I know I carp a lot about the crazy, insane, annoying and frustrating things that my children do. But there are magical moments that you share with your child as you are driving down this crazy road called parenting. This is one of those moments.
Today, my incredibly intelligent not-quite-four year old asked me a question that stopped me in my tracks. Usually she’s asking me why we poop, why Daddy has to work, why it rains, why you bleed, why can’t she play outside in the thunderstorm, how we get energy and arguing with me about the answers.
Instead, today, she says to me: “Mama? How do you know when you are in love?”
I felt like time had frozen, just for a second. I smiled and said “In love? Do you think you are in love?”
I felt that this was one of those moments where you realize the future adult human life you are shaping. One of those moments where you can learn as much from your child as your child learns from you. I wanted to handle this moment with kid gloves, knowing that I could be laying the groundwork for the lifetime of love and loss that my daughter will no doubt, someday, experience. I also wanted to cherish it, box it up and put it on a shelf so that I could take it down and turn it over in my hands again and again when her bouncing pig tails and hilarious laughter are nothing more than shadows of vague memories in our home. I have a feeling I’ll remember her climbing up into the bar stool at our kitchen counter, resting her head on her hand and asking me a question that even she seemed to feel the weight, the importance, of until the day I leave this Earth.
I also had no idea how to answer her. I am madly in love with her father. But how do you express such an intangible concept to your baby girl? How do you impress upon her that love is what sustains us, much like air and water and food? How do you teach your itty-bitty girl that what she feels when she runs to hold her father’s hand or hug her baby sister, or when Mama wipes her tears, is love? It is so much. How can you prepare her for loving someone (who inevitably isn’t the person you’ll be with forever) and the pain of the loss afterwards? But that it’s still worth it, every. single. time?
Am I over thinking this?
So I explained that it was a feeling. She nodded, encouraging me to continue. What she feels for me, her father and siblings, grandparents is love. But love with one special person is so much more, different, than that. The way I love your Daddy, forever and always and is bigger than you can really see.
“Okay. But how do you KNOW?”
I told her that her father makes me laugh, smile and makes me happy even when I’m feeling awful. That we are kindred spirits, supposed to be together, and that we use our love to get us through – good times and bad. That one of my very favorite things to do is just to kiss her father because I love him. That our relationship is based in trust and respect and attraction – and that he’s pretty damn amazing all around and feels exactly the same way about me.
I think a lot of what I said went over her head. But I was shocked at the stillness in my ever-moving, always talking little girl. No interruptions, no arguments, no questions – she simply listened. I hope to have the opportunity to have this same conversation many, many times over as she grows into the phenomenal young woman I know she is going to become. I hope that I can impress upon her that love is not jealousy, or simple attraction, or being in control, or obligation, or getting someone to marry you, or sex. That love comes in many forms and you can truly love many, many people in a lifetime. I hope I can keep helping her learn this fundamental lesson until she is much older. Forever, if she’ll let me.
The conversation ended with “Mama, I know I love you and Daddy and Kathryn because you make me laugh and smile and make me happy. And I’ll love you forever. Love is forever, right?”
Nailed it, sweet girl.
I love you, my little bug. So, so very much.
Then she asked if we could bake cupcakes. Moment unfrozen, life returns it’s march through the years.
We did bake cupcakes. They were delicious.