What is love all about?

So Dante and I are at the park. He’s decided he wants a snack, and I happen to have brought one, so we head over to this metal picnic table. He decides that he should sit on the table itself and I should sit on the bench, which is fine with me, since the bench is a little low for him anyway. As he’s climbing up, though, I notice that his foot is about to come down on some sunglasses that somebody has left there, so I start stammering, “Oh, uh, erp, um…” He gets uncertain, says, “What?” and loses his balance.

He slid down between the table and the bench, whacking the back of his head on the seat. He didn’t hit terribly hard, but it was hard enough to make him cry in pain. I held him and rocked him for a while, and when he was calm enough to talk again, he asked, “Do you still have love for me?”

To say I was taken aback by this question is a massive understatement. I was speechless for a second, and then rushed in with every reassurance I could think of, all at once. That he could never do anything to make me stop loving him, that it was an accident, that it was my fault, that I’ll always love him, that he’s worthy of love even when things go wrong, that my love will never stop, etc. etc. etc. He said, “I always thought that if I did something wrong, the love would stop.” (“I always thought” is more or less equivalent to “I was just thinking.”)

Laura told me he’d been exploring the same territory with her, trying to figure out if this whole parental love thing comes with any strings attached. We are nothing if not eager to assuage his anxiety on that score.

A few nights later, we’re having the typical bedtime Q&A session, and out of pretty much nowhere he gives me a serious look and says, “My love for you will never stop.” God, I tear up again just writing it down. It was amazing. He went on to a sort of mathematical approach. “We all love each other. I love you, and you love Mama, and Mama loves me. And I love Mama. And Mama loves you. And you love me.” Even though I was trying to get him wound down and ready for bed, I had to bring him to Laura so we could all three have the moment together.

A few nights later, he was hugging his stuffed bears, Benjamin and James, who we call “the boys.” He mentions to me, offhand, “My love for the boys will never stop.” That made me smile. I said, “Yeah, I love you like you love the boys!”, and he said, “But I love them so much!” “I know,” said I. Watching him work out the mechanics of love is both heartwarming and heartbreaking to behold.

One more little story about this. Ever since before he was born, we’ve sung him The Beatles’ “Good Night” as a bedtime lullabye. However at some point when I was singing the “Close your eyes and I’ll close mine” verse, he objected. “But I want to keep my eyes open! If I close my eyes I won’t be able to see.” So okay, I’m flexible. I changed the lyrics, and now I sing, “Keep your eyes open and I will too / I hope you know I love you.” And sometimes, every once in a while, he says, “I do.”

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