“Mama, did you have a good day today?”
Was a question my son asked – unprompted, I might add – at dinner the other night. It was quickly followed by, “And did you have a favorite part of the day?”
These 2 questions are my definition of love these days.
Yes. It’s a little late for Valentine’s day. But it’s still within the “Valentine’s Day Weekend,” and anyway Gandalf didn’t show up until after Helm’s Deep had basically already fallen, and yet he still managed to pull off a win.
I’m not late because Gandalf.
But so anyway, the thing about these two questions that defines love for me isn’t that my sweet little three year old is inquiring after the relative aggregate emotional quality of his mother’s previous 12 hours. I’m pretty sure he’s only recently aware that other people actually have emotional reactions. For me, it’s about what led up to those questions.
Now, I’m sure he’d be happy to learn that she had a good day. He’d probably even be unhappy to learn she had a bad one, but whichever way she answered, he’d eat some more melon and then watch cartoons, and he’d go about his routine and continue to try to make some sort of sense out of a massive world he’s only just getting a handle one. There would be some retention, of course, some sort of understanding of the interaction, but that’s like picking one thug out of a Steven Seagal movie and saying “There, see? That young man learned his lesson!”
The point I’m trying to make is that my son didn’t ask those questions because he actually cared, at least not entirely. He asked them because that’s what we do
I mean, he cares, it’s not like he’s a sociopath, he’s just 3.
But it’s routine, is the thing. Routine is very important to toddlers. We always go to preschool on the same days, we always have a snack on the way home, we always read the same books in bed, and when we eat dinner together we always ask each other if we had a good day, and what our favorite part was.
We’ve been doing this for most of his life. Every time we eat dinner together, for the last 2 years or so, whether he answers or not, we ask him those questions, and we ask each other.
Now, I’m an idiot. And a romantic, at heart. Underneath the layers of cynicism I do actually believe in love at first sight, and True Love and Soul Mates, and the Chupacabra. But I also believe that I could beat Jet Li in a Kung Fu battle.
Not, like, right now. I’d have to train. Constantly. And become a Cyborg.
Which is the key point. Love, like conquering Jet Li, takes work. It takes daily, hourly, constant effort and attention. Somewhere, somehow, there may be two human beings in a relationship who understand each other so perfectly that they never have a misunderstanding, that they never have to stop and think about how their behavior affects their partner, but they must be hanging out with the Chupacabra because nobody’s ever seen them.
It took two years of nightly, conscious effort to build up to the Little Man asking his mama if she had a good day. 730 days (give or take) invested for 10 seconds worth of words at the dinner table. This is love. And those two questions from this wonderful little human were worth every minute.
Happy Valentines Day…Weekend