Tuesday, May 10, 2022

The Tender Trap

 The school is year is winding down. Spring is very much in the air as the looming specter of standardized testing is no longer hanging over students and teachers alike. Now is the time when young men and women's fancy turns to love, or something like that. Fourth and fifth graders who have not risked the dangers of cooties for the past eight months are suddenly fascinated by the idea of one another. Having punched out of in-person instruction in March of 2020, this is the first time in two years that we have all had to brave this territory. I suppose it is possible that there was some Zoom connections that flew under the radar during that time, but for the most part, this annual flurry of hormones was blessedly removed from the calendar for two years.

It's back now. With a vengeance. The pairings continue to be predominantly driven by girls who have to explain matters of the heart to boys who have only recently become comfortable with the idea that they can use simple tools like pencils and door latches. The idea that anyone, especially a girl, would look upon one of these slowly evolving creatures comes as a shock to most of them. Meanwhile, the dance that surrounds these couplings is a thing to behold. Crowds of children are swept up in the ritual as they all seek to play a part. And, as it turns out, the long ago and far away fear of Cooties seems to have some basis in fact as we see one couple after another emerge from the warm glow of young love. 

Not a single one of them fully understands what they are doing. They are mostly working from cribbed notes they have made from watching older siblings, TV and movies, and the occasional syrupy ballad. Meanwhile, the adults who are taking all this in watch in a state that vacillates mightily between fascination and terror. Isn't that cute but aren't they way too young for all of this? 

The answer to both questions is "yes." The good news is that their collective attention span turns out to be about as short for one another as it is for their teacher's lessons. If it seems like their love for one another has the same quality and duration as a video game, that should be no surprise. In the meantime, we try not to diminish their feelings but we try and keep the guardrails up. Their parents seem to be blissfully unaware of what is taking place in their hearts and minds. Here at school, we have front row seats for the heartbreak. Even the ones that last will most certainly crumble in three weeks as they go their separate ways for the summer. Out of sight, out of mind. 

But for some, three weeks can be a lifetime. 

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