Zeb has a thing for one of the teenage girls who's helping Lulu rehearse for the annual "Children's Day'' show (Its a century-old tradition where two 15-year-olds in Mount Nabor are voted "king'' and "queen,'' and during their "coronation'' the kids put on a "show' to "entertain'' them. And the next day, there's a parade. Its actually very cool despite its retro corniness and the pain and bitterness caused by the "elections.'').
Anyway, when the younger kids were playing outside, and the teens were inside rehearsing, Zeb tugged my arm.
"Mommy,'' he said. "Come see my dancer.''
"Your dancer? What do you mean? Who's your dancer?''
"My dancer in the pink shirt,'' he said.
He led me into the hall and pointed to Paige, the leggy blonde who had singled him out earlier in the cast party snack line, asking if he would dance next year with the others.
"No,''he announced loudly. "I'm too shy.''
"He's a really good dancer, though,'' I volunteered. Twice.
I not only worry that people will judge me for having a shy child---even though, dammit, there's nothing wrong with being shy and he's not shy at all when he gets to know people-- I also felt compelled to stoke his ego with extra heartiness so others would see that, yes, my child is shy, but its not because I don't routinely bolster his self-confidence with plenty of praise. (And yes, people really do seem to judge you if your kid is shy. Like you've damaged them in some way. I think its because of their own fears of exclusion. I know that's the case with me.)
Anyway, Paige, who was Mount Nabor Queen 2004, smiled down at Zeb and told him, "You're not too shy if you can tell me that!''
As Zeb and I watched her onstage, she looked over at us puzzled. I pointed to Zeb and said, "He wanted to come see you dance. He has a crush on you,''
She laughed and gave him a little wave.
"Mom, you're embarassing me,''' Zeb complained as we walked out.
I was surprised that not only was he old enough to feel embarassed, but that he conveyed his embarassment in a 14-year-old's tone of mortified exasperation.
"I'm sorry. I'll never say that again,'' I reassured him. "But I don't think she minded. And I can see why you like her. She's really pretty and nice.''
When I was tucking Lulu into bed, I couldn't help telling her about Zeb's crush. I warned her not to tease him, and so far, she hasn't.
But when they were watching TV the next day, she gingerly asked him, "Zeb, do you love my dancer?''
"No,'' he answered irritably. "I love MY dancer!'''
He wanted to know when My Dancer was coming over. Could My Dancer ever babysit?
Later that night, I was telling Regis about My Dancer, when I had another gender reversal epiphany.
"Girls don't get crushes like that on older boys at that age,'' I said.
Then again, I pointed out, no one was encouraging four-year-old girls.
No one would say, "Ooooh, you have a crush on the 18-year-old skateboarder across the street. And, hey, I don't blame you. He's a hottie!''
I imagined how stricken a grown man would be if led Lulu by the hand and blurted, "She has a crush on you! She calls you My Insurance Salesman.''