When we are walking into preschool Jack will scream across the parking lot or down the hall “I love you, Jason.” (Or Emily, or George or Lizzie.) I cringe. I worry that other kids wonder why he isn’t giving them a shout-out. I’m afraid for when he gets his friends names mixed up (8 months in school and he still mixes them up!) Sometimes, a group of kids walk in together and Jack acts SOOOO excited to see one of them. Awkward.
But while I’m silently worried about hypothetical hurt feelings of another 4/5 year old, Jack is shamelessly expressing his. Fearless.
Unafraid of hurt feelings, unconcerned about rejection. He loves his friends, and they know it. He loves me, and Maggie, and Henry, and Daddy. He lets us know often. He is trying to figure out the nature of relationships. He knows that mommy and daddy are married. He wants to marry Maggie, so she can stay in our family. So I explain that families grow, no one is lost or forgotten. Family is someone you are related to, or not. You take them in, they take you in. For holidays and birthdays and days that end in y.
“Like Jose and Daniel?”
“Yes, buddy, like Jose and Daniel.”
“I love them, they are, fun!”
“Yah, they are!”
Henry makes you work for it.
Henry feels things deeply. Sometimes his feelings leak out, spill over, in a fit of frustration. His needs are visceral. He needs snuggle time, or one-on-one time. But he is unlikely to ask for it, and unlikely to indicate he is enjoying himself except for a sly smile or an unsolicited hug.
He and I had a lunch date a while back. He didn’t speak the whole time, except to say he wanted Mac and Cheese from the Wegmans cafe. He ate in silence. I occasionally pointed out shoppers and funny things they did or wore. He nodded. And ate. And drank his chocolate milk.
We held hands and walked to the car. I asked if he had fun. “Yeah, Mommy.”
He rode in silence the whole way home. Occasionally I could hear the slurp of milk being sucked up the straw. You wouldn’t know he was there otherwise.
This was months ago.
Every time we go to Wegmans, pass by Wegmans or drive in the direction of Wegmans he says “Mommy? We had lunch there, at Wegmans?”
“Yah, was that fun?”
His eyes light up, he smiles, and he shrieks “Yea!!”
He then returns to his impassive expression, and looks out the window at the cars passing by.
He plays it close to the chest but the heart inside that chest is huge, and full of love!
Maggie is pure, simple, baby love.
You walk into the room, she smiles. You tickle her, she giggles uncontrollably. You snuggle her, she snuggles right back. She wants to sit with or on someone at all times. Brothers, Mommy, Daddy, cats- no discrimination. Just love given and love received in return.
I love well, they know it. I tell them, I show them. But sometimes I should love how they love. Like an experiment. Proof that all love is created equal. Hard and fast, reserved, or pure and simple. I consider myself lucky.