My initial reaction I admit, was to be a bit alarmed. I mean she's six. WTF??
I mulled over it for a day and then I asked her about them. She's always drawing and I'm always into her drawings so it was pretty natural for me to say "Oh, hey, new drawings! What's happening in these ones?"
The first one depicts her school friend V. and her "boyfriend" N., who is breaking up with her. The "boyfriend" is telling V. he is breaking up with her, and she is upset and hugging herself.
"But V doesn't have a boyfriend," I said.
"Yes she does," said my daughter, "N is her boyfriend, he likes her and they're friends."
"Ah," I said. "So... what's this breaking up thing, did that really happen?"
"No," said my daughter, "it's just a story, mum."
"Ah," I said. "And what's the other drawing?"
"Well," said my daughter, smiling her embarassed smile, "that boy is a cool rock star and he's looking at this beautiful girl, and he likes her. Because she's all, you know, sexy and stuff."
Once I got over the surprise, I decided I was not too concerned, at least about the boyfriend/breaking up thing. Dating, romance, break-ups, marriage and kissing are in EVERY single show ever, as well as every song, every ad on TV, and every movie. Even the kids' stuff. It's incredible once you notice it - it's in everything. So the kids are seeing it all the time.
The "hot" thing is a little dismaying, but one again, it's everywhere. I know my daughter doesn't see herself as "pretty" (even though others do). She sees her sister as "pretty" and herself as "cool".
It doesn't matter how often (or not often - you can't overdo these things, it's a tightrope walk I tell you) I try to tell or show the girls they are many things, not just "pretty" or "cool", or that you can be both, or that you don't have to be either, or that people are sometimes one and sometimes the other and sometimes something else - she's not buying it.
As it happens my little girl was having some social, confidence and anxiety issues that were becoming a real problem *, so I saw the student welfare officer at school and after talking through everything else I showed her the drawings. "I'm not really too concerned, and I don't want to read too much into these," I said apologetically, "but I wouldn't mind your thoughts. Do you think these are a worry?"
She thought not. She had a little chuckle over them and said this was my daughter's way of processing all the stuff she is seeing and hearing, and that yes, it was perfectly normal for Grade 1 kids to talk about boyfriends and girlfriends and boys and girls "liking" each other.
In fact one reason I hadn't been too worried was I remember this happening when I was in Grade 1. Although I don't think it was quite so relentless back then... but I may be wrong. We don't truly remember our childhoods as they really were after all, do we?
There is a lot of concern these days about the "sexualisation" of children. It's an easy thing to buy into, but I'm not totally convinced. Children are, in fact, "sexual" in as much as they are human animals, and at this age they are discovering more and more about themselves, their bodies and how boys and girls relate to each other. And in matters of sex and relationships children/kids of all ages have always been ahead of where their parents want them to be.
What do you think? Are kids growing up too fast?
Are you concerned about the sexualisation of children?
Or are some people worrying about perfectly normal stuff?
* (She is fine now).