Values can be taught at early age

By Anita Doberman: Lifestyles Columnist

Children are precocious in this day and age. Information is just as readily available to them as it is to us, and kids grow up faster than we would like.

A few days ago, my oldest daughter, Luisa — who is almost 6 years old — came home from school with a solemn expression on her face and announced that she was sad because her “boyfriend” was moving to a different town.

Talk about growing up fast. I didn’t think we would be talking about boyfriends until high school.

My initial reaction was to fall off the chair I was sitting on. My face turned pink, red, redder and then purple. I was about to call my mother in Rome and tell her to reserve a spot for Luisa in a secluded convent. But, after a deep breath, I took another approach.

I asked her what a boyfriend was and, more importantly, who was this boyfriend of hers. She explained that she chases a boy at recess and likes to hit him on the head.

I thought this was nothing to worry about. But, to make sure, I decided to press her on the definition of “boyfriend” a bit more. I asked if there was anything else that she should tell me. She blurted out, “Sometimes we kiss on the cheek,” and laughed almost uncontrollably.

I knew it. I would have to make that phone call to my mother in Italy, and fly Luisa to a secure location.

I explained kissing a boy was not appropriate. Mommies and daddies kiss because they are married. She will have to wait until she is an adult before having a boyfriend. I didn’t want to break the news to her that her daddy wants his daughters to wait until their 40th birthday before going out on a date.

I also told her that I was glad she told me the truth. I know little girls and boys become interested in the opposite gender at a young age, and that this discovery is completely natural. She said, “OK, Mommy,” and moved on to play with her ponies.

The next day when I dropped her off at school, I reminded her not to kiss any little boys. She replied, “Of course not — only mommies and daddies kiss.”

I dodged this bullet for now, but I know that with four girls there will be many more complex conversations about dating and boyfriends. As children grow older, it becomes difficult to encourage them on the right path, watch them make mistakes — inevitably, we all do — and be there to help them along the way. I hope my husband and I will give them tools to make good decisions.

I don’t have false hopes; the teenage years will be tough. We’ll do our best to keep dialoguing with our kids.

I hope they will understand why certain values are important to us.

And, if all else fails, there is always the convent.