Remembering the “Olden Days”

Recently, my son who is in grade 4 has begun to ask me questions about what it was like in the olden days… you know, when I was in grade 4. He wants to know about the shows I watched and games we played. Did I have to learn cursive writing too and what the heck was a Tamagotchi? He wanted to know why ‘Red Rover’ was outlawed and why we can’t buy Sodalicious anymore. I love answering these inquiries, the exploratory questions about what life was like way back in the 90’s.
However, over the past month or so the conversations have shifted from what I did, to what I felt. Who were my friends? Who were my enemies? Who did I sit with on the bus? And most recently, who did I have a crush on?
My grade 4 crush was easy to pin point because in grade 4 Jonathan Taylor Thomas was on the cover of every Teen, Teenbop, and Seventeen magazine. Even if you weren’t on the Home Improvement band wagon like I was, you heard his voice as Simba in the Lion King or saw him in Man of the House or Tom and Huck. In grade 4 I knew everything about the teen heartthrob. I knew he was a vegetarian, what shows he’d been in and when his birthday was.
Yet it didn’t take long for me, as I rattled out long forgotten details of a long forgotten celebrity to realize that my son wasn’t actually asking who MY crush was – he was opening the door for me to have a deeper conversations with him – about HIS crush.
I stopped mid sentence, somewhere between explaining JTT’s parentage and when he moved to California and looked at my 10 year old son. Somehow it had escaped my realization that if I had been noticing boys when I was in grade 4, that my son might be going through some of those same feelings. I stopped and asked him if there was a boy or girl in his life that he had a crush on. He blushed, put a blanket over his head and said ‘no’.
I’m not in any way a genius, but a blanket over your head, probably means ‘yes.’ So I just continued to sit on his bed and waited. Soon enough he peeked out and smiled my son’s signature cheeky smile.
“I have two crushes” he said eventually. “But I’m not telling you who.”
“Okay.” I said feigning disinterest. “I respect that, but can you give me clues?”
He told me they were girls. He told me one of them he likes because she was a fast runner and because she plays sports and likes to race. The other little girl he likes because she is smart and kind to him and to the other kids in his class.
I sat there on his bed listening to all the reasons why he likes these little girls. And I realized that my 10 year old son is significantly less shallow than my 10 year old self was. Why did I like JTT? Because he was cute, because his picture was in my teen magazine, because he was famous and rich and all the other girls liked him too.
Why does my son like the girls he does? Because they are athletic, kind and intelligent…
I’m sure ‘pretty or cute’ plays a role in why he is so innocently drawn to these little friends, but not enough that they become descriptors of who they are.
In a society where looks are often one of the key identifiers of a person, where we are taught to judge and like (or dislike) someone based on personal appearance, it was beyond encouraging to see that my son isn’t so easily manipulated.
There is value in health and presenting yourself well, that is not my argument. But to encourage our children to see past the external and see the real person. To recognize that my 10 year old son can develop a crush based on more than how a girl does her hair or whether she wears name brand running shoes is a significant win. He likes these girls for what they do, and who they are and how their brains work.
I wish we could promote and foster this in ourselves and in the next generations as well. A desire to see past outward appearance. A desire to value people based on who they are and what they do and not what they look like. A push towards engaging with real people and not an obsession with celebrities.
I’m very proud of my son.
Now the only thing left for me to do is get a list of the girls in his class and figure out the smart, athletic and kind ones…

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