at her nursery school, and seemed pretty happy about hanging out with guys both in and out of her classroom. But this year, my daughter has become more focused on spending time with “just girls;” she refuses to have play dates with any of my mommy friends who have sons, and opts out of all of the boy birthday parties to which her classmates invite her. My kid is a total girlie-girl, and since she’s consumed by sparkly clothing, manicures, Disney princesses, and Barbie dolls, I’m not surprised by her recent aversion to boys. However, there are a select few members of the opposite sex whom she sometimes talks about—particularly my ex’s kids, as well as couple of boys in her Pre-K class—and she occasionally alludes to the possibility of spending time with them.

I recently befriended a woman whose son is in Jayda’s class, and, perhaps because this boy is a more “sensitive” kind of kid, Jayda has started spending time with him and talking about him. The other day, I suggested having a play date with this boy, and Jayda enthusiastically agreed to the idea. We met the boy and his mother at a local playground, and the kids greeted each other with smiles and hugs, and happily ran off together to play. About an hour into the play date, the kids sat down on a bench and the boy started to look a bit distressed. The boy’s mom and I came over and asked our kids if everything was ok. Jayda responded that everything was fine and that we should “go away!” The boy pouted and told his mom, “Jayda wants me to talk—and I don’t want to!” His mom and I cracked up, and she explained to her son that, “girls like to talk…they don’t want to just run around and play all the time…” and my daughter nodded her head in agreement. But when the boy continued to refuse to converse with Jayda, she got upset and walked away. He followed her. And I was amazed by the dynamic that had begun so early on: Jayda, my strong-willed child, wanted this young man to do things her way, and while he refused at first, he clearly didn’t want to lose her attention or have her disappear. He followed Jayda, and eventually, they played happily together once again.

Still later, Jayda and her classmate crawled under a piece of playground equipment, and while the boy’s mom and I chatted unaware, our kids began taking off their pants. I believe the idea came from my daughter (who later admitted she was “curious”), but we didn’t catch on to the suggestion she was making until their clothing was almost off. Once we noticed, the boy’s mom and I raced over and insisted that the kids get dressed, and Jayda skulked away from me and unhappily demanded, “Go away, Mom!” and “Leave us alone.” I assumed she was embarrassed and told her I wasn’t mad, but that she needed to “keep her private parts private,” and that we’d talk about it later. However, the boy’s mother seemed much more upset than I was. Our play date ended a bit earlier than expected, and the boy’s mother appeared both rattled and annoyed at me (and at my daughter) when she and her son left.

On the car ride home, I had a talk with Jayda. I wanted to find out if she and the boy had touched each other (she said they hadn’t), as well as make it clear that being curious is ok—but that Jayda should first talk to me about things like this if she ever has questions. Finally, I reminded her that no boys should ever see her “private parts.” I didn’t dwell on the events of the afternoon, and by bedtime, I’d nearly forgotten about the incident. However, the next day, I received a phone call from the boy’s mother. She informed me that her son had told her that “touching had been involved,” and while I processed her comment, continued that, “he’d said they were playing ‘baby’” She then asked if Jayda had watched babies having their diapers changed and if she was interested in babies (yes, and yes) and we both surmised that the touching had everything to do with wiping the “baby” and, as I had always believed, was not sexual in nature. I stressed this to the boy’s mother, and she finally seemed a bit more relaxed, but she admitted that she’d never talked to her son about “things like this”…and had been thrown off by “something like this” happening at such an early age. And then I understood why she’d been so angry: She blamed my daughter for exposing her son to things she should have been speaking to her child about already. I, for one, have been talking to Jayda for years about her body—how it feels and works, and what makes it special—and who is allowed to touch her “private parts” (me, grandma, and grandpa) and who is not allowed (just about everyone else).

The phone call ended amicably, after I advised the boy’s mother about what to say to her son, and how to handle things going forward; before we hung up, I jokingly told her we’d never leave our kids alone again and that everything should be fine. But the fact is, kids will be kids. They’re curious, and especially if they’re my daughter, they’re strong-willed and persuasive. This other mother was a bit naïve and judgmental: She should have spoken to her son about girls and their body parts earlier on, and not blamed me and my kid for corrupting her son. True, Jayda was wrong in advising this boy to take his pants off—but he didn’t have to obey her. He was clearly as “curious” as Jayda was and easily gave in to her suggestion. Ahhhh…the power of women. Who knew my daughter would have boys hanging on her every word at such a young age?!