It was 1968. My mom had brought my brother, Stuart and me to Open House to meet our teachers. We entered my brother’s first grade classroom first. While we waited for our turn to meet Stuart’s teacher, Rhonda came in with her grandmother. Stuart and Rhonda ran off to the corner to say hello. They were all kissy-faced. Rhonda’s grandmother walked over to my mom and asked her to “kindly get her son off her granddaughter.” My mother turned to look at Stuart and Rhonda and replied, “They seem to be enjoying themselves.” She did nothing. Stuart eventually learned to hang with the boys and treat girls coolly -- until he was a teen.
This year, as a teacher myself, I am witnessing a first grade romance. I noticed this romance during my lunch duty. Jason and Bella have sat next to each other at their class lunch table every day except one. School has been in session for seven weeks. One day, about five weeks ago, Bella decided to sit on the opposite side of the table with her girlfriends. Jason sadly stated to Bella that he had saved the space next to him. Bella looked torn. Exasperated, she moved to sit next to Jason. Her girl friends expressed their resentment that she left them, so she moved back to sit with the girls. Jason gave her one more guilt trip and back Bella went to sit next to him. Just a few days ago, Jason sat himself in the middle of some of the other boys in their class. Bella came out of the lunch line, caught my eye and looked dejected. She sat on the opposite side of the table with her girlfriends. Bella caught my eye one more time and threw her hands out as if to say, “What am I going to do with this situation?” I whispered in her ear that it was sometimes a good thing to let a friend have time with other friends and that if their friendship were really true, he would ask her to sit with him again. That day, they sat with friends of their own gender. The next day was like all the others.
I am inclined to do nothing more than my one-time offer of wise words to Bella. I am sure they talk to their parents about their special friends. They are not teens yet. I am sure Bella’s parents will subtly tell her not to rush into anything and Jason’s parents will tell him to give a young girl some space. It will all work out in the wash.
Provided everything is innocent, elementary teachers and school staff have the luxury to be amused. Parental involvement will form boundaries until puberty sets in. Then, parents can only hope that they have laid a good foundation for relationships between the genders.