And we wonder why kids are growing up too fast...

me and my girls

As my big kid approaches her last year of life in the single digits (she'll be nine in JUNE!) I've noticed that people have started to view her friendships with boys as something more. Now, when she's playing in the yard with Sajen or Noah -- friends she's had since Kindergarten, mind you -- adults start making soft little "aww" sounds and remarking on the young love. But I can't see how the playing she's doing now is that different from just a year or two ago.

This last weekend my friend Lisel wanted to take her son Owen to see the current play at one of the theatres where I work, but she needed someone to watch her younger son. I had been wanting Lily to see the show as well, so I dropped her off with Lisel and Owen, packed her other son into the car with Anya and we went for a walk at the lake while the big kids saw the show. When I mentioned this to another adult, they commented about how nice it was that Lily was having a date.

Really?

And then I realized that this was pissing me off. Why is it that we have to do this to kids? Why must we demand that their relationships with the opposite sex mean something more or different than those they share with friends of the same gender? Is this attitude what forces kids into younger and younger romantic relationships? If we just kept our mouths shut, would they be able to enjoy the innocence of childhood longer?

And besides forcing our children into romantic relationships before they are ready, doesn't this harm women seeking equality in the world? Doesn't our assumption that their interest in each other is romantic exclude them from seeking out long term, healthy, mutually beneficial relationships from members of the opposite sex? If a woman feels that reaching out to someone for help, friendship or something other than sex will brand her a "tease", will she find herself deeply limited in her resources?

Or do people really believe that men and women can never simply be friends?

What's your take? Are we damaging our kids with this mentality or is it really no big deal and I should just get over it?