I have recently proclaimed myself an anthropologist. I am busy studying the mating rituals of the preschool set. Specifically, I am motivated by my five year old son, Jonah, who, for lack of a better cliché, likes the ladies.
There are several things I have noticed during my field study. First, chivalry is not dead. When Jonah’s guy pals scramble into our minivan for transport, he climbs into his booster and buckles up with little fanfare. However, when it is a lady friend, he not only waits for her to get into the car first, but actually offers to buckle her in before he sits himself down. It has occurred to me that his father rarely if ever holds the car door open for me, and certainly never makes sure my seat belt is affixed. In fact, he has been known to barrel down the driveway at rapid speeds before any of us are safely restrained. So where did my five year old acquire his gentlemanly ways? I have begun to think perhaps it is nature, a pure instinct on the part of the human male to protect the more fragile human female. Maybe my husband was like that too, at age five, but society sedated his natural male proclivity.
Instinct in the human male can not be underrated. The drive to reproduce, for instance is clearly biological. About six months ago, Jonah, after bathing, pointed to his testicles and asked what they were. I responded by using the proper anatomical name and explained that when he was an adult and married, his testicles would help him and his wife make a baby. He seemed satisfied. I felt I had given an age appropriate answer, until the next day when a teacher at his preschool reported a conversation she heard him have with his girlfriend on the playground.
“Olivia,” he said sidling up to the object of his affection, “When we grow up, my tentacles are going to help you make a baby.” I feel fortunate that they did not kick him out of preschool for lewd conduct, or that Olivia’s parents decided not to bring him up on sexual harassment charges. Perhaps what saved him was his faux pas with the use of the word “tentacles.” It occurred to me that what Jonah did, in a pre-kindergarten, but caveman sort of way, was mark his territory. He wanted to let all the other four and five year old little men on the playground know that Olivia was his.
Jonah has remained utterly devoted to Olivia since the romance blossomed a year and a half ago. This encourages me greatly. Perhaps those who say monogamy is unrealistic are wrong. If a small child with an attention span of about two minutes can manage not to stray, then there is hope for humankind to maintain life long commitments.
This doesn’t mean that Jonah can’t look. I think of the old adage “When the cat’s away, the mouse will play.” About a year ago he was playing “family” in my friend’s Volvo wagon with her daughter, and when we checked on them they were both completely nude, Jonah at the wheel and my friend’s daughter in the passenger seat. Both buckled in. I guess the game was “naked family.”
But the mouse plays in other ways, too. Who knew a five year old could flirt? The other day, my daughter had a friend over. When the mother came to pick her up, she sent her younger daughter, a beautiful, blonde seven year old to the door to retrieve her older sister. Upon seeing this gorgeous creature, my son, looking real cool, cocked his head to the side, nodded in her direction and said, “How old are you? Are you six?” He must have realized he was out of his league and hence the ultra cool attitude.
“No, I am seven,” replied the girl, oblivious to his advances.
“What’s your shoe size?” Jonah asked. Not a suave move on his part, but my guess is he did what a lot of grown guys do when they try to win a lady’s attention: he blew it with a poor pick up line. In this way, he is not so different then his adult counterparts, except that I can hope because he is starting so young that he will master some more effective moves before he reaches maturation.
And finally, perhaps it is not instinct, but I have noticed a pattern in the females to whom is attracted. He has a clear and obvious preference for blondes. Olivia, blonde. The girl at the door, blonde. The gal he tried to impress during Friday night services last week by pretending to be a monkey, blonde. I am not a blonde, although his sister is, and I am left wondering if men really do have a stronger attraction to blondes, or if this is some early anti-Freudian rejection of anything that represents his mother. And speaking of Freud, I am actually looking forward to Jonah’s move into the latency period of development. While my anthropological studies of the preschool set have been fascinating, I will be happy to have a few years where I don’t have to worry about my son staring down the barrel of some over-protective father’s rifle. I figure we have about six years, seven if we are lucky, to beat the caveman out of him.