I know what you’re thinking. Seven IS a wee bit young to be engagement ring shopping. But my son is clearly a romantic. And a long-range planner. That, for sure, he gets from me. After all, I was the one touring Central Florida preschools when the boy was barely six-weeks-old. And outside of New York City’s high-stakes nursery school competition—in which moms vie to fast-track their kids to Harvard by snaring one of the open spots in the city’s elite preschools before they’ve even given birth—preschool shopping before age 3 is considered certifiably crazy.
Still, it warmed my former Girl Scout’s heart to know that my boy wanted to be prepared. Besides, how many guys under 30 can even think the word marriage, without passing out? My kid’s gonna be quite the catch once he’s old enough to drive.
I discovered my third-grader was in the market, as it were, when we stopped by the jeweler’s one afternoon after school. A tennis bracelet had fallen off my wrist several months back, and I’d finally remembered to toss it in my bag and bring it in for repair.
While I was going over repair details with the jeweler, my son was scoping out the rest of the sparkly goods — watches, pendants, earrings. And then he saw it.
“Mommy! Look at this! Come look!!!” And he grabbed my arm and dragged me across the store to look in a glass case. He pointed excitedly at a tray of rings. Some had sapphires. Some had rubies. And one had —
“That one, Mommy! That one! Do you see it???”
It was a small round emerald, set in a simple bezel and flanked by diamonds.
The kid has taste, I’ll give him that.
“How much is it? How much is it?” Kids repeat themselves endlessly. Probably because they’ve grown wise to the fact that we tune out most of their nonstop chatter as much as they ignore us. So they repeat and repeat and repeat just to make sure we’ve heard them at least once. “How much IS it?”
The price tag was tucked into the velvet ring tray so its numbers couldn’t be read. Perhaps to avoid giving customers sticker shock before they see it on their finger and decide they absolutely must have it.
“Ask the man …” and my boy pointed impatiently to the ring in the case. “MOMM-MEEEE,” he implored. “ASK THE MAN.”
I glanced around. The store was empty. There was no one to be annoyed that a 7-year-old was being taken care of before them.
“Excuse me —” I smiled my winningest smile at the jeweler, a young guy, with a hint of urban hipster about him. I guessed him to be in his late-twenties. The store was his father’s, a silver-haired man who hailed from Lebanon and always had time for chit-chat. And it was his father who’d taken care of my jewelry since we moved here in ’05. His kid knew his way around a bracelet. I just hoped had a sense of humor.
“Um … my son likes one of the rings in the case over here and wanted to see it up close …” My voice trailed off, and I arched my eyebrows in silent Please, Please, Please Indulge Me Here hopefulness.
And the hipster jeweler, bless his heart, was instantly the epitome of attentiveness.
He strode over to the case and opened it up. “What’s your name, young man?” he asked as his eyes swept over the rings on display. Then, “Which one do you like?”
Fletcher pointed. Then the jeweler brought out the emerald-diamond ring with a flourish and solemnly handed it to my son. The stones were small, but the ring was beautiful. Fletcher turned it over thoughtfully, watching as the jewels glittered in the late-afternoon sunlight.
“How much is it?” my son asked, with all the business-like authority he could put into his high little boy voice.
“Two-hundred and fifty dollars,” said the jeweler. He was just as businesslike, even though there wasn’t a chance in hell that this was ending in a sale. The ring wasn’t Hope Diamond pricey, but it was definitely more than a 7-year-old could afford on his five-bucks-a-week allowance.
Fletcher turned the ring over a few more times, inspecting it from every angle, as if he was a buyer from Tiffany. Then he handed the ring back to the jeweler.
I thanked the jeweler profusely as we left the store. And that I thought was that, until …
“Mmmm?” I mumbled, looking through my bag for my car keys.
“How much money do you have?”
“Enough to feed you,” I said, still distracted, thinking about the next stops we still had to make. Dry cleaner, grocery store, and oh yes, the gas station — I was driving on fumes.
“Enough to buy the ring?” Fletcher persisted. “I wanna give the ring to Katherine.”
Ahhhh. Now I got it. Katherine. The girl my third-grader has carried a torch for since kindergarten. She was a full two years older than my boy. And a beauty. As I’ve said, the kid has good taste.
That also explained why I’d found him Googling “how to kiss a girl” on my iPad a few nights before. Which had led to a long talk about not kissing girls till he was older. I was thinking grad school, perhaps. Still, I’m sure Katherine’s parents will be thrilled to know that at least my son’s intentions were honorable.
And so I explained that an emerald-diamond ring was too extravagant a gift to give a school-mate. And that he was too young to think about giving rings to girls besides.
“When you find the girl you want to marry, then you can buy her a ring,” I explained.
“But Mommy, couldn’t we buy the ring now and save it for later?” Ever the negotiator, my son. Seriously, this kid’s gonna make one helluva lawyer some day.
But unlike an extra brownie or one more Beyblades episode to watch on the weekend, this was easy to say No to. And um … No, I wouldn’t be buying the ring for him.
“When you’re old enough, you can buy your own ring for the girl you marry.”
He’s saving his pennies now.
A version of this essay originally appeared on Lifescript’s HealthBistro blog.