Ivan Natividad: Downfall of the prodding parent
November 17, 2017
The first time my son mentioned that he had played with a girl in his kindergarten class I have to admit I felt kind of giddy about it.
It was a couple of weeks ago, and I asked him what her name was. He told me with an excited smirk on his face, which for some reason I took to mean that my five-year-old son had his first crush.
"Awww," I thought to myself.
It kind of brought back memories of my first crush. I also was in kindergarten and her name was Christine. She had brown hair and blue eyes, and one day after school while hanging out at a neighbor's house she kissed me.
Or was I perpetuating some kind of hyper-masculine machismo dictating that boys and girls, or men and women, can’t just be friends?
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We stared at each other for a little while afterward, then started playing Tic-tac-toe on a small chalkboard.
I remember feeling happy for some reason — but kind of confused about why I was happy. I was five.
So as the prodding parent I can be sometimes, I put him through a short interrogation about this new friend of his.
"What did you two play?" I asked.
"I don't remember," he said.
"Well was it just the two of you," I said jokingly poking with my finger gently.
"I don't remember," he said annoyed.
"Do you like her like a friend?" I prodded.
"Yes," he said, once again annoyed.
As he walked away to build something with his Legos I thought to myself, "Why did I do that?"
It was so cliche.
What did I want him to say? Was it some narcissistic attempt at getting him to follow in my footsteps?
"Yes dad, she's my girlfriend and we kissed in front of some chalkboard just like you and that girl Christine you don't even know anymore."
Or was I perpetuating some kind of hyper-masculine machismo dictating that boys and girls, or men and women, can't just be friends?
"Yes dad, I love red meat too. Just like you."
Or was I trying to figure out what his sexual orientation is, and my interrogation was a reflection of my deep-seeded concerns of how society treats non-heterosexual men and women for being … themselves?
"Yes dad, I like girls, so you don't have to worry about how much more difficult my life would be."
Pessimistic parenting at its best.
What I didn't think about before prodding him the way I did was the fact that he's five years old, and the concept of liking another person in that way, or having a crush, may not even be something he understands.
Or what if he is gay, but doesn't even know it, and now he thinks his dad is some homophobe because he keeps asking about some girl he played with?
Or maybe, he's just a kid and plays with other kids who are nice and fun to spend time with.
Yeah that's probably it.
Makes more sense than the ignorant assumptions I was trying to make in prodding him with unnecessary questions.
It was a reminder that sometimes as a parent, maybe I should just let things be. And if I'm going to delve into certain unchartered waters with my children, maybe I should think about what I'm going to say before just blurting out nonsense that is more self-serving than engaging.
As a parent I know I'm not going to approach every situation in the most productive way. But reflecting on my mistakes is something that I need to do in order for my children to take whatever advice I have to give them seriously.
Which means dialing back on the passive-aggressive cynicism.
Because for them, the world is still a brand new place with endless possibilities; and that's something I hope to allow them to hold onto throughout their lives.
Ivan Natividad is Digital Editor at The Union. To contact him call 530-477-4242 or email email@example.com.