A Constructed Life

And then my 4-year-old wrote a love letter to a boy

Yes, my sweet little innocent Adeline has already crossed this off her list of firsts, about a decade earlier than I had hoped.

My pure-as-the-driven-snow baby girl was quietly coloring at the kitchen table when I strolled over to observe her creations, which typically involve goofy drawings of me with green hair or aliens eating pizza and other age-appropriate scenes. But that day’s creation literally took my breath away, turned my face bright red and sent me running for my phone to text her father, an elementary school principal, with a desperate plea for insight and guidance from a trained professional.

“Look, Mommy!” Addy said, turning her head, a little beacon of purity, toward me with a look of pride.

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She even made people with smiley heart heads! And added an “Olive You” sticker from Trader Joe’s. That’s how profound her love is! There’s also a urinating ghost, which I’m totally confused by, but was much too distracted to comment on.

I smiled, my eyes bugging out of my head, as I said, “Oh my!” and my brain logically raced from Early Love Letter Writing = Early Loss of Virginity = Daughter’s Life Ruined.

And then!!! She grabbed it off the table, beaming sweetly, scampered over to her backpack and squealed, “I’m going to give it to Noah today!”

“Nooooo!” I screamed internally, images of an embarrassed, overwhelmed little boy and teasing classmates flashing through my mind. I hyperventilated briefly, checked my phone 100 times for the insightful reply I needed from Joey, and then realized I had to deal with this now, because it was time to leave for school and my husband apparently had abandoned me was in a meeting.

I took a moment to gather my thoughts, not wanting to get this one wrong, remembering that Addy has also professed her love for her buddy Stella and insisted she would either marry me or her friend Lilly, and I finally become logical. She loves this boy, just like she loves Stella, Lilly and all her other friends. She loves him like a 4-year-old – there is no romance, just an appreciation for a person she has fun with.

“Addy,” I began, “Love is an important word that we save for very special people. Why don’t you make a drawing the says Noah is great so he knows how much you like him.”

“No. Noah is special and I want him to know that I love him because he’s my friend.” And she walked away.

“How do I argue with that?” I thought. “I want her to feel confident and free to express herself. Don’t squelch that. But she cannot give that to him at school! How will he react? How will his mom react? Oh my god, I’ll have to have a conversation with the mom about this!”

So I did what any competent, stellar mother would do. I completely avoided the situation and tried to sneak the drawing the out of her backpack. But she caught me. So instead I quickly buried it beneath folders and snow pants, hoping outta-sight-outta-mind would remedy the situation. As I dropped her off, I kept my fingers crossed and a close eye on cute, adorable Noah, who blew his mommy a dozen kisses before heading into school.

Just as a little background for you, Noah and Addy sit next to each other at school and Addy often comes home talking about him. “He showed me how to draw trees today!” “He had a red fruit roll up!” “His birthday is in April!” At conferences, Addy’s teacher even mentioned that Addy and Noah are total BFFs.

When I returned home from drop off, my husband finally texted me. “Don’t let her take it school. Tell her “love” is just a word we use with family members for now.”

“That would’ve been really helpful 45 minutes ago before I let her take the drawing to school!” I texted back.

I arrived at school pick-up a few minutes early and watched Addy running around the playground with her classmates. Sure enough, she and Noah were trotting around, talking and laughing, sticking together even when playing in a group.

“Well,” I thought. “If she did find the note and give it to him, he clearly took it well.”

As I lifted her into the car I asked if she gave Noah her drawing. “I couldn’t find it,” she said. Thank god, I thought.

That night during dinner, I got the drawing out of Addy’s backpack and gave it to her. Joey took a look and complimented Addy on how well she wrote all the letters, and then casually, like a pro, slipped in, “Hey! Does that say I Love Noah?” Addy grinned. “You know,” he continued, “Love is a great word and it’s good to love people and have them love us back, but since it’s such a special word, let’s just save it for our family for now, okay?”

“Ok!” she replied. And that was the end of it.

I’m still torn over this. I want Addy to feel comfortable expressing herself and to learn that it’s good to tell people how she feels. That being said, I think we made the right call by not allowing the drawing to go to school. I think it’s perfectly reasonable that she hold off on love letters until at least 35, right?

2 thoughts on “And then my 4-year-old wrote a love letter to a boy

  1. Courtney

    As always, your posts about Addy make me smile and get me teary-eyed all at once….It will be so fun to show Addy these posts once she gets older!

  2. Father

    Addy’s sentiments and her expression of them are precious. If she were my child (as you are) I would simply chill and let her do as she wishes in regard to Noah. Trust her and the innocence of her age. And, if you are concerned about the reaction of Noah’s parents….you could have a wonderful conversation about the wonder, innocence, and pure sentiments of children. And…if you should have a drink or two with said parents you could talk about how our culture kills creativity and truth in children. Let her send the note and be open to what happens next. Addy brings utter joy to my heart. I love you. D.

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