I’m intelligent, intuitive, mindful and cognizant…at least I would like to believe that. But I’m not sure I’ll ever understand the odds and ends of love and heartbreak. So, I decided to ask my eight-year-old niece. Unprovoked, during a car ride one day, I asked her, “Has anyone ever hurt your feelings?” She told me yes. I asked her what happened, and she said she got sad when her tablet got taken away. She said her mom and dad hurt her feelings when it got taken away. I asked her why it had gotten taken away and she told me it was because she was not listening to directions. I asked her if she thought she might have hurt her mom and dad’s feelings by not listening to them. She wasn’t sure. I explained to her that maybe the tablet got taken away because you had hurt mom and dad’s feelings by not listening to what they were asking you to do. “I guess that makes sense, I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.” she said.
What makes you really sad?
“One day at school, I noticed my best friend was spending more time with other kids,” she said. I asked her if something had happened between them that caused this. “No,” she responded. “We are still friends and I still have her as my best friend.” I asked, “so, why did that make you really sad?” She told me she actually wasn’t very sad because she saw how happy her best friend was. “I think it made me sad at first because I didn’t know if I did something wrong. When I knew I didn’t do anything wrong, it made me happy because I just want her to be happy and all of my friends to be happy.”
The pureness and innocence of a child incomparable. I sincerely hope she is able to maintain that level of empathy and vulnerability as she ages. Sure, as with any child – back talking and spats between mom & dad will happen.
How would you describe love?
“Hmm,” she said. “Would it be like how I feel when I get to see my friends at school?” I said, “I want you to decide that. How do you feel when you see your friends at school?” She said she feels happy. “I always smile, even if I had a bad morning. My friends make me feel good.” She went on to tell me she always talks louder and ‘more excitedly’ when she feels happy. “So, do you think that’s love?” I asked. “Yes, love is happy.”
Love is happy. Love is being excited to see people who make you feel good, even when you have a bad morning.
How would you describe heartbreak?
“Well, I already told you I felt sad when mom and dad take away my tablet.” I asked her to tell me about a time when she was crying. “I don’t remember if I cried, but I think I did a little,” she said. “But when you moved away, I didn’t know when I would see you again and it made my tummy hurt.”
Honestly, that one broke my heart. The last thing I was expecting from her was that I did anything to make her hurt. At the same time, I realized I was valued…because I’ll tell you, as a 32-year-old single female who wears her heart on her sleeve, sometimes shit gets rough. The questions of ‘when’ in every aspect of the things I desire in my life seem to manifest more often than not. But, in that moment when my niece told me her tummy hurt when I moved away, and if only for that moment – nothing else mattered.
The innocence in a child’s heart is something else. While I asked her those questions as a fun conversation for us – the takeaway was much bigger than I anticipated. I may never understand the logistics surrounding love and loss, and the heartbreak within it all – but I believe her when she says, ‘love is happy.’ Even if you had a bad morning.
For those mom and dad’s out there – see what love is to your kids. They’ll probably surprise you.