So my eldest son is planning his first date.
To be clear, the girl in question has been his friend-not-my-girlfriend for a number of years now, and I don’t think that status has officially changed. He first told us about her in grade four, when he said, “Dad, I have a new friend. She’s a girl, but she plays video games,” which was apparently sufficient to form the basis of a long term friendship that remains, at least technically, just a friendship.
He taught her how to play Magic: The Gathering. She got him into fencing. He showed her how to make cheesecake (his favourite dessert). She showed him how to make sushi (his favourite food). They discovered a shared passion for anime.
Our family has visits with hers a couple of times a year (when her father is visiting from Japan), and the two of them sit in the livingroom like adults and talk about mutually significant things like how long it’s taking for the next season of Attack on Titan to come out, why there are so few good ethnic food restaurants in our town, and the silliness of the recent craze over Fortnite when “there are so many better games out there right now.”
They go places with each other’s families, to the cottage or just out for supper. Once, for 15 terrifying minutes, I even lost her at the CNE.
In other words, they hang out with each other just like friends do, and they call each other friends. When people ask them if they’re dating, they both say, “No,” without hesitation. But, ever since they’ve known each other, even from when they were in grade four and people were only teasing them, that “No” always had a kind of unspoken “Not yet” attached do it. And as they’ve gotten older, the “Not yet” has gotten ever more pronounced. Although they still interact as friends, it’s as though they’ve reserved each other for a future time when they’re ready to interact as something more.
It’s ridiculously cute.
So, when my son came and asked if he was free to go out with friends for lunch on Saturday, and I asked (just for the information, really) which friends, and he answered, “Well, maybe, just one friend,” and looked quite embarrassed, it was all I could do to keep a straight face.
It turns out that he’d set aside some of his babysitting and soccer reffing money to take this girl out for ramen and karaage, just the two of them. When I gave him the go ahead, he called and made reservations, and as I listened to him, sounding for all the world like an adult, casually doing adult things, I realized just how mature he’s become.
And I remembered too that I was exactly his age when I first went for dinner with his mother, the beginning of a relationship that (off and on) grew into marriage and children and a life together.
Of course, I have no idea whether his foundling relationship will ever amount to anything so serious. Life is too unpredictable, too full of the unexpected. But I felt a real joy for him, to be taking the first steps along that journey toward adulthood, relationship, and family. I can only wish him the same happiness I’ve found on that journey.