We've been watching some of the 1970's "Little House on the Prairie" series with our kids at bedtime. In a couple episodes Laura has had a crush on a boy, or Mr. Edwards has dated a lady in town, or Johnny Johnson has been smitten by a pretty (and immodest) girl. So the idea of boys liking girls, and the idea of dating have now been raised in the minds and hearts of my girls. (Sigh) I can't keep them four years old forever.
Naomi's been acting a little shy when the subject comes up. Hannah's been spending more time than usual in front of the mirror--brushing her hair, changing her clothing, and rarely satisfied with what she sees. "I don't think I'm as cute as Laura is," she once openly despaired. This made me laugh when I thought of Laura's long braids and buck teeth. I had to assure Hannah that she was beautiful inside and out, but that the loving heart inside of her was what made the outside so pretty. "Aw," she shook her head, "I still don't think I'll ever be pretty like Laura."
Tonight, as the sunlight faded, and Matt and I tucked the kids in their beds, I lay down beside Naomi and joked that I was going to have a slumber party in her bed with her. "Could we?" she asked, with all seriousness.
"Oh, I think Elijah would get jealous," I answered.
"Well, just until he wakes up?" she pleaded.
Normally in a hurry to give them all a quick kiss and steal away for some time by myself, tonight I paused my busy day and snuggled up beside my daughter and had a girl talk--just what we both needed. I told her a couple stories about childhood friends and games and how I used to ride my imaginary horse, Cheyenne, everywhere I went when I was Naomi's age. It wasn't long before Hannah and Emma had climbed into Naomi's bed too and we had a full-blown slumber party going.
I told them a story about how my best friend in 2nd grade, who happened to be named Laura, had moved to Colorado and how she had returned when we were in 6th grade, only for us to discover we wouldn't be friends anymore. "Why?" Hannah probed.
"Well..." I searched for the right words, "Because she had grown to care about having just the right clothes, and the prettiest hair, and being popular, and having all the boys like her...And I knew those things weren't important. I didn't want to be friends with someone like that, and she didn't want to be seen with someone who wasn't popular."
This led to a wonderful discussion of true beauty, of what to look for in a husband someday, and of the joys and follies of high-school dating relationships. "The most important thing," I summed up, "is to find a man who loves God with all his heart. And if you love God with all your heart, you will be the most beautiful girl to him, and you will always be best friends."
"Oh, of course," Hannah said, " I already know that."
Maybe she was just in need of a reminder, I don't know, but we all seemed to enjoy the talk. I'm glad the lines of communication on this subject are open now at the ages of eight, six, and four. I pray they stay wide open as we enter the teenage years. The girls from my dormitory at the boarding school we worked at know I have plenty of dating advice to hand out, sprung from my own mistakes and regrets. Guiding three girls through the troubled waters of teenage relationships is an enormous task before me. I'm grateful they gave me the chance tonight to get a jump start on the journey.