Other women don’t tell you what you will learn when you ask your child about love

He will tell you he loves himself. When he first begins talking, he will press his palms into his chest and say his name as emphatically as he can, despite being unable to pronounce the soft middle “L” yet, or the final hard consonant “N.” Who do you love? You will ask him. And he will say, “Vavee” and then “Vayen” and you will be taken aback by his honesty, and proud of it too. And you will be so envious of the way he is able to put himself first. In absolutely everything. Without even having to try. He will choose his wants over everything and everyone else. He will demand they are met. And you think, how impossible this is for you. How impossible it has been for the long line of women you come from. And you think, there is so much you can learn from such necessary selfishness. So much you can learn from the way he loves.

Then, one January day, when all the snow has melted overnight and you are taken aback because you don’t need your coat, he will be out on the playground with his toddler friends. And you will watch him hold their hands and spin and dance and laugh and sing. Watch the way he loves everything and everyone around him. The broken swing and the fallen tree branches and the dry leaves you thought would be long gone by now. The way he smiles at the smallest miracles, the sun coming out from behind a cloud or his friend from behind the slide or your voice from anywhere. He loves it all. So effortlessly. And you think, there is so much you can learn from his facility. So much you can learn from the way he loves.

And when he falls, from reaching too high or swinging too far or running too fast and not knowing how to keep up with his feet or pushing someone down or being pushed himself, he will cry with full force. He will let all of his pain out into that world he loves so much. Without restraint. And in return, that world will make him smile again, with a squirrel running up the nearby tree or with you, because you are so much of his world, your hands holding him and your lips kissing where it hurts most. And if he was the one who caused the pain, he will hug his friend the very next second to take it away, having learned this from you. And in an instant, all suffering and sadness is gone. And you think, there is so much you can learn from how he lets things go. So much you can learn from the way he loves.

Who do you love, you will ask him, when he is overtired from finally getting to be outdoors in Winter and staying out there way too long. When he has eaten too much cupcake frosting and stopped listening to you and refuses to put on his pjs for naptime. Suddenly, he will say, “Mama,” without being prompted by, Yes, but who else do you love? Without any reminder that this is what you want to hear. And instead of reaching back towards himself, this time, he will reach for you with his sticky palms and choose your face to press into his and say the words you’ve taught him mean love. And you think, there is so much you can learn from the way words are not the essential elements of his expression. From the way his whole body speaks a language of love. How innate that love is to childhood. And how you must struggle to keep it, to find it, to speak it, once you’ve grown up.

There is just so much you can learn from the way he loves.

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