Hearts in their Eyes

Who remembers their first crush?

It invariably happens when you’re too young to correctly identify the butterflies in your stomach, and love and like and crush are interwoven into a bundle of ‘firsts’ which you now remember fondly but at the time translated into sticky palms and supervised ‘dates’. For me, being at an all girls’ school delayed this process until I was in the first few years of high school and boys were an exciting new discovery; overnight they transformed from a collected blob of yuckness into individual characters capable of fairly stimulating conversation and interesting thought.

At my current school, I am a privy to a whole new world of crushes and cross-gender interactions. There’s something rather sweet about the two children in my class who played the flirting game at the oh-so-bold age of 8; our first clue was the changed dynamic of morning playtime when she left her posse of giggling girlfriends behind to join his regular game of catch. The chatter of the children soon reached our ears and we smiled indulgently at them as the details the crush progression. However, just as quickly as it began, it was over and 2 or 3 playtimes later they were back to playing on opposite ends of the playground.

And of course, there’s the little boy who dotes on the sweet pigtailed girl a couple of year groups below – you can often catch them wandering around the school in the mornings holding hands (so as to be safe, obviously) or whispering secrets. I can only imagine the secrets you share with your crush when you’re 8 and they’re 6, but there’s an innocence to their relationship which makes me wish we were a little more like them and a little less like us.

Then, and this happens to everyone at some point with a teacher or lecturer or tutor, there’s the crush on the cute member of staff! We have a new-ish member of staff at school; a young male with floppy hair, a constant afternoon shadow and quiet charm with the children. To the delight of some of the girls in KS2, he has been helping out with playtime duties occasionally and they flock around him showing him the latest tricks or games trying to vie for his attention. It is very sweet to see them giggle uncharacteristically and uncertainly launch into conversations about their obsession with Justin Bieber or the upcoming sleepover plans.

This weekend I was lucky enough to be a bridesmaid at a close friend’s wedding – their story spanning several years but really starting somewhere in primary school where a quick crush developed into a first kiss. Now, however many years (and kisses) later they reunited, re-crushed, re-kissed, and got married. This is a story that few will experience themselves, but every now and then I watch the rise and fall of crushes at school and secretly root for some of these pairs to find their happy ending in each other in the many years still to come.

Crushes at this age are a whirlwind experience of requited and unrequited like, heavy teasing from classmates, energetic encouragement from friends, whispered secrets, new games, secret notes and momentary change. But more often than not, it’s a foot in the water, a dabbling, before going back to what you know. And who knows, in 5 or 10 or even 20 years time their first crush could be a distant memory, a close friend, an ardent enemy or a beloved partner…