Saturday, September 24, 2011

She Said It So Well

Tonight, after Sophia went to sleep, I sat down with Kevin and enumerated the many reasons I'm feeling totally stressed out at the moment (looming deadline for work, the untimely demise of my father's beloved budgies, gotta write the blog, anxiety about Sophie's inability to nap at Montessori, etc., etc.). When I was fiinally finished, he paused and offered, "Do you want me to guest blog for you this week? Would that help?"

"Really? You would do that for me?" I was more than mildly surprised. Sure, he edits my work every week (and always offers something that elevates the piece), but this was above and beyond.

He lifted his eyebrows in an expression I know by now conveys utter sincerity. And so, this week, with gratitude and pleasure, I'd like to present a guest blog by Sophie's dad, Kevin:

Sophie said it so very well.

I brought Melissa and Sophie down South to attend a family reunion. I had been looking forward to visiting my Georgia cousins who I rarely see. The occasion allowed Sophie to play with one of her only two first cousins. One year apart, they merrily chased each other. Tickles, giggles, and hugs abounded in a several hour spate.

Sophie was uncharacteristically quiet and serious when returning to our car. Sucking her thumb and looking forward in a distant stare, she seemed to be thinking very hard. She popped her thumb from her mouth and in a high-pitched, dreamy-tone shared, “We give our hearts away to other people and get new ones. That’s love.”

My own heart melted. I was awe-struck. With a tear in my eye, I made eye contact with Sophia who smiled slightly as she reinserted her thumb. I looked over to Melissa and we exchanged looks of parental wonderment and pride.

Sophie plays often and well with other children, so I wasn’t surprised when she had fun with her cousin. It didn’t matter that she hadn’t seen her cousin in a full year, which for a 3-year-old is almost the same as never having played together. What surprised me was she seemed to have a special emotional attachment to playing with this child, because he was her cousin. Moreover, she articulated this special emotional attachment in that pure, clear-vision of a child feeling something for the first time.

I have some warm memories of playing with my Georgia cousins when I was a child. Most of my life was lived elsewhere and I struggle with the odd experience of both loving and not really knowing my cousins. Love is generally talked about in the context of romantic love or familial love for one’s parents, siblings, and children. The kind of love I feel for my cousins is a connective love: a shared bloodline, cultural background, and longitudinal view of someone across their life span. Similar to a leap of faith, this kind of love requires me to find a way for my feelings to jump over the unknown. Staying in touch with them involves the risk that I may endure apathy and lack of reciprocation.

Luckily for me, the reunion was well-attend and I had dozens of happy conversations, including sharing memories of my deceased mother, learning about my family member’s lives now, and reminiscing about our playful childhoods. I enjoyed several heart-to-heart conversations with a beloved aunt. After the weekend, I feel rejuvenated in that unique way that visiting family can best remind you who you are and where you come from.

My precocious daughter distilled all of these complex and subtle feelings into a clarion two-liner. First, we give our hearts away by risking staying connected. Then, having risked, we receive the love of others and renew our self-love by acting in accordance to our values. These things are love.

Sophie said it so very well.

Thank you, Kevin.

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