“There’s this boy in my class named David,” my daughter Veronica, who was five years old at the time, said one day while I was peeling potatoes.
“Oh?” I said.
“He kissed me.”
“Oh?” I said, putting down the vegetable peeler, this time paying a monumental amount of attention. “And, what did you do when he kissed you?” I asked.
“I kissed him back,” she declared.
“Oh,” I said, trying not to laugh, act shocked, or faint.
“I want to tell Dad about it,” she said, as she picked up the phone and began dialing his number at work. I wasn’t sure how he’d take it, and had wanted to at least brace him and tell him not to overreact before she told him about her first kiss, but she beat me to the phone.
I don’t really know what he was saying on his end, but I kind of got the gist of it from what she was saying on hers.
“But, Dad,” she said. “What do you mean you want to meet him?” she said loudly.
A very long minute passed during which her face became a very big, long scowl. Then, she let him have it. “Look, Dad,” she began, “It’s my life. I’m a girl and it’s my job to kiss him back. You’re being selfish. Good-bye!” With that, she briskly hung up the phone and went to play with the Barbies in her room.
I called Richard. “Nice going,” I said. “I’m so glad you stayed calm.”
“Look,” he said. “All I said is that I’d like to meet this David before she goes and kisses him again.”
“Richard,” I began, “may I remind you that she is only five years old? If you make a big deal out of this, she’ll never want to tell us anything.”
“I don’t like this,” he said. “I don’t like it at all.”
A few days later, after “the kiss” had pretty much blown over, the phone rang during dinner. I answered it.
“Hello,” a small voice said. “This is David. Is Veronica there?”
“It’s for you,” I told Veronica. “It’s David.”
Lucas, our one-year old, was spreading strained peas on his cheeks.
Richard dropped his napkin and fork on the floor, bumping his head on the table as he sat back up after retrieving them.
Veronica got all girly and goofy when she heard that David was on the phone. She took the phone from me and breathlessly said, “Hi, David.” They chatted for a moment while I got an icepack out of the freezer to put on Richard’s head. She took the phone away from her mouth and asked me, “Should I go?”
“Go where?” I asked.
“To his house on Saturday.”
Since we already had family plans that night, I suggested they make it for another night. I took the phone to speak to David’s mother. She and I were happy to finally “meet,” even if it was over the phone. We talked about setting up another time for them to get together, since we’d probably be planning a wedding together in July of 2015. While we were making plans to get the kids together, Veronica offered a suggestion: “I know! How about a sleep-over?”
David’s mom heard this through the phone and we both shrieked “NO!” at the same time.
Richard fell off his chair.
Lucas, sputtering strained beets, said, “dadada,” and then giggled.
A few days later, David called again. Richard never comes home early from work, but, as luck would have it, he always managed to be home when David called.
I called Veronica to the phone to talk to David. She got all girly and goofy again, took the phone and sprawled herself out on the sofa like a pint-sized Cleopatra. “Hi, David,” she sang coyly into the phone.
After she was through with her phone call, she rolled around on the sofa and then kissed the phone.
“So, David called again,” he began, trying to stay cool.
“Uh-huh,” she said.
“What did he have to say? Exactly.”
“I forgot,” she said.
“No, really? What did he say?”
“How was your day at work, Dad?” she asked.
Score one for the five-year-old.
Over the next few days, all Veronica did was talk about David. She drew pictures of David, and talked about how much she loved him and how they were going to get married one day.
But, then, a few days went by and there was no talk of David. I had to investigate.
“So, Honey,” I began, “how’s David?” I wanted it to sound like I was just making conversation; not as if I were on a recon mission.
“Fine,” she said. “But he likes Alyssa, now.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said, totally empathizing with the feeling of being dumped. “I know how bad you must feel right now, but there are lots of other boys in your class, and ‘Mr. Right’ will come along soon.”
“It’s okay, Mom,” she said.
I was impressed by her stoicism.
Then she said, “He’ll be back.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Just that. He’ll get tired of Alyssa and come back to me. Don’t worry, Mom.”
I looked in the dictionary and her picture was right next to the definition of the word “moxie.”
But, she was right. A few days later, David was back on the phone, calling our house again. Again, Richard was home. I began to think that if I wanted Richard home, all I had to do was arrange to have David call.
Richard approached Veronica later that night. “So, Honey, how’s David?”
“Dad!” she said annoyed.
“Look,” he began, “I’m just asking. How are you two getting along?”
“Fine,” she said, rolling her eyes.
“Not getting anywhere, are you?” I whispered into his ear as I walked past him in the hallway. “What’s your problem, anyway?”
He didn’t answer, but I finally figured it out. He was afraid she’d end up with someone just like him—a charmer—the kind of guy your parents trusted; the morons.
It all came rushing back to me. When we were dating, one night after seeing a movie, Richard asked me if my parents were still out of town.
“Yes,” I said. “Why?”
“Let’s go back to your house.”
“Excuse me?” I said in disbelief. “I thought we were going to get ice cream after the movie.” I was not about to give up dessert. (This was before I realized I was lactose intolerant.)
“Listen,” he began, (and I am not making this up. You can ask him. I remember this as if it were yesterday and I never let him forget it.) “I am a healthy, red-blooded American male, and I have my needs.”
See, Mom? I told you he wasn’t the angel you thought he was.
We went out for ice cream.
I was sure that Richard was afraid that his only daughter would be dealt a line like that someday from David, or some other “healthy, red-blooded American male.” And, while I thought about that, too, I figured we had a lot of time to worry about it.
I managed to explain to Richard that when healthy red-blooded American five-year-olds came over to play with our daughter, they watched Nickelodeon, or played Chinese checkers. They weren’t diabolical demons. Not yet, anyway.
As Veronica has gotten older, I’ve been keeping my eye on David, and other suitors she’s had, and I’ve been able to teach her about red flags and warning signs given off by the “charming,” “polite,” and “trustworthy” types. They may seem innocent, but they’re always the ones who will ask her if her parents are still out of town.