Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Call

My 10-year-old son got his first real crush on a girl at school, right in time for Valentine’s Day.

Ah, that first crush -- I remember mine. I was probably the same age. I never told a soul about it. The girl certainly never found out.

My second crush was easier. My best friend got me the girl’s number. It was all downhill from there.

I had absolutely no reason not to call her, so the plan was to call after dinner. And then I changed the plan. I decided I’d call after I finished my homework. And then I changed that plan, too, and by then it was too late in the evening to call, so I planned to put it off until the weekend. On Saturday morning I also had no reasons to not call. I still didn’t call.

“Dad, there’s this girl at school -- can I call her?”

That’s my son. He was playing the “ask and leave it up to the parents” card. It was 8:42 p.m. on a school night and too close to bedtime. The kid had absolutely no reason not to call her, but he could make the “My parents won’t let me” reason work.

“It’s kinda late,” my wife said. “Her parents probably wouldn’t appreciate such a late phone call.”

Lucky kid. He was off the hook. My parents always encouraged me to call, and I could only blame myself for not following through.

“It’s not a phone call,” our boy told us. “We’re gonna video chat on the computer.”

My wife and I ducked into our bedroom and, behind closed doors, debriefed. Did we need to make sure the girl’s parents were OK with the video chatting? By checking with the parents would we sabotage the whole relationship before it even got started? Were we just nervous for nothing?

“Don’t worry,” I told my wife. “He won’t even have the courage to make the call. I know about that all too well.”

With our permission, our boy went into his room, got on his computer and rang up the girl without hesitation. The two began talking with no problem. She seemed very nice. My wife and I gave them their privacy.

“Do you wanna play truth-or-dare?” the girl asked.

I posted up just outside his room to hear more of the conversation. My wife was in the living room and couldn’t hear so well. She muted the TV.

“We can just talk,” our son told the girl.

Smart boy. He knew when too far was too far.

“Have you ever kissed someone you liked before?” he asked the girl.

My wife flew off the couch and joined me outside the room. Without making an appearance in the video chat, she got our boy’s attention and shot him “the look.”

The girl said she hadn’t kissed someone she liked before, but she wondered what it was like. Our son, taking the cue from his mother, masterfully changed the subject.

“Let’s talk about something else,” he said. He had no problem conversing. She did fine, too.

“So, are you, like, my secret admirer?” she asked.

When I was my son’s age, I’d planned run-ins with girls, but I couldn’t even say “Hey” to the target. The fearlessness of these kids today makes me worry that they’ll be married before they get lockers.

At 9 p.m., my wife and I made our son wrap up the chat. The two kids set up a time and place to meet at the school Valentine’s Day dance, and then they said their good-byes.

Clearly, we needed to set boundaries. These kids were too comfortable.

“Thank you for making me end the chat,” our boy said. “I was so nervous.”


The paper in my wife’s hand had the contact information for all the students in our son’s class. She emailed the girl’s parents about the video chat. She wanted to make sure they knew what was going on and felt it was her duty to assure them our boy would be a gentleman.

I sat our son down. “You two are clearly not shy,” I said. “You, especially, have to be careful with what you say and what you do because you’re the boy. That girl’s parents would freak out if they knew you were playing truth-or-dare.”

“Dad,” the kid said, “you heard how I responded to that inquiry. I shut it down.”

“And I’m very proud of you for doing that,” I said. “Just promise you’ll be extra careful. Girls’ parents are way more sensitive and protective than boys’ parents.”

DING. The response email from the girl’s parents arrived. The girl’s mom wrote that she and the girl’s father usually don’t allow their daughter to use the computer during the week, only on weekends.

“See?” I said to my boy. “I told you girls’ parents are way more sensitive and protective than boys’ parents.”

“But if she was just video chatting,” the email went on, “it’s no biggie. A little flirting or playing truth-or-dare never hurt anyone. Imagine how we would’ve been if we had that technology when we were their age.”

I turned to my son and said, “Just keep Valentine’s Day to cards and candy, all right?”

-February 2014

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