How do you know when you love someone? That is the question I decided to ask my seven-year-old last Friday night because I was curious what he would say. It had been a long week. Too long. I was exhausted. As we ate our dinner, my son hummed contently “I’ve Got a Golden Ticket” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. He looked so innocent and sweet that my heart just swelled. In that instant the exhaustion of the long week melted away. Maybe it sounds sappy, but when I look at my kids I fall in love over and over again. I wanted to know if my son felt love like that, too. Impulsively, I asked him “How do you know when you love someone?”
I really had no idea what to expect when I asked my seven-year-old that question and his answer surprised me. Without skipping a beat, he responded “That’s easy. You can feel it inside when you hug them.” Well, yes, you actually can feel it inside when you hug someone you love. His answer was so simple, yet so accurate at the same time. I’m not sure what made me happier…the fact that my son clearly knows what loving someone feels like, that he physically feels love inside, or that he thought answering a question about love was “easy.” I suppose it doesn’t matter, really. In my seven-year-old’s world, love is ubiquitous and uncomplicated. What could be better than that?
As we continued with our dinner, I couldn’t resist asking more questions.
Me: “Where do you feel safe?”
My son: “Home.”
Me: “What is something a good friend does?”
My son: “Help you.”
Me: “What would you say to someone who is sad?”
My son: “Why are you sad? What happened?”
Me: “What do you want someone to say to you when you feel scared?”
My son: “Take deep breaths. It will help you calm down.”
Me: “What smell makes you happy?”
My son: “Cinnamon raisin toast.”
One after another, my son’s responses were reflexive and honest. Somehow, there was wisdom in his simple replies. Because he answered my questions so freely, so easily, and so confidently as we ate our dinner, it got me wondering if life is really that easy after all. Maybe, as adults, we overthink things, perseverate, and make matters far more complicated than they have to be. It kind of makes me wish I was a kid again. I want to be as sure about things as my son is. Adulting is hard. Besides, who wouldn’t want ubiquitous, uncomplicated love? I can’t time travel to easier days, but I can tell you that I learned a lot from my seven-year-old over dinner that Friday night. Most importantly, I learned that my son is emotionally strong. He knows he is loved and safe. He is empathetic and he understands his feelings. I also learned that sometimes what seems complex is actually simplicity in disguise. I mean, really, who doesn’t feel happy when they smell cinnamon raisin toast?