Update on Feb. 21: Kim Kardashian shut down rumours about her daughter’s relationship status. “She doesn’t have a boyfriend. Like, is that for real? She’s 5,”said Kardashian.
When I was three, I apparently had a boyfriend. Clearly, he didn’t mean that much to me since I didn’t really remember it until I was in high school and ran into said (ex?)-boyfriend’s mother at a parent-teacher night and she informed me I had been in a relationship with her son. “Oh, are you Madelyn?” she asked excitedly. “You were Matthew’s girlfriend in preschool!” I simply nodded and smiled, not even remembering who the heck Matthew was.
Referring to a child of the opposite sex as another child’s “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” isn’t some strange occurrance—in fact, it’s actually quite common. I have friends who jokingly try to pair their kids up, hoping to become in-laws one day and, to be honest, I never really thought much of it because, hey, they’re kids and like me, they might not even remember this when they’re older.
But when I heard that North West, the five-year-old daughter of Kim Kardashian West and Kanye West, was in an IG-official relationship with a seven-year-old, I was taken aback and confused. It’s one thing for parents, especially those who are friends (North’s supposed boyfriend, Caiden Mills, is the son of rapper Dexter Raymond Mills Jr., a.k.a. Consequence, and a friend of Kanye), to encourage a relationship between their children, but it’s another thing to have those parents promote the “romance” on social media for the world to see.
For the record, the posts are on Caiden’s Instagram page as little North doesn’t have her own IG account (yet). And they are pretty darn cute. But there’s something “off” about seeing a 7-year-old brag about being “boo’d up,” referring to his five-year-old girlfriend as “Babygirl” and showering her with lavish gifts, such as jewellery from Tiffany & Co. What makes it even more disturbing is when you consider who is actually writing these posts, because it’s most likely not Caiden himself, but rather an adult. Cringe.
The news of the relationship (and those Instagram posts) got me thinking about how problematic it can be to encourage these labels for young children. Here’s why.
They’re Not Emotionally Mature Enough to Be in a Romantic Relationship
I may not have remembered Matthew, but I do remember another childhood “relationship.” My first memory of experiencing feelings of affection for a boy was when I was eight. I wanted to hang out with him all the time, and sometimes we would hold hands like we saw people do in the movies. We tried to “kiss” once, but were instantly grossed out and wiped our mouths with the back of our hands as soon as our lips touched. It was clearly very romantic.
Considering North and Caiden are five and seven, respectively, there is no way they are emotionally mature enough to understand the makings of a real romantic relationship, aside from what they may see on TV or modelled to them by their parents. As Jamie Kenney says in this Romper post, children “lack the social and emotional capacity to have that kind of relationship (which is generally hinged upon ideas of heteronormative sexuality and romance).” She goes on to ask her readers to think back to the first time they were someone’s girlfriend, and what that entailed—certainly not anything sexual or romantic, since, again, children are not yet capable of having that type of relationship.
And while the American Academy of Pediatrics notes girls generally begin dating at average 12 and a half years old, and boys at 13 and a half years old, they suggest that parents shouldn’t allow their children to actually go out on dates until age 16 to allow for both parties to be mature and become responsible enough to enter into a healthy romantic relationship. And OK, maybe comparing North and Caiden to a full-blown teen or adult relationship seems like a stretch, but like I said before, legitimizing a relationship via social media makes this more than just a joke.
It Reinforces the Idea that Boys and Girls Can’t Just Be Friends
According to Caiden’s Instagram, he and North have been friends for years, with their first playdate occurring in 2015. So why, all of a sudden are their parents using the labels boyfriend and girlfriend? Why can’t they just be friends? The pairing reinforces the idea that boys and girls (or men and women) are incapable of being friends without there being some underlying romantic or sexual tension. Caiden’s Instagram account paints the picture that he is a romantic, a little Romeo of sorts, with posts dedicated to his “dream girl” Nicki Minaj (he even has a rap song and music video about her) and, of course, the proclamation that “love is in the air,” due to his relationship with Nori.
Ironically, the manager of Caiden’s account often uses the hashtag #JustBeingAKid, despite the content being far from what a normal childhood entails. Given that these two were in the media spotlight from an early age, they’re already going to grow up a lot faster than other kids. With that in mind, North and Caiden’s parents should just let them be kids, rather than give them labels and relationships, something that adults themselves struggle with.
It Encourages Heterosexual Relationships and Makes them Aspirational
The promotion of heterosexual relationships in media is aggressive. Growing up, every single movie and television show I encountered featured heterosexual couples, which made me believe that was the norm. Sure, there is more representation of diverse types of relationships now, but heterosexuality still reigns supreme.
Showcasing the courting of North and Caiden not only promotes heterosexual relationships to the audience, but also to the children involved. At their ages, North and Caiden may not know their own sexual orientation as of yet, so imposing labels on them that they don’t fully understand could be damaging. In her Romper article, Kenney recalls, “I did not have the language to come to terms with my own sexuality for a long time… I never want that for my kids, so I’m going to avoid, to the best of my ability, the presumption of heterosexuality.”
And then there’s the whole idea that a romantic relationship is something to aspire to. The posts of Caiden and North may seem cute to their parents, but it also sends the message that these types of relationships are appropriate and something to be celebrated by kids who should just be concerned with being kids. Adults face so much pressure to date and find romantic partners—by giving Caiden and North these labels and posting about their relationship, it seems to place those same expectations on children, which is both wrong and, frankly, really weird.
I’m not the only one who thinks North and Caiden’s IG romance is a bit awkward—social media users have a lot of thoughts about this supposed relationship. Some find the pairing to be “cute,” while others say these social media posts are exploiting the children involved. And the rest are just using the ordeal to highlight how very single they currently are.
Im all fine north west having a boyfriend but the way that kid or the kids parent posted that online was weird. They're like 5 calm down with whoever posted those captions
— jackie 🐨 (@JackieWarner13) February 15, 2019
north has a “boyfriend”……she’s literally a toddler. people are mf weird yo
— buss down baldiana 🧚🏾♂️ (@JadoreCas) February 14, 2019
what i really wanna know is.. who tf if writing them captions to a 4 year old girl.. bcs i know that little boy ain’t type that shit pic.twitter.com/MEMulgZvVy
— JOAN OF ART (@umcornell) February 14, 2019
North West got Tiffany and Co. for Valentine’s Day from her 7 year old boyfriend and I can’t even get a text back…🙃👍🏼 Happy #singleawarenessday
— kris (@kristenlongg) February 15, 2019
Here’s hoping Consequence Caiden doesn’t drop a whole damn single and music about North, because honestly, that is the last thing anyone needs, especially Ms. North West.
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