She has something to tell me and we head upstairs after dinner, leaving the boys in our wake. Flopping onto my soft, floral bedspread, surrounded by windows and light, she flops too, glowing with bright beauty.
“I like ****,” she says, the words escaping like a happy bubble, a delicious secret.
I thought we were heading upstairs to talk about chores, to escape for a few brief minutes the din of boys. With those words, though, the scene changes - I'm transported from the daily to a china shop of delicate wonder, precious, and I’m cautious lest I be a bull. She is like a beautiful flower unfurling in front of me in one swift movement.
We lay on the bed facing the ceiling and I ask gentle questions about the boy in question, the one she “likes.” I’m careful to keep things light – to show interest, but not too much – to honor and reflect her interest and joy. This is the first of what I hope will be many conversations and I navigate it cautiously, like a young surgeon performing a delicate maneuver.
She has handed me a gift – her heart in outstretched hands and I’m awed by her trust and my own sacred responsibility to handle with care.
Sitting together on the porch swing a few nights later my oldest boy, who’s been more snuggly of late, leans into my side.
“This isn’t anywhere near as romantic as I am at school,” he boasts. Surprised, I ask him to tell me more. This boy, this lover, has always had his eye on someone and this year is no different.
“We pinky-swore to be Valentines,” he tells me, of the girl he likes who’s “little and blond.” A few nights later he's at a loss to remember her name, but still swears he's in love.
They're young, I know and so we are practicing, as we have always been, the sacred art of holding each other’s hearts – the intimate steps of revelation and receiving, the holding together of dreams, hope and longing. I am practicing, practicing opening room for their growing, changing love; practicing the art of a gentle, steering word, shared smiles and silence.
Of all the gifts that children bestow this one - this long, slow lesson in learning to love well - is the one that strikes me most.