August 5, 2011
By Ekta R. Garg
After reaching the ripe old age of five, my older child has begun to worry about her marital status.
The impetus for this worry has been our recent move. When we lived in Houston, Five had everything worked out about the world—including who she would marry. She and Z., a sweet little boy in her preschool, decided at some point that they were perfect for each other. I guess they would have had plenty of time to figure this out since they were together in school for three years.
I’m not exactly sure of when The Proposal happened or even whether it did. Kids can be incredibly casual about these matters to which we adults attach so much importance. All I know is that at some point, Five and Z. had made up their minds, and the conclusion was a simple one. They would get married when they grew up.
Fast-forward to earlier this week. In an effort to help the girls feel more at home and to give them some structure to their days, I found swimming and dance classes for Five and Three. The classes weren’t an original part of our summer plans—I thought it might be nice for the kids to take the summer off—but when we got to Salt Lake, the girls felt restless. Three, in particular, had some trouble adjusting. So I thought finding something familiar for them would help, and it has.
Three has swimming lessons once a week, but for Five we are going through two-week sessions of four classes per week. During one of our drives home this week, Five sat quietly. I thought she was just enjoying the music on the radio and the scenery that has quickly become familiar to us. But after a few minutes, she looked in my direction.
“Mama, who am I going to marry now?”
The “now” had a definite emphasis on it, as though she’d been pondering the question for a long time. I guessed immediately what was on her mind, but I wanted to give her the opportunity to express herself in her own words.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, who am I going to marry now that I’m not at the [other] school?”
“Who were you going to marry before?”
“Oh, okay. Well, Z. was a nice boy, wasn’t he?”
“Yes, he was very nice. But who am I going to marry now?”
“Well, there are a lot of nice boys like Z. And one day when you grow up, you’ll probably meet another nice boy and marry him.”
“Who is he?”
“I don’t know. We’ll have to wait until you grow up to see.”
“But who is he?”
At this point I found myself in a situation that slowly is becoming more common with Five. When children are young, I’ve realized, they look to their parents as the ultimate authority on everything life. If they have a question about absolutely anything, they automatically expect their parents will know the answer. So to grow up with that worldview and then to be told by those very same grownups that the grownups don’t have the answer—it’s almost an impossible flip of ideas to accept.
Sometimes it’s nice to be viewed as the source for all information and knowledge, and when the kids were younger their questions were simple enough to reinforce that notion. As they get older, however, the questions are becoming more complex. “Who will I marry now?” comes as a paradoxical question because Five still expects me to know the answer. If I tell her that she’ll marry a nice boy when she gets older, she automatically assumes I’ll know who that boy is. Name, rank, and serial number, please.
I don’t know who she’s going to marry, of course, but it’ll be interesting to watch her grow up and finally meet that “nice boy.” At Five’s young age, I want to shield her as long as I can from the thoughts and challenges that plague tweens and teens and even women my age (a ripe 32.) Our culture induces in young children thoughts of romance and self-image and the concept of beauty; I want all of those ideas to be positive ones in Five’s head and hope I can guide her bit by bit, day by day in that process to accept who she is just as she is.
As for who she’s going to marry now—I suppose some surprises are worth the wait.